Sponsorship Based Business – Auto Racing Edition

You provide value, and your value is all attitude – “We love what we do, we love what our sponsors do and we’re super excited to be able to do this together”

Sponsorship creates a customer/vendor relationship. What value does a race sponsorship bring? It brings recognition to a brand. It brings an attitude of “We chose our sponsor because they are so awesome you really should check out what they do.”  As the vendor serving a customer, your racing team will need to have this attitude permeate its entire culture.  You are creating lasting relationships that benefit you and your sponsors.  This means you do not try to figure out how to maximize a sponsorship or find people who will give you money, you are not trying to talk people into anything. You provide value, and your value is all attitude – “We love what we do, we love what our sponsors do and we’re super excited to be able to do this together”

A lot of what I’ve been reading recently has been about customer-first thinking.  With this in mind, your customer is your sponsor.  This is the relationship to nurture.  Every fan interaction, every media experience must have your customer in mind. In a lot of ways, you’re not in the racing business, you’re in the excitement business and you have to be excited about your sponsors! (See what I did there with that exclamation mark?)

Did you know Starbucks isn’t really in the coffee business?  They are in the real estate business and they are masters of it.  They are so good at it, in fact, that property values of surrounding properties go up.

What does that look like in practice? Let’s look at the historical home value appreciation of areas that now are located within a quarter mile of a Starbucks. A home that is now near a Starbucks would have sold, on average, for $137,000. A home that is not near a Starbucks would have sold, on average, for $102,000.

Fast-forward 17 years to 2014. That average American home has now appreciated 65%, to $168,000. But the Starbucks-adjacent property has far outpaced that, appreciating 96% to $269,000.”  qz.com

In the same way, you’re not in the racing business – you’re in the excitement business.

Life is relational – utilize existing relationships to find someone who is looking to enter into a sponsorship.  Make it known that you’re willing to pay a finders fee.  Make a list of the top 10 people to talk to.  Write 10 different emails.  Send them.  (this is the important part)

Make a 10 item list of the companies you could be super excited talking about. Company or product.  It can’t be fake excitement so be careful.  When you identify these companies, do your research on them.  Take your time, make a presentation just for them. This will take time but it’s worth it.  This could even take months.  Find out who to speak to at the company – there is the potential to have multiple people who have the authority to make a decision – figure out who is the person most likely to understand the value of sponsoring your racing team. 

Once you identify a company don’t go with a beggar’s mentality – you don’t need to beg for a sponsorship – you’re offering a unique opportunity.

This is a business.  You need to have a polished presentation and demographics and marketing ideas etc.  Make a list of 10 marketing ideas for joint marketing efforts – they should benefit you and your sponsors.

Even before you have your first sponsor, start getting excited and posting YouTube videos. Tweet exciting things about the progress of your racing empire.  If you’re going to be in the excitement business you need to start now.  Your first assignment is to come up with 10 ideas for 2-3 minuteYouTube videos.  production value must be high

Ignore facebook for now – you don’t need your friends loving you – they already do.  You need to get strangers to love you.

Think local.  Community banks, local icons (businesses that have been around for at least 30 years).  Local restaurants with multiple locations. Local lowers your cost of travel.

Do some business networking.  Find some meetup groups that are for entrepreneurs.  Ignore anything that is even remotely similar to network marketing or MLM, etc.  You’re looking for groups that are primarily focused on helping each other with support and advice.  It should be free or cheap.  You need to find a group that is comprised of leadership level people – big thinkers.  You want to be in a group where the attitudes reflect a big thinking attitude – where big business is measured by 8 or more digits.  Even though the membership might not represent c-level positions, the group still needs to know how to think big.

Do not attach yourself personally to your presentation and ideas for this.  This allows you to be objective and your delivery or the content of your presentation can improve over time.  If, when you’re done with version 1 of your presentation, you think “This is awesome” you’ve failed.

Talk to business people you know – they might be members of professional networking groups already.  While you may not qualify or be welcome as a member, many times these groups have times where outsiders can come in to make a presentation.  The goal of the presentation might be as a way to let people know of an opportunity, but (and even better if you ask me) it might be a way to help you refine your delivery and content.

“Hi John, are you a member of or know of any professional groups that meet regularly – I’m looking for a group to make a presentation about an exciting opportunity to become a racing team sponsor and would love an introduction.”

Don’t worry about what kind of promises you make, just over deliver.  Deliver radical value.  Do this and the value of a sponsorship will grow, your racing team will be worth more and your revenues will go up and you’ll get better at delivering amazing value.  It’s a virtuous cycle. 

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Get Into Flow

Flow, that elusive state of extreme productivity. Here are 10 ideas to help you achieve the state of flow.

  1. Eat a delicious salad.  With steak.
  2. Be happy. Don’t have any lingering arguments with the people in your life. Arguments sap your mental and emotional energy.
  3. Go somewhere new. Loud is good. If you can get into flow in a loud place you’ll have the focus to stay in flow for a long time.
  4. Have other important things going on. Ignore them briefly while you’re flowing. This increases the desperation to get focused and productive quickly.
  5. Do something. Anything. Starting is the thing.
  6. When you’re halfway through sometimes you’ll hear a whisper of the “real world” trying to sneak in to distract. Push back against this.
  7. Before starting, take a walk to get your blood moving and your heart pumping.
  8. Stimulate your creativity by writing, drawing or playing a musical instrument… anything creative helps.
  9. Stuck? Shake things up. Go wild – run down the street. Switch desks. Make a change.
  10. Turn your phone off. Delete the Facebook app. Ignore it – you’re flowing. Nothing. Stops. You.

Startup On the Side

Here are my thoughts on a transition plan from full-time employment to full-time unemployment; also known as becoming a founder of a startup.

