The key to motorcycle racing isn’t speed — it’s consistency.
Sure, hitting speeds on the track of up to 180 mph is a rush. But the ultimate goal is getting the motorcycle to repeat the same action, to make the bike respond to your inputs the way that you intend.
On a bike and running a company, you don’t have time to be unfocused. In racing, things come up in fractions of a second, and if you lose focus at the wrong time, it could mean that you’ve blown a lap, or it could send you off the track. The same is true with your company — especially when you’ve found some success. I’ve noticed numerous times where a group feels comfortable with what they’ve achieved and begins to rest on their laurels. What that really means is that they’ve lost focus on improvements, and you can see the results of that just a few months later when they’re getting passed.
A lap on the racetrack only lasts one and a half to two minutes. You don’t have too much time to drift off and lose sight of what you’re doing. Everyday life happens at a different pace, but it’s important to stay focused through what may seem like a duller, slower moment — that moment may present an opportunity for you to make your move.
Motorcycles are exciting to ride, but it’s important to slow down (not literally, of course) and be present in the moment. You’re attempting to make your way around the track in the fastest possible way, dancing with the limits of what you can make the motorcycle do, and then trying to repeat that process so you’re hitting your marks within inches every single lap.
Your company is built on the same foundation, the need to be able to find a successful model and repeat it again and again. To make sure that your inputs are helping the company run as efficiently as possible.
In racing, there are definitely moments where once you commit to something, you have to stick to it — you have no time for hesitation because that’s when something bad might happen, and you could put yourself and other riders at risk. The same thing can be true in business. You want to be thoughtful, methodical and weigh your risks and options, but once you begin making your move, you’ve got to push forward and see it through. We experienced this reality when we transitioned to a 55,000 square foot commercial kitchen facility. The process was arduous and involved lots of steps and approvals. It was difficult and scary but we knew it would be crucial to our company’s growth. There’s uncertainty and risk involved with any big shift. But once you’ve weighed your risk and made your decision, you have to go full speed ahead.
If there’s a positive side to setbacks, they force you to focus extra hard and find creative solutions. If you suffer a setback on the racetrack, it often means you will have to pilot very efficiently to make up for it with the little time you have. In the early days of the company, it was all about grit and hanging on, finding creative solutions to keep this thing afloat and make it to the next point. This forced us to find efficiencies which led to significant advantages we enjoy today. Later on, the stakes changed, the pressures were different and the expectations were much higher. When you suffer a setback at that later stage, the consequences are different, but the same thing happens where you’re forced to focus extra hard on moving forward and finding creative solutions.
Something went off the rails and it wasn’t what you expected. How are you going to make up for it and get past it? Setbacks are difficult, but at the same time, there’s usually something to learn. Maybe it prepares you for the next time. Maybe you learn not to make the same mistake again. And if you come out of it on the other side, hopefully you and the company are a little bit better for it.
Your pit crew is so important in racing, especially in car racing, because as a driver, you don’t necessarily have to understand everything on an engineer’s level. But you need to be able to adequately communicate what the vehicle is doing and trust the engineer’s ability to translate that into a practical, mechanical solution — the back-and-forth feedback helps the engineers find the best compromise in a short amount of time.
There’s no such thing as a perfect setup. All you can do is pursue the best results you can achieve today. When you work with key, quality people, you have to be able to provide the right feedback and input and trust that they’re going to help the company execute to its abilities. You don’t have to understand every detail of exactly what they do — but enough to effectively communicate then trust that they understand the direction of the company, and what you both are trying to achieve.
Make every lap count
There are probably changes you want to make with your company that you can’t fully realize right now — you have to be relentless as you continue chipping away at that vision of the company’s potential. At the same time, it’s up to you to let go of the fact that the situation is not ideal and focus on making this thing work to the best of its ability; make this go as close to the limit as you can without going overboard.
If you’re able to make a machine perform its best with less than ideal conditions, you’ll probably be in a better position to find a good result. I think the exact same thing is true for a company. So no matter what, you don’t have to settle, but you have to make the most of the situation, because that little extra performance you find every day, week and month might add up to significant momentum and positive change in the company’s trajectory.