What can businesses learn from Formula 1?
Tearing round a racetrack at 200 miles an hour, weaving in and out of fast-moving traffic, dodging horrendous crashes — it all makes for incredibly compelling viewing, but what does it mean for businesses?
This was the subject of a talk that Formula 1 expert Mark Gallagher gave to a meeting of owners of independent marketing companies in the Appco network.
After a storied career for the likes of Jordan Grand Prix and Red Bull Racing, brushing shoulders with some of Formula 1’s biggest names including Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, Gallagher turned his attention to business and what it can learn from the high-octane world of motorsport.
What does business have to learn?
‘There are many similarities between Formula 1 teams and businesses’, said Gallagher. ‘There are three main priorities of a Formula 1 team: firstly, to integrate new technologies that help to optimise performance; secondly, to ensure that quality is never compromised and finally, to commit to the centricity of customer service to make sure we deliver for them every time.
Gallagher went on to detail how successful Formula 1 teams followed this advice. Integrating new technology and maintaining a high quality of service, for example, could take years of work and dedication.
‘When a rival team set a new pit-stop record, Red Bull racing set itself the goal of beating that record. I remember one of the pit crew asked “how?” The manager of Red Bull Racing replied that no one knew yet, but it was their job to find out using every tool they had and developing new ones along the way,’ Gallagher recalled.
Customer centric business
Gallagher also touched on the importance and difficulty of having a customer-centric business in racing.
‘There can only ever be one winner in racing, which means there’ll be a lot of losers. Our challenge as a racing company is to make sure our sponsors and fans — our customers — are happy, even when we’re losing, so that together we can keep getting better.’
Keeping the customer in mind was the responsibility of everyone in the business. Gallagher recalled a moment when a truck driver told one of the major sponsors that the team was in disarray. This undermined the sponsor’s relationship with the team.
Gallagher stressed that is was crucial that everyone, from the truck drivers, to the engineers, to the drivers had the same common goals and sense of spirit. The team needed to be open and available to its fans and sponsors so that they could see this spirit in action — this gave the sponsors and the fans, the racing company’s customers, the service they deserved.
‘Everyone on the team needs to share this goal’, he said.
Finishing on an anecdote about Michael Schumacher, he said, ‘What makes Michael great was not just that he was an incredible driver, but that on the weekends and after hours, he would visit the engineers and developers — the people who would never get near a race track — and talk to them about their work.
That was the sort of collaborative spirit that makes leaders like Michael great and teams like his hugely successful’.