Important Business Management Lessons I Learned from Rally Car Racing

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As part of a business retreat, I recently attended one day of training at the Dirtfish Rally School near Snoqualmie, WA for how to drive a rally car. After I had a chance for the adrenaline rush to settle down and think about my experience, I realized that I learned many lessons that are applicable both to rally racing and running a business. I would like to share a few of those with you.

 Lesson 1 - Business is like a rally track, there are a lot of unexpected turns ahead of us.
Our day at Dirtfish was filled with unexpected turns. I think everyone in the business world can relate to this. The last couple of years have provided all of us with surprises and challenges. Those of us who have been in business for several years know this is nothing new, and is to be expected. What is important during these times is to make sure that you are prepared to deal with what you cannot see coming and to plan where you want to be. Turns are not only challenges, they are also opportunities for us to out maneuver our competitors and take the lead.

  • Our day and business is full of unexpected turns
  • Be prepared!
  • Challenges mean opportunities


Lesson 2 - The #1 Rule: Always look where you want to go.
We started our day with some classroom time. The first, and they said the most important, thing to do is to look ahead to where you want to go because that is where the car will go. That meant looking ahead of where we were, past the turn we might be in at moment, looking ahead on the course to the fourth or fifth cone. They continued to stress that all day. During our last event my instructor would often say “look ahead, look ahead”. She always knew when I was looking directly in front of the car (at the turn I was approaching) and not ahead where I eventually wanted to be. I asked how she knew and she said she could tell by how I was driving. I can see this all too often in our company, when we are focusing on the problems of the day and not the opportunities of tomorrow. The end result is that we get off course and we either do not get to where we want to go, or we get there too slowly (perhaps behind our competitor).


  • First and foremost – look ahead
  • Where you look is where you will go


Lesson 3 - Past skills may not serve us well on new roadways and situations.
The entire day was filled with learning new skills; my 40 years of driving experience did not prepare me to effectively drive these new courses. We all discovered that the skills that served us well in the past may not work well when we are required to navigate new roadways, road conditions, and surroundings (or new markets, economic conditions, or changes in our industry).

We all have learned responses that come as second nature and they have served us well in the past. However, in rally racing (and in business) those old responses can hinder us from acquiring new skills. It is not that those skills are never relevant, but the point is that you need to adapt. These skill habits are often difficult to overcome, particularly when you are in a situation that requires quick decisions and fast responses. 

  • Learned responses served in past, but hinder new learning
  • We must be ready to learn new skills and to adapt to new situations


Lesson 4 - Failing to successfully navigate a course can have “consequences.”
In addition to encountering unexpected turns, there were also potential dangers (which they called “consequences”, otherwise known as “hard things”) which we had to avoid. Running into some obstacles, such as the orange cones, had little to no consequence for us. But there were buildings, concrete blocks, and other objects that had to be avoided. Our tendency that day was to go as fast as we could, rather than to develop the proper skills, which is what our instructors emphasized. Being out of control seemed fun at the time, but crashing one of their cars would have put a real damper on the day. It is important to develop the skills and have the equipment necessary to “stay on the course”. This is true in business also.

  • With unexpected turns often come “consequences”
  • Develop skills to successfully avoid the obstacles
  • Be aware, maintain control, and stay on course


Lesson 5 - Teamwork and communication is critical.
Every car had an instructor, or copilot, during our training time. This is true in real rally racing, as well. My copilot was telling me what was ahead, and what I needed to do right then and in the future. There was just too much to think about (do you ever feel that way in your job?). Of course, in a real race there is also a well-trained pit crew to get you back on the track when you have a mechanical failure. The lesson here: develop a good team and methods for communicating. In business this usually means goal setting, a good financial solution in place, and open communication.

  • Relevant, timely information is critical
  • Communicate what’s ahead, what to do next, and help correct
  • Team effort, good communication


Lesson 6 - Getting out of your comfort zone is FUN!
Getting out of your comfort zone is both fun, and oftentimes necessary to successfully navigate the course and beat the competition. During our day of rally driving each of us became bolder and began to leave our comfort zone because we started applying the 5 previous lessons. The result for our day of driving – a lot of fun. The result in business – a lot of fun and more profit!

  • Discover new abilities, passions, and accomplish things you did not expect



  • Look ahead – develop business goals and personal goals. Spend at least as much time planning where you want to go as you do struggling with the turn you are in.  
  • Learn new skills - Don’t be afraid to “do things differently”. Dare to think outside of the box.
  • Look for new tools and techniques to help you make those “turns”, both expected and unexpected, successfully.
  • Learn from others – solicit ideas from everyone in your organization, particularly the younger team members.
  • Think of ways to build collaboration – implement tools specifically designed to help teams communicate and make decisions together.
  • Have fun, make money!


Finally, consider your current financial management (ERP) solution; will it help you navigate the turns ahead in your business?  Make sure you can rely on your platform to provide accurate timely data for making key business decisions. At The Resource Group we provide Microsoft Dynamics GP financial management solutions for small-to-mid-sized businesses. Contact The Resource Groupto find out how a Microsoft Dynamics GP solution can help you drive growth and thrive during the unexpected curves ahead. 

By Marty Schillaci, The Resource Group - A Microsoft Dynamics Partner in Seattle

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