Reinventing for the New Year

Dec 6, 2011

The New Year is fast approaching and now is the time to assess your aftermarket and motorsports enterprise.

As managers and business owners, there is no time like the present to do an evaluation and add swagger to your management and ownership style. The calendar flipping to 2012 can be motivation to reinvent and reconnect with your business in an entrepreneurial approach.

Managerial entrepreneurship is not a genetic trait-”it’s a skill that can be learned. The editors of Inc. Magazine claim, “Entrepreneurship is more mundane than it’s sometimes portrayed.”

You don’t need to be a person of mythical proportions to be very successful in building an automotive company or motorsports enterprise-be it a service shop, auto dealership, aftermarket retail business or even a segment within an existing organization or motorsports team or manufacturer.

You only need to believe in yourself and lead like a manager, with the actions of an entrepreneur.

Over the past 12 issues of Performance Business, I’ve outlined many of the growth principles associated with successful enterprises. Automotive aftermarket and motorsports companies can use these guidelines to create a clear path to success.

If resolutions are your thing for the New Year, the following simple action steps can be used to create a framework for a bigger, brighter future for your business.

An Entrepreneurial Game Plan

The following is a brief profile summary of the manager who thinks and acts like an entrepreneur:

Desire and Willingness to Take Initiative: Entrepreneurial managers usually feel a personal responsibility for the outcome of the ventures they start. They prefer to be in control of their resources and to use those resources to achieve self-determined goals. They are willing to step forward and build a business based on their creative ideas, rather than relying on the resources of others to make it happen. They feel a sense of pride and a deep level of personal ownership in their project, and (at least initially) prefer to maintain control over it by keeping it their own.

Preference for Moderate Risk: Entrepreneurial managers are not wild risk-takers, but are instead calculated risk-takers. Managers usually have a different perception of the risk involved in a business situation. To build a sustainable and growth-oriented automotive or motorsports enterprise, managers usually set realistic personal goals that may appear to be high or unattainable from others’ perspectives, but are typically well thought-through, thus leading them to believe that their goals are reasonable and attainable. Note that reducing the risk in your automotive venture is in great part achieved by creating a sound business plan, which is vital to mitigating the inherent risks involved in any successful business venture.

Confidence in their Ability to Succeed: Entrepreneurial managers typically have an abundance of confidence in their ability to succeed, and they tend to be optimistic about their chances for business success. Automotive entrepreneurial managers, and also department managers, face many barriers when starting or redeveloping their “shop” as a company with growth objectives, and a healthy dose of optimism can be an important component in their ultimate success. It is vital, however, that this confidence be supported and balanced by proper planning and a realistic sense of the future of the organization/venture, the marketplace and the external environment.

Self-Reliance: Entrepreneurial managers do not shy away from the responsibility of making their business succeed. Perhaps this is why many managers persist in building their automotive business model firsthand. Some onlookers may actually say, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” taking a stand that the manager’s notion of pursuit is not valid. But the self-reliance and steps to developing your automotive shop to achieve sustainable growth is built, in part, on self-reliance.

Perseverance: Even when things don’t work out as planned, entrepreneurial managers don’t give up; they simply keep trying. When one tool in the box doesn’t fit, you try another until you find the one that will work. This is perseverance, and is one of the hallmarks of the entrepreneurial manager.

Desire for Immediate Feedback: Managers with an entrepreneurial mindset like to know how they’re doing and are constantly looking for reinforcement, both factually and personally. The actual feedback comes from seeing the business (your shop, store, repair facility, etc.) function like a well-greased wheel-smooth and seamless. This proves to the entrepreneur that not only is he operating a successful organization, but that he is succeeding from a personal perspective as well.

High-Level Energy: Entrepreneurial managers are more energetic than the average person. In the automotive business world, it’s common for the entrepreneurial manager to also be the business owner. Likely, there is a need for extra “revved-up” energy levels and excitement over what they are creating. Additionally, extra hours are needed to fulfill the requirements of the business enterprise. Your shop will speak back to you as it requires your energy to continue growing and sustaining success. If you have employees, they too will show more enthusiasm as you lead like an entrepreneur. Remember, you are the one responsible for defining, maintaining and controlling the corporate culture-if your employees respect you, they will emulate you and feed off of your enthusiasm.

