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The Best Way To Boost Your Business? Build a Rapport and Relationships

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It’s important for you to get familiar with and interact with many more people in your business than just your customers. Getting familiar with your banker, suppliers, services and the media can be a big help.

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One thing that helps me has been my racing and involvement in motorsports. Even if you are not a racer as I was, you can still get involved in a racing or a motorsport program with sponsorships.

Creating sales for sponsors is just part of the benefit of a sponsorship. Your engine business may be selling and using the same parts and services that the racer you’re sponsoring does. The same goes if you or someone from your shop races, pulls, bogs, etc.

Involvement in motorsports also bolsters employees and community spirit. It’s something to rally around.

I was fortunate to have raced with a degree of success through four decades. By the ’90s I had 40 associate product and service sponsors on my Pro Mod cars. Even though my “Days of Thunder” have pretty much ended, lot of those folks still remember my association with them, or perhaps knew me on a fan basis.

It is gratifying to me when I call a manufacturer, associate or member of the media and they know who I am and we can have a few words of familiar chit chat.

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I called Crane Cams a while back to have a special Mopar cam ground for a customer’s project. Who gets on the phone but Crane’s legendary Chase Knight. “How the hell ya doing Animal?” is how the conversation starts. Although I had not seen or talked to Chase for years, he was my “go to” guy when I was a rookie Pro Stock racer in the late ’70s. Chase has since retired but I’ve been told I am welcome to call him anytime for assistance.

Another real important way to get and stay acquainted with manufacturers, suppliers and the media are trade shows. If you are doing any kind of performance work, an engine builder attending the PRI show is as important as a Catholic attending mass every Sunday. The SEMA Show and regional shows like the Race and Performance Expos can also be very important.

If possible, even if you’re not involved in a particular motorsport, try attending some of the different events. Especially at big ones with a manufacturer’s midway you can have face-to-face contact with those people.

I hope you take my advice, but I had to learn all this stuff myself over the years. In 1969, I didn’t decide to race to create a rapport with anyone – I just wanted to test my prowess as a mechanic and driver. I was pretty naive about a lot of things in my early racing days. But in a short time I learned the value of creating relationships with suppliers, business associates and the media to promote my business. My life became “Race On Sunday – Sell on Monday.”

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At that same time in the ’60s and ’70s, a Rhode Island Ford dealer and racer Bob Tasca’s slogan was “Win on Sunday – Sell on Monday.” And I’ll agree that winning is good. But just racing, if done respectably was enough. Winning was the frosting on the cake.

Be sure that when you (or a motorsport program you are involved with) do well, you tell your customers and make as many business associates and media outlets know about it as possible. Send out press releases and flyers with the news. With today’s communications outlets it is much easier than when I did it. All we had back then was fax, phone and mail.

Also I stay in touch with trade magazines like Engine Builder – and get involved. EB has great articles – even this old dog learns a lot from their articles. When you read something you value in an article, e-mail or call that publication and author and tell them so.

Engine Builder’s Shop Solutions section is very informative. We all have our little tricks we do in our shop to make procedures easier, yet many of us take them for granted. If your tip is chosen for publication, you can win a hundred dollar gift card.

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I enjoy reading magazine articles about my trade because they often have information on something I have already discovered myself. It’s very reassuring to read someone else’s take on it. In some cases I may have only opened a door on an idea a bit to peek in when someone puts a good article in Engine Builder that clarifies exactly about what I looking for. The writer kicks the door wide open for me.

When I was racing Pro Stock using small block Ford Clevelands from the ’70s to 1983, most engine builders and especially Cleveland racers knew there was a problem with lifter bore location. It wasn’t only Fords that had this condition – it was present in most engine brands, but some engines were worse than others.

I learned of inaccurate lifter bore locations by accident. One fine day, about 1979, I was prepping my ’76 Cleveland-powered Pinto Pro Stock car in my shop. Running the valves that were opened and closed by a huge roller cam, I noticed when clicking the engine over the rocker on number 7 moved when the lobes were on the heel! What the hell? The others did not do that. The roller lifters we used at that time had real fat long axle bosses. The lifter bores were so far off on that cylinder, that the upper side cam lobe next door was brushing the fat boss as it passed by.

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To fix that was easy. To be safe, I took all the lifters to the Valve Grinder stem wheel and put on a radius, using my hand grinding prowess (my steady hand is a gift from God). I ground the lower area of the axle bosses to clear the next-door neighboring cam lobe.

Here is the punch line: another set of the same type lifters, not radiused, in one of my other Clevelands with the same cam did not have that problem. I went to the trouble to dismantle that engine enough to measure.

This block showed .075˝ clearance between the lifter boss and cam lobe next door, even on the same lifter bore as the block that let the cam touch the side of the lower lifter boss. WOW!

Inevitably, we ran blocks with accurately placed brass sleeved lifter bores. And the sleeves incorporated a 1/16˝oil galley hole. No need after that to restrict the passages to mains with restricted Allens.

One thing we never proved – nor did anyone else I could find – was whether there was any horsepower gain. And if so, how much horsepower was gained by sleeving those lifter bores for accuracy? No one seemed to really know; the numbers given were just speculation and hearsay.

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Fast forward to 2017 when Ron Flood took the time and effort to verify the gains. Ron revealed his findings in the November 2016 issue of Engine Builder in an article titled “Hidden Horsepower.”

According to Ron, by including the installation of brass sleeves in their proper places with the blueprinting procedures a Chevy block netted 20.5 more HP and 20.5 foot pounds of torque to the 383 cid engine mule that already made 500 hp before the lifter bore sleeving modification. A bonus result he found was that the oil pressure increased 5 pounds.

Man, I sure would have liked this guy helping me in my racing heyday. The songs we could have written together!

There have been many other article examples I could tell about, but this one of Ron’s really hit home for me. It was about something I had experienced, and dealt with on the drag racing circuit.

Unfortunately, I never had time to dwell on the attribute effects of proper lifter bore correction. It was always zero hour for me and my crew and we had to do the essentials just to keep running. It seemed that it was always time to load the race car to go racing.

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I am sure that many readers already know much of what I write about in my articles. Some of you probably have even better ways and ideas. But I hope my many ramblings gdgg help someone. If even one person learns something from my columns, the time I take to ramble about racing and engines is worthwhile.

I am still involved with motorsports. Since 2004, I have been a NHRA tech official at RT 66 Raceway in Joliet. I experience lot of interaction with that job., including lots of good feedback about these articles I write. I have the same experience at trade shows. At the PRI Show last December, at least 20 people stopped me in the aisles and commented how they like my articles.

Thanks for reading – and thanks for remembering. ν

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