Winning combinations

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This past January I had the privilege to address the Arrow Truck Sales annual dealership meeting, recognizing their leaders of 2002. My speech centered on a comparison of the trucking industry and NASCAR, and it applies to fleet executives as well as dealers. Truck dealers and fleet executives both seek a competitive advantage, the winning strategy or sure fire solution to today’s volatile economic market. NASCAR is a great place to find inspiration for good business practices at “high speed.”

Consider Jeff Gordon. In the span of five years Gordon won three Winston Cup Championships with Ray Everham as his crew chief. Gordon and Everham’s teamwork represented a powerful combination of driving skills and crew management, and it propelled both to the top of their fields.

Then Everham left to help bring Dodge back into NASCAR, where he built a stable of drivers and won races the first year back. Without Everham, Gordon eventually won another Winston Cup Championship. But while Gordon and Everham have hardly been failures without each other, neither has dominated individually the way they did as a team.

There’s a lesson to be learned from Gordon and Everham. Whether the team is dealer and fleet owner, driver and dispatcher or mechanic and maintenance supervisor, each will do more than just burn fuel and wear out tires when they work together. In today’s tough economic times and with our economic future uncertain, working together to reach the top of your field is paramount to your success.

Former football coach and champion NASCAR owner Joe Gibbs is a man who has reached the pinnacle in two different sports. In both fields, victory or defeat rest essentially on one factor.

“You don’t win races with race cars, engines, parts or pieces. You win with people, just like you do in football,” Gibbs says.

The people who make up those winning NASCAR teams do much more behind the scenes than the casual fan watching races at home is aware of. And yet, the team really has only one purpose: to get its car to the checkered flag before all others. Everything else takes care of itself.

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Every organization – whether it’s a NASCAR team, trucking company or truck dealership – needs the right combination of experience, talent, knowledge and leadership to reach that checkered flag first. Successful teams need people who “get it,” who are highly skilled and who understand what truly drives success. These are the people you must keep, cultivate, promote and compensate.

Does your team have what it takes to be successful? If not, find the key players you need, motivate them to reach their potential and do everything you can to keep them happy. Take a cue from Jeff Gordon. Don’t let your best people join someone else’s team. It’s that winning combination that will ensure your company finishes the race first.