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The Management 500: A High-Octane Formula for Business Success

The Management 500: A High-Octane Formula for Business Success

by Dan Coughlin

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The world of auto racing is thrilling, energizing, and runs at break-neck speed. But it also requires incredible accuracy, shrewd strategy, and impeccable performance to ensure a win. These same qualities are essential for every manager who wants to build and sustain a profitable business.

The Management 500 provides practical management lessons drawn


The world of auto racing is thrilling, energizing, and runs at break-neck speed. But it also requires incredible accuracy, shrewd strategy, and impeccable performance to ensure a win. These same qualities are essential for every manager who wants to build and sustain a profitable business.

The Management 500 provides practical management lessons drawn from the history of professional auto racing. With insights and stories from some of the most successful people in Formula 1, IndyCar Series, and NASCAR over the past 60 years including Lee White, President of Toyota Racing Development and Ed Laukes, head of Toyota Motorsports, consultant Dan Coughlin shows busy managers how they can rev up their skills in areas like leadership, teamwork, strategy, branding, problem-solving, change management and innovation, and get their company running in high gear. From Enzo Ferrari to Kyle Busch, and from the Indianapolis 500 to the Daytona 500, this inspiring book takes invaluable tips from the fast, furious world of racing and shows how every business manager can combine passion with precision to compete and win in today’s competitive business world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…offers practical lessons in management strategies gathered from the history of professional auto racing.” — National Speed Sport magazine

“…remarkable example of employing a sports metaphor to impart valuable lessons about business leadership…as enjoyable as it is instructive.” — Fort Worth Star Telegram

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Read an Excerpt


The Management 500 is the business manager’s ultimate challenge.

The Management 500 is the real-world race for people who run a

business or manage a profit center to generate significant and sustainable

profitable growth for three consecutive years. It’s fairly easy for a

manager to achieve profitable growth for one year. The far greater

challenge is to generate significant profitable growth year after year

after year for three consecutive years.

The history of professional auto racing is filled with intriguing

events, people, and lessons for the modern business manager to learn

from. In a Formula 1 Grand Prix, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series,1 or

IndyCar Series race anywhere from twenty to forty-three of the

world’s fastest drivers in the world’s fastest cars compete for approximately

three hours with the expectation of going as fast and as smart

as possible. The driver and his or her team are responsible for continually

finding ways to make their car move with greater speed and accuracy

and to sustain that performance over an extended period of time.

I’ve always admired the power and speed of professional auto racing,

but I didn’t understand the nuances, strategies, and required commitments

until I began my research for this book. The farther I threw

myself into studying individuals, cars, and organizations that make up

the world of professional auto racing, the more clearly the management

insights came to me.

From Enzo Ferrari to Jimmie Johnson, from McLaren Formula 1

Racing Team to Toyota Racing Development, from the Indianapolis

500 to the Daytona 500, and from BMW to Chevrolet, I’ve stepped

into this vast and fast universe to see what ideas the modern business

manager can extract from professional auto racing and use in his or

her day job. The answer, it turns out, is a lot.

In addition to all the books on car racing that I’ve listed in the

notes at the end of this book, I taped the Formula 1 French Grand

Prix, Formula 1 German Grand Prix, and the Indianapolis 500, where

I was able to see over and over again how the drivers went into the

turns and passed one another. However, a few pieces of research stand

out as real highlights.

First, I found a rare original edition copy of Enzo Ferrari’s autobiography.

This book was extremely motivating and insightful. Written

in 1963, it helped to explain the reasons for the amazing long-term

success of the Ferrari brand.

Second, I had the opportunity to interview Lee White, the president

of Toyota Racing Development, USA. Lee’s passion and sense of

purpose was so remarkable that it reminded me of what I learned from

Enzo Ferrari. I then spoke with Ed Laukes, the executive who oversees

all of Toyota Motorsports in the United States, and he gave me some

very helpful insights into how NASCAR strengthens the brands of car

manufacturers, and, more importantly, he shared his thoughts on how

any business in any industry can strengthen its brand.

Third, I interviewed Geoff Smith, the president of Roush Fenway

Racing, which in recent years has become one of the top racing organizations

in NASCAR. He shared with me powerful insights on how

to compete successfully and strengthen not only your organization’s

brand but also the brands of your sponsors.

However, the most interesting day of my research was attending

the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock.com 400 at the Chicagoland

Speedway. The race began at 7pm, and I drove into the parking

lot at 11 am, eight hours before the action started. Or so I thought. It

turns out that I was attending my first NASCAR race as a fan on the

exact fiftieth anniversary of Richard Petty’s first NASCAR race as a

driver, which was on July 12, 1958.

