Small Business Lessons from Formula 1

I’m a fan of Formula 1 motor racing. It’s the pinnacle of motor sport that represents the very peak of engineering and performance. It also requires levels of investment that seem outrageous to gain just a few tenths-of-a-second over the competition.

It’s often the drivers who grab the headlines, after all they’re the ones putting their life on the line to find out just how fast their rocket-ship-on-wheels can make it round the track. But success in Formula 1, like many things, is a team endeavour. It’s not always the fastest car, nor the best driver who wins, it’s the team that puts together the best package on the day.

So, what can we learn from the high-stakes world of Formula 1 in our small businesses? The first lesson is obvious: like a Formula 1 team needs a great car, so you need a great product or service. Having a better product gives you a distinct advantage over your competition.

But it’s not all about the car. Like drivers putting in endless laps of a circuit, much of business is about doing the same things repeatedly. Great drivers are looking to optimize their performance lap after lap, learning from mistakes and making small changes to do better next time around. This is what great small businesses do – never sitting still and always looking for opportunities to do something better.

I mentioned earlier that it’s not always the best car or driver that wins. Strategy plays a critical role and that comes from the whole team supporting the race. Knowing when to come in and change tires, making those changes quickly and getting out ahead of your opponents. Similarly in business we must know when to make a change and we can rely upon our teams to execute these changes quickly before the market races past us. COVID-19 saw everyone come into the pits, but not everyone had the strategy to get back out on the racetrack quickly.

The margins between success and failure in Formula 1 are miniscule. Even the very smallest of changes can mean the difference between placing in the top 3 and coming last. Successful teams make their mark in these very small opportunities to best their opponents. Small business is also highly competitive and it’s often the small things added together that make or break the business. Attention to detail is the craft here.

Lastly, every Formula 1 team fields two cars with two drivers. Certainly every driver is racing for themselves primarily, but as the season progresses, teamwork becomes increasingly important. Drivers learn from their teammates. They sometimes help hold an opponent up, or allow the higher-scoring teammate to race ahead to give the team overall advantage. Successful small businesses compete with, and support, others. We learn from each other, refer each other and many times cooperate with other businesses for the greater good.

There’s a lot we can learn from any high-performance sport, but today I’ll encourage you to check in with your team, put the right tires on and strive for your fastest lap!