ActionCOACH Summit’s first GrowthCLUB of 2020 left all feeling inspired and ready to tackle their next business quarter. There is something special about sitting in a room filled with strong-willed, dedicated individuals who have built their own businesses and cultivated their own success. Throughout the day we had a vibrant, engaging energy in the room, and this was certainly made more so by André Voigts, who presented a fantastic talk.
André, as most of the ActionCOACH team know him, is a successful business-owner ‘by day’. It was soon to be revealed, however, that he is also something of a weekend daredevil. André and his brother Ralph have raced off-road cars together for many years, in which the Voigts Group Racing duo have had both great results and great lessons. André shared his racing journey with us, reflecting on what goes into a successful race from start to finish, and how this process is not unlike that which we follow for a successful business.
Standing front and centre at the GrowthCLUB conference, André gives us a brief background of his racing history, and then gets straight to the burning question – what could off-road racing possibly have to do with owning and running a business?
Well, says the race champ and Voigts Property Group leader, “It all starts with a passion”. Passion for cars, and for going fast, is what pushed André and Ralph to buy the car and get behind the wheel. Passion is what makes one begin. To start and run a business optimally, you must have enough passion for what you do to take the first step – or buy the car. This passion is the foundation you build upon; remembering why you started, whether it’s a racing career, or growing a business.
The question of growth is what André considers next. While starting takes passion, growth needs dedication. “I want[ed] to follow my passion”, André explains, and so he chose to keep working towards a racing career. As André clicks over to the next slide, he points out that in this photo and the one before he is wearing the same racing overall. This in itself is significant when growing a passion. When you start out, you may not be able to afford offices in the most sought after building in the city, or the car with the best engine the industry has to offer. But if you’re dedicated you use what you have, and you make what you have work for you. That bright orange overall gives one a sense of priority, making us ask ourselves, ‘what’s really important in making this thing grow?’ As a start-up coffee shop business, do you prioritise a glossy new MacBook to balance the books with, or a brand new, good quality coffee machine? Growth takes dedication to the project, and the focus to evaluate what’s critical at every step. André explains, “the things that are initially very important, those are what you focus on. Everything else is trivial.” The orange overalls? They didn’t really matter. But a race-ready vehicle certainly did.
So, we’ve taken the first ‘passion-following’ step and bought the race car, coffee machine, or business. What next? Simple. André explains, “set your goal, and focus on it without compromise.” If we want to move forward, whether that means podium finishing results or expanding business growth, we have to put plans in place to make that happen. More specifically we must identify the smaller plans that drive the grand plan, and enable us to realise our goals. Short term goals, fuelled by long term goals. André’s first plan was just to get to the finish line, reminding us of a simple quote that was passed on to him, “In order to finish first, you must first finish”. The relevance to business operation is obvious: you won’t start winning your races without getting to the finish line. This requires putting everything into the process, without compromise. You let your plan unfold step by step. And so, the goal, in the beginning, may ‘just’ be to get to the finish line. Achieving goals allows one to push their goals further, or as André says, to next “get to the finish line – first”.
In the middle of the race, it’s André and Ralph inside the car. But André explains that they are certainly not the only ones involved in making the race happen, even if the two of them are steering the operation. It takes a team. And that is something all of us in business have heard, or experienced for ourselves. Nobody can do it alone without sacrificing some things along the way. It simply isn’t possible to do everything and be everywhere. André and Ralph can never be mechanic, driver, navigator and support team all on their own. But the thing is, we don’t have to. “It takes teamwork to make the dream work” – another simple, but meaningful phrase. Sharing the operation with a team means nothing has to be sacrificed in order to achieve the goal. And teamwork, of course, goes hand in hand with effective communication. During the race, communication between Ralph and André is crucial for making sure they stay on course and avoid dangerous situations. The same applies to the business setting. Optimal communication is the only way a team is going to contribute to the success of your business. When you get that right, your business and your plans are more likely to stay on course and away from dangerous routes.
As business owners, or race car drivers, there’s one detail we often gloss over, and that is detail itself. A failure in the smallest part of the car is enough to stop the race entirely, just as the smallest detail missed can spell big trouble for a business. “Too little throttle”, André explains, “and you could lose the corner. Too much throttle, you could spin out.” The small detail often makes all the difference. Learning from a track day spent at Silverstone, André recalls another poignant fact: it wasn’t the driver with the top speed that did the best on the track. It was the driver with the best overall time that really won. We must be aware of those kinds of detail, and that takes forethought and planning. Fine-tuning a race or a business plan to work in your favour takes understanding your game well enough to know when to take it steady, and when to “be ready to grab the opportunities”, as André puts it.
If you dedicate yourself to your passion without compromise, plan well with the right team, and stay on course without giving up, then chances are you will have a win, just as André’s team did. Of course, there will be losses, challenges and lessons – that’s part of the game. But, so is winning, and it can be done. As a final encouragement, know that if you’ve won once, you can win again. You know what it takes, and as André concludes, success breeds success. Go and make that podium finish happen for your business.