A NASCAR race is so much more than just a car race. It’s a Super

Bowl event. There were 75,000 people there, and I estimate there

were at least 20,000 people tailgating at 11 am. I repeat this was eight

hours before the race started. It’s a giant carnival, with actual oldfashioned

barkers yelling out that they had free offers inside their

tents. It’s a giant concert with singers and entertainers on stage all

day. It’s a massive outdoor mall with over 100 booths selling caps,

shirts, buttons, miniature cars, giant corn dogs—and even some lemonade


A NASCAR event attracts every conceivable brand name product.

I walked through the largest Abraham Lincoln museum I’d ever been

in outside ofWashington, D.C., and Springfield, Illinois, and it was on

wheels. I saw a display of dozens of the largest and most magnificent

televisions I had ever seen. However, the strongest brands there were

the racecar drivers themselves. People of all ages wore shirts with the

faces and numbers of their favorite drivers.

There are forty-three drivers who compete at each NASCAR

Sprint Cup Series race and there are thirty-six such races each year.

This is a traveling circus that is bigger than any circus I had ever

witnessed. And then there’s the race itself. You haven’t heard

LOOOUUUDDDDuntil you’ve heard a NASCAR race. If you haven’t

been to a race, then watching it on television doesn’t explain the speed

well either. These cars were within a few inches of each other going at

160 mph and jumping from high to low on the turns in the track.

The whole day pulsated with lessons both inside and outside the

track on branding, innovation, teamwork, strategy, execution, planning,

problem solving, winning, dealing with change, and preparation.

It was an amazing experience.

Details win races. They also lose them. It comes down to selection

and execution.

In car racing a driver has to decide when to push forward and

when to take a pit stop. He or she has to make a constant series of

instantaneous decisions to not only stay in the race but to stay in one

piece. The weeks and months leading up to a major race consist of

detailed preparations from team owners, car designers, team managers,

crew chiefs, crew members, and the drivers themselves. Projects

include establishing a strategy for the race, building effective teamwork

between the driver and the pit crew, and designing and building

and fine-tuning the car itself. Every detail is important.

The modern business manager has to do exactly the same thing.

How does a business manager accelerate profitable growth in a sustainable

way for three straight years? Whether a manager runs a

multibillion-dollar corporation or a hundred-thousand-dollar profit

center, that’s the challenge he or she faces. The manager and his or

her team have to achieve desired results quickly and improve performance

month after month. This book provides insights from the world

of professional auto racing that can be applied to win that business


Unlike a professional car race that lasts for three hours give or

take a little, the Management 500 lasts for three years. You have the

next three years, assuming the wheels don’t fall off the car, to steadily

generate greater levels of profit for your organization and to do it in a

way that is sustainable for the long term.

You’re not competing with other businesses or to be the best in

your industry or to generate the most revenues or to have the most

employees. You’re racing against the clock. You have to produce

profitable growth this year, next year, and the year after that. That’s

the event you’re competing in. At the end of three years, you can

prepare for the next three-year race.

You may very well have to redefine the performance business

you’re in, and you may find that smaller is better, and more profitable.

Or you may have to increase your investments, add more employees,

and increase your marketing.

The Management 500 is not the rat race so many of us heard

about growing up. Instead it’s an exciting and challenging race that

will cause you to grow personally and professionally. It will cause you

to look inward and understand yourself better, and look outward to

better understand your boss, peers, employees, suppliers, and, most

important, customers. There will always be a sense of urgency,

whether the short-term results are good or poor. And that sense of

urgency will bring out the best in you. It will be a better best than you

ever thought possible.

Managers today not only need to be better prepared than ever

before, but they also have to deal with an unprecedented rate of

change in digital technology, consumer trends, globalization, communication,

and transportation. Team members who once sat in the same

conference room are now spread across continents and communicate

via webcasts, podcasts, instant messaging, and e-mail. Outsourcing has

become so prevalent that 30 percent or more of an organization may

be there only on a temporary basis.

As a manager you need to develop your skills and insights to generate

sustainable, profitable growth, but if you’re like most managers

you only have a few minutes a day to invest in your own development.

Many times it may feel as though you are buzzing around a track with

competitors zooming all around you. Even if you want to work all day

every day, you will find out very quickly that burnout is a real issue.

Pit stops are necessities to rejuvenate your mind and your energy in

order to drive results to a higher and more sustainable level.

This book is designed for the busy manager who wants to compete

and win in the highly competitive and fast-paced business world in

which we live. It was created to provide you with practical insights you

can read in a few minutes and then reflect on to find ways to accelerate

the achievement of your most important desired business outcomes.

