Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size image
Fast Lane: Building A Reputation At The Track Will Build Business At The Shop
I guarantee that as soon as your customers start having a little more success than they had in the past, you'll start to have a lot more friends at the track.
By Jim Walbolt
In the February 2007 issue of Engine Builder we discussed the importance of seeking out new market for your business (Fast Lane: "New Markets Could Give Your Business Hope For Survival," page 18). In the May 2007 Issue we discussed the importance of getting out to the racetrack to help build your performance business (Fast Lane: "Going To The Races Can Help Get Your Shop Back On Track," page 42). In this issue, we'll tie those two together.
I hope that most of you have found a niche in the performance market. You may be specializing in one type of racing, or one type of engine. That's great! As I've said many times in the past, you must be very good at what you do to keep racers coming in the door. Put out a product that makes them competitive and they'll beat a path to your door.
Once you've achieved some success in the performance market, you need to build on that success, regardless of the type of racing you are involved in. Remember, at any motorsport event, your customer isn't the only one there. Even if it's the type of event that doesn't normally draw much of a fan base, there are still other competitors there, along with crew and family members. Each one of these people is a potential customer.
Once you achieve even a small amount of success, whether your customers are winning races, or you have helped improve their finishing position, that is the stepping stone to even greater success.
I guarantee that as soon as your customers start having a little more success than they had in the past, you'll start to have a lot more friends at the track. You will begin to be seen as the "Expert" or the "Magician" when it comes to producing winners.
Hey, don't knock it; your shop's success will be directly proportional to your popularity at the track. If you've hung around the race track much at all, you know that there are always one or two guys that everyone goes to when they have a problem. Just think what it would do for your business if that person were you.
So how do you go about becoming that person? You become the expert, the guru, the magician. Build a (good) reputation by becoming the person that can watch a car at the track, or listen to the engine in the pits, and know exactly what to do to make that car better.
While it would be great if we could all be experts at everything, very few of us (present company excluded, of course) will ever be expert at more than a few things. But don't worry - legends have been made from just one incident.
What do you do really well? Are you great at tuning fuel systems or would you rather be building a high powered small block. Can you tune an engine to work great at one track, then turn around and find a different combination that works at a different track the following night?
Maybe you are good at, and understand setting up a car's suspension at the track, but your day job is re-manufacturing Toyota heads. It doesn't really matter. The reputation you build at the track will follow you to the shop, good OR bad. But if it's good, continued success will also follow you to shop.
Fowler Engines in Columbus, OH, builds some of the best blown alcohol big-blocks in the country. They also have the reputation as one of the best rebuilders of superchargers in the country, perhaps the best in the east. The shop is extremely busy year-round.
However, owner Jeff Fowler doesn't just sit back in Columbus on the weekends; instead he is the crew chief on an IHRA Alcohol Funny Car. On a recent "off" weekend from the drag racing scene, Fowler was seen at the Tomah, WI, Super National Tractor Pull, helping customer Bill Voreis grab back-to-back wins with his five-engine Unlimited Modified tractor. The reputation Fowler has built on the weekends puts customers in his shop during the week.
Dowker Engines in Charlotte, MI, is one of the premier race-engine builders in Michigan with competitors in nearly every series racing in the state utilizing their power plants. While Late Models and Sprint Cars are their primary markets, their talent extends to other series as well.
What does shop co-owner Butch Dowker do on the weekends? The same thing he has been doing for more than 25 years; he's the Crew Chief on a championship winning Sprint Car team. He's also one of "those" guys that every competitor goes to at one time or other when they just can't seem to get their car working right. Moreover, he's always willing to help. Keep in mind also, that those he helps will become competitors on the track. Do you think maybe the reputation Dowker has earned over the last 25-plus years has helped Dowker Engines' bottom line?
You'll find guys like these at racetracks throughout the country. If you're not one already, become one on the weekends too, and your weekdays will become even more fun and exciting.