I got asked by a young local entrepreneur to be his mentor. He was looking for help in how to think about his most recent pivot, and how to take his newest creation to market. As I started asking some questions about what he was doing and why, I found myself wandering into racing metaphors. They made sense at the time, so I wanted to share them here.
Do you require constant fiddling? Are you extremely temperamental? Likely to just up and quit because the conditions are not just right? These are the hallmarks of the two stroke engine. They have more power for their mass than their four stroke cousins, but mainly are they a pain to maintain. If not properly lubricated (substitute money for oil), things just seize up and die, usually with painful results:
Casey Stoner going over the high side – (purists will note this is not a 2 stroke engine). Photo credit.
Ahhh NASCAR. It’s a lovely form of racing. To the casual observer, they might think I was making a comment about going round and round but not actually getting anywhere. Funny, but no. What I mean when I use this term is the money, or rather, the amount of it a founder will require:
Lineup of NASCAR race cars. Photo credit.
It’s not an insignificant amount of money to get that car rolling. Much less out of the garage. All that money means overhead, management and complications. Being a NASCAR team owner means you are basically spending all of your time raising money. Spending time chasing dollars and managing your commitments to your sponsors. In short, you are more focused on getting the sticker on the car, and not getting the car across the finish line. [note: I am using NASCAR as a metaphor, and not saying that actual NASCAR owners are not concerned with winning.]
The club racer is a special breed. They are dedicated. They are die hard. They are crafty. Only a club racer could find so many uses for duct tape. More importantly, a club racer knows the details. They know how many miles are on those pistons. They know how many heat cycles your tires have seen. They know what the weather is going to be, and thus the required jetting and tuning for the engine. They know. Not someone else somewhere else on the team. They are obsessed with knowing these things. They measure everything and look for any incremental improvements they can get. They will live out of the back of a van, driving themselves from race to race, living on bare minimum budget to ensure they live to race another day. Tenacious. Budget conscious. Racing because they love it. It’s not a job. It’s a passion project. It’s what they breathe.
Lest someone be confused that the club racer ethos can’t find it’s way to the big stage, allow me to introduce you to Romani Fenati.
Romani Fenati at Jerez, Moto 3 race 2012
What you may not immediately notice is the utter lack of stickers and sponsors. To have that much empty space on the side of the bike, never mind a plain white helmet, is unheard of at the world level of racing. He finished his debut race in Qatar in second place. He was a last minute addition to the Moto 3 roster by the Italian Motorcycle Federation, completely unknown and completely unsponsored. And he crushed it. Always be ready to capitalize on those opportunities when they arise.
I’ll leave it to you to sort out what type of entrepreneur you are, or with which ones I prefer to work.