Over the past eleven years, I’ve worked with large and mid-size

companies to improve their business momentum. One of my main

activities has been to work closely with the executives and managers

who ran the business or managed the profit center. I’ve served as a

management consultant for more than 130 executives and managers

in more than thirty industries. Some of these individuals worked in

huge corporations like Toyota, McDonald’s, Marriott, and Coca-

Cola. Many others worked in mid-size organizations, including CEOs

and business owners.

I’ve invested more than 3,000 hours on site at these companies

observing the managers in the flow of their normal work-day activities.

I sat in large, small, and private meetings with these individuals. I

observed them as they dealt with issues related to strategy, planning,

execution, talent management, personal effectiveness, priority management,

leadership, teamwork, innovation, and branding. At the end

of each visit we discussed my observations.

My goal with these managers was to co-create simple, practical

processes that they could take with them into their work situations to

try to improve their performance. A manager would try a process out,

and then we would discuss how it worked in the reality of a business

situation. Then we worked to refine the process to make it more useful

in a practical way.

This book provides a few dozen of these proven practical processes

from real-world business situations that you can use to improve

the sustainable achievement of your most important desired business

outcomes. As you go through the various processes, I have two

thoughts of encouragement for you: embrace simplicity and avoid

process creep.

It’s been my experience that really smart, really hardworking, and

really dedicated managers subconsciously want things to be really

complicated because if a process is really complex then it feels more

like work. Many times I’ve seen managers take a simple process that

is working well and producing very good results and make it much

more complicated in the hopes of achieving amazing results. It doesn’t

usually work out that way. The complicated process tends to bog people

down and waste time. This is what I call process creep.

I encourage you to avoid process creep like the plague and to see

that a simple process is much more powerful than a complicated process

because you can implement a simple process faster, teach it to

others faster, and customize it to your situation faster. The practical

processes in this book are two to seven steps long. They are clear and

simple. Don’t be fooled by their simplicity.

If you want to win the race for sustainable, profitable growth, the

key is to move quickly in ways that generate sustainable improvement

in key results. Embracing simplicity will increase the speed with which

you achieve better results.

Remember also to take regular breaks. If you’re looking for me

to say you have to work 24/7/365 in order to accelerate sustainable,

profitable growth, you’ve come to the wrong person. I want you to

focus your efforts and the efforts of your organization within reasonable

time boundaries each week and to do so over the next three years.

I also very much want you to have a life outside of work. Actually, I

believe your non-work life will help the quality of your work a great


The purpose of this book is to be a resource you can turn to during

the calm stretches and the turbulent times in the race ahead. Turn to

it often, not for inspiration, but for practical ideas you can use right

away to accelerate to victory.

Michael Schumacher is arguably the greatest race car driver in

Formula 1 Grand Prix history. He won seven Formula 1 Grand Prix

World Championships, which is two more than the next closest competitor,

and he won five of them in succession from 2000–2004. However,

in his very first Grand Prix race, he went way too fast at the start

of the race, his car broke down, and he was done after a few seconds.

According to Christopher Hilton, author of Michael Schumacher:

The Whole Story, Schumacher had to learn a very important skill: to

drive fast slowly.2 He needed to slow down his thoughts so he could

drive at nearly 200 mph while passing other drivers, increasing his

lead, and thinking through his upcoming decisions. At his peak, Schumacher

calmly held conversations with his crew chief while maneuvering

at breakneck speeds. He always looked refreshed at the end of his

races rather than exhausted.

As you go through the ideas in this book, I encourage you to drive

fast slowly. Slow your life as a manager down a bit and think through

your answers to the questions I pose. The questions take just a few

minutes to answer, but they do require you to slow down and answer

them thoughtfully in order to go faster toward the achievement of

sustainable, profitable growth.

You’ll quickly notice the book is laid out in the form of a race

around the business track. If you’re a fan of auto racing, you’ll also

quickly notice that the book is not laid out in the exact same fashion

as an actual race. I begin with thoughts on preparing yourself for longterm

success as a manager and later talk about assembling a team and

developing a strategy. In an actual auto race you would first assemble

a team and later on would prepare for a given race. Such slight differences

aside, I believe you will find the history of professional auto

racing to be an intriguing place to find powerful management insights.

Dan Coughlin

Fenton, MO

March 2009


SUCCESS by Dan Coughlin. Copyright ©  2009 Dan Coughlin. Published by AMACOM

Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.

All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Dan Coughlin (Fenton, MO) is a management consultant and keynote speaker, whose clients include Toyota, McDonald’s, Abbott, Marriott, Coca-Cola, YPO, Boeing, the St. Louis Cardinals, and more than 150 other organizations.

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