  1. Never sign an anti-moonlighting or non-compete agreement – ever. Never sign a blanket IP assignment agreement.
  2. Find the smallest iteration you can do. Do it.
  3. Iteration zero: plan the first four weeks of development.
  4. 1 hour of focus each weeknight, 2 on Saturday. 0 on Sunday.
  5. Consider learning to be productive time. This includes reading books.
  6. Create a quiet space in which to work. Have a family? Include them in the planning so everyone has a voice and catches the vision.
  7. Write down on paper and post in your offline life somewhere: “Life is a marathon not a sprint – pace yourself.”
  8. Sleep well, eat well, don’t drink. No sugar, no pop, no diet pop, no candy. You need mental focus.
  9. Maintain old and foster new relationships. Life is relational not just task oriented.
  10. Don’t give equity away. Everyone’s time has the same value no matter what role they play. $200/hr, $100/hr, $50/hr – doesn’t matter what you choose when everyone is the same.  More is probably better later.

Ideas for Improving Tech Startup Speed to Market

  1. More open collaboration between big players. Big players does not necessarily mean companies.  I’m thinking programming language creators, library writers and platforms.  People like: Bjarne Stroustrup,  Guido van Rossum,  Simon Peyton Jones,  Philip Wadler,  James Gosling,  Martin Odersky,  John ResigIsaac Z. Schlueter, These Guys, DHHChris Wanstrath, Linus, AWS, Docker, Vagrant,  This list could be huge.  If you’d like to add to it, please comment.
  2. More open source released from incumbents and startups. Let’s stop solving the same micro-problems over and over. If you’re using, you need to be giving back.
  3. SAAS to support startups. API common web app needs: membership, subscriptions, accounting, legal – basically create a tech startup business in a box erector set or Lego style.
  4. Startup U. Worry about accreditation later. This is education for entrepreneurs and founders.  Focus on practical approaches to launch – level playing field.
  5. Create a foundation to focus on human-scale solutions for the betterment of humanity. This foundation produces white papers and a knowledge base that founders of tech startups can tap as needed.
  6. More cilantro. It makes everything better.
  7. Move beyond agile and into hourly iterations/releases.
  8. Move fast but don’t break things. Breaking things saps our energy. Let’s figure out ways to decrease defect rate while at the same time increasing release rate.
  9. Break mental models apart.  Deconstruct them. Require value from every stage of all processes.
  10. Less iPhone more flip phone.

What I Told the Investors Writing Big Checks

I recently raised a lot of money for a new investment. A lot of money. At least it felt like a lot – both to me and the investors.  When dealing with people who are writing checks for large amounts of money, you should let them know what to expect in return. So I thought about trying to set their mind at ease but instead I decided they don’t deserve to feel easy about taking a risk – they deserve to understand the risk as well as possible. In this case the investment seemed low-risk to me, but nobody can predict the future and I don’t want to burn my relationships.

So, at the very moment they were signing their checks, I delivered what may be my best line yet.

I said, “Just so you know, I’m going to go cash your checks. Then I’m going to head to the casino.  I’m going to gamble. And I will lose all your money because I’m a terrible gambler. And if you’re not okay with that then don’t give me your checks.”

After everyone laughed I made sure they understood I was serious. I still got all the checks and something else – the freedom to invest boldly.

The future is brimming with opportunity. Aren’t you excited?

I Just Crushed My Son’s Dream

My 9 year old and I just had a texting conversation.

Son: “Do you think for my art I should ask people if they would like a self-portrait like while they’re walking around? I could just go around asking them…”

Dad (me): “No, I think you should do the art that makes you happy. If you’re happy then you’ll be making art that makes other people happy. Eventually someone will offer to pay you for your art.

Son: “But no one ever comes up and asks for it.”

Dad: “right. It’ll take a while. Make a goal to do one ink drawing a day.”

Son: “I didn’t even sell one piece of art at our last garage sale. and our next one is tomorrow!”

Dad (realizing for the first time he was talking about selling his art at the garage sale): “people don’t go to garage sales to buy art.”

Dad: “You don’t want to be known as the artist who sells his art at garage sales.”

But then I got to thinking… what if he does want to be known as the artist who sells his art at garage sales.  What if that’s his thing?  So I didn’t actually send that last line.

What I did send:

Dad: You might want to be known as the artist who sells his art at garage sales but you have to be an artist and actually have some art to sell.

Son: I might be able to put my mind to it! Now I got to get drawing! 🙂 See you soon 🙂

What Happened When I Said Two + Two is Not Four

Everyone in the room had just agreed with each other that a statement that was obviously true was, in fact, true.

I spoke up and said, “No, that’s not the case.”

Everyone looked at me like I was crazy or dumb or a jokester.  But I was serious.  Then they tried to figure out if I really was that dumb.  (I’d like to state that I’m not.)

I had remembered the 10th Man Rule from “World War Z.”  Then I found an article that talks about confirmation bias.  This is all very interesting stuff if you’re a knowledge worker – if you use your brain to earn a living you want it to be as useful to you as a carpenter feels about his hands and tools (although a carpenter is probably a knowledge worker too… I can’t figure that out right now.)

The article states, “People mostly have a problem with the confirmation bias when they reason on their own, when no one is there to argue against their point of view. What has been observed is that often times, when people reason on their own, they’re unable to arrive at a good solution, at a good belief, or to make a good decision because they will only confirm their initial intuition.”

The consultant said, “are you serious?”

I said, “I’m completely serious.  What you said is obviously true, but this discussion is so much more interesting if someone disagrees with you.”

And so we had an enlightening discussion about how to handle a situation where 2+2 does not equal 4. And would you believe, it was productive and energizing and we discovered some weird edge-cases in our processes.

By the way, I disagree with the article I linked to.