Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What do NASCAR and Ben Franklin have in common?

The young entrepreneur came to Benjamin Franklin and asked him for some startup capital. Ben, by this time, was a wealthy and successful business person.  He agreed to "lend" the money, $1000, a very substantial sum in the 1700s. His condition was that the young entrepreneur pass it on. He knew that someday if this entrepreneur was successful, someone would come to him.
You don't have to be a fan of NASCAR to know the Daytona 500 is one of the premier auto races in the world. For the past 53 years winners' names have become synonymous with speed; Mario Andretti, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon among others.

Sunday a new name was added to the list. This one, however was different. You've probably never heard of Trevor Bayne. Saturday he celebrated his 20th birthday, and Sunday he became the youngest driver in history to win the Daytona 500.

In just the second race of his career, he made history, and became an instant millionaire in the process.

How did he do it? He simply took great advice from the best. His car owners are venerable names in auto racing, the Wood Brothers. The Wood Brothers have won the Daytona 500 with four different drivers. The last time they won Daytona was 1976, 15 years before young Trevor Bayne was born. Jeff Gordon admired the kid and took him under his wing. For the first lap of the race, the two cars worked together, until an accident eliminated Jeff from contention. During the second half of the race, rather than tag along with another veteran, Trevor Bayne seeked out his peers. He worked with another young driver named David Ragan, eventually pushing David to the front. With six laps to go, a penalty forced David Ragan to the back. Trevor was in the lead.

The television announcer noted that Trevor front bumper was undamaged in a race that saw 16 separate accidents, one of which involved 17 cars.

With two laps to go, under a caution flag, Trevor's spotter gave him words of advice. In auto racing a spotter sits on top of the bleachers with binoculars and a radio. They give driver's perspective from an eye in the sky. They keep them focused on the big picture and let them know about oncoming threats beyond the driver's vision. Trevor's spotter gave him words of encouragement and information about the drivers behind him.

I don't recall the spotter's words, but I do remember Trevor's response vividly. A simple "Yes, Sir" spoken unquestioningly and with clear respect.

So what does this have to do with you?

If your business has yet to achieve the top levels of success, you can learn from Trevor Bayne.

  • Dream big
  • Study the veterans
  • Follow the best
  • Keep your nose clean
  • Demonstrate respect
  • Be humble
  • Go for it when the time is right

If you an experienced successful veteran, yesterday's race has lessons for you as well.

  • The Wood Brothers looked for young talent to reignite their own success.
  • Jeff Gordon mentored a competitor, knowing both would benefit from the experience.
  • David Ragan worked with a peer and drove to the front.
  • Finally, an unknown spotter quietly guided Trevor toward the big picture and kept him out of danger, ultimately sharing in the success.

Going forward in your career remembered to learn from the best. I've had many mentors over the years, and I continue to learn daily. I know that my business is only as good as I am, so I'm not growing personally, I'm not growing the business either.

Trust in the advice of people who have been there.

And, finally, help groom the next generation of young entrepreneurs. I remember hearing a story, I'm unsure if it's true but I choose to believe it.

Benjamin Franklin knew that what was making a young America great was the desire to pass it on the wealth; knowledge, experience, trust, money and much more. It's still true today. We have the most money in the world. We have the most freedom in the world. We have the best opportunities in the world. All of this was created because originally we had the most generosity in the world. I'm convinced that the more you give, the more you receive.
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