Competitiveness: Entrepreneurial managers tend to exhibit competitive behavior, often early in life. They enjoy competitive games and sports, and always want to keep score. The fact is, business is a sport of sorts. Making the next great move on your field is a factor of winning, as even small wins accumulate to create the overall success of your automotive enterprise. But winning isn’t the end-all, be-all. Also enjoy the ride!

Future Orientation: Entrepreneurial managers tend to dream big and then formulate plans to transform those dreams into reality. They have a well-defined sense of searching for opportunities and are able to see the large picture from the 30,000-foot level, while realizing that the overall success of the plan is contingent upon the success of the small details. They look ahead and are less concerned with what they accomplished yesterday than what they can do tomorrow. Ever-vigilant for new business opportunities, entrepreneurial managers observe the same events that others do, but simply process those observations from a different perspective.

Organizing Skills: Building your automotive enterprise (or rebuilding it, as the case may be) is much like piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Entrepreneurial managers know how to put the right people and resources together to accomplish a task. Effectively combining resources and people enables managers to bring their visions to reality. An important factor in doing so requires the entrepreneurial manager to recognize that, while resources (such as buildings, equipment and other such assets) are tools to be used, people are still people and cannot simply be “used”-they must be guided and mentored to achieve personal success while simultaneously contributing to the short- and long-term success of the business venture itself. “People resources” are certainly the most complex resources an organization must deal with. However, the payoff for successfully harnessing the power of these resources is virtually unlimited for the business, as well as personally gratifying, both for the entrepreneurial manager and for the employees themselves.

High Degree of Commitment: Developing and redeveloping your automotive enterprise requires total commitment from the manager who thinks like an entrepreneur. It’s more than just simply time that is required; it’s a commitment, both personally and financially. This demonstrated commitment goes a long way toward overcoming business-threatening mistakes, obstacles and pessimism from naysayers. It is this commitment to ideas and to the business itself that spawns the success that the business will become.

Tolerance for Ambiguity: Entrepreneurial managers tend to have a high tolerance for ambiguous, ever-changing situations-the environments in which they most often operate. This ability to handle uncertainty is critical, since these business builders constantly make decisions based upon new, and sometimes conflicting, information acquired from a variety of unfamiliar sources. There are constant changes in any business, including customers, suppliers, employees, regulations, and so forth, and the ability to quickly and effectively adapt to these changes is crucial. However, at the same time, mitigating and minimizing unnecessary risk helps offset overarching ambiguity and increases the chances for overall long-term success.

Flexibility: As mentioned above, one hallmark of true entrepreneurial managers is their ability to adapt to the changing demands of their customers and businesses. In this rapidly changing world economy, rigidity often leads to failure. Within the automotive world, it’s all about people and their changing tastes, and managers must be willing and able to adapt their businesses to meet these changes. An example of this is found in both the aftermarket and motorsports industries as technology forges ahead.

Tenacity: Obstacles, obstructions and defeat typically do not dissuade entrepreneurial managers from doggedly pursuing their visions. Successful entrepreneurial managers have the willpower to overcome the barriers that stand in the way of their success, and are ever-vigilant in the pursuit of achieving success in their projects.

Evaluate Your 2011 Goals

Now that you know what direction you’re heading, it’s time to take a look at how you got here. Pull out your business plan and any other planning documents such as last year’s action plan and review your 2011 goals.

Did your business accomplish what you set out to do? Why or why not? Make some notes on your thoughts about your successful accomplishment of your goals (or where you fell short). These will be handy when you do your planning for the upcoming year.

Play it like football, in quarters. Have your playbook and plans for both offense and defense.

You might get a bit sore, be certain of it, but in both the short- and long-run you’ll be ready for the playoffs.

Cheers ‘n gears for fast laps in ’12!