I guess you could credit my dad, Dale Earnhardt Sr., for giving me the idea of being a small business owner. Dad had a race team and one day I wanted to have a race team. In 2002, my dream became a reality when I started JR Motorsports.
By Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Eighteen years later, JR Motorsports has four cars competing in NASCAR’s Xfinity series, has won three championships and competes regionally in the CARS Tour late model series. We also employ more than 150 people and have seen many of our employees make the jump to the NASCAR Cup series.
Throughout my career, I’ve had a chance to be part of several business ventures and am often asked by people looking to start their own small business for advice on how to be successful. Here’s a couple things I’ve learned that have worked for me:
Surround yourself with the right people
Hire people you trust. We’ve made a point to work with people we’ve formed relationships with in the past. Hire people that you believe in and that believe in you. Hiring outside help requires due diligence, but again a successful business starts with the people. What I’ve learned from the people I’ve worked for and what is true in my situation as an owner is that it’s all about taking care of your people. Rick Hendrick, my former boss at Hendrick Motorsports and current partner at JR Motorsports, would tell me the business works and succeeds because of the people that worked there…from the top to the bottom. Without the people and their talents, it wouldn’t be successful. Make sure that every person feels important and that their contribution is helping the business succeed…from the top of the house to the person sweeping the floors.
Find ways for your employees to win
Seeing people getting promoted up through the company and seeing them succeed is such a thrill for me, even if it means seeing them leave the company and go somewhere else to find success. If we’re developing top-end individuals who are sought after, that’s such a great feeling. As a race team owner, you have to find things to motivate you other than winning races and championships. A lot of our employees don’t get to go to the track and experience what it’s like to win so we want to find ways to win at home. Helping people advance is exciting for me.
Don’t wait to get your business started
My biggest regret is not starting a business sooner. Every day you wait to start a business is a day wasted. Don’t be afraid to start small. Dream big but take baby steps to get there. Try to understand how the business can function before you try to acquire a giant customer base. Be patient in its growth. You’ll wake up one day and it will be bigger than you could have ever imagined.
Ask for help along the way
Make sure you work with experts that understand how to make a small business grow. My friends at Nationwide are great at helping people grow and protect their small businesses. (Check out the Nationwide/BlueVine “Pitch to Win” small business contest at www.pitchtowinbig.com for a chance to win $100,000 for your small business!) Having people that have small business experience can help you avoid making mistakes that can derail your business from reaching its full potential.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is an American professional stock car racing driver, champion team owner, businessman, and television analyst for NBC Sports Group. He began his racing career at seventeen years of age with his dad, Dale Earnhardt Sr. He won consecutive NASCAR Busch Series Championships in 1998 and 1999 and the Daytona 500 in 2004 and 2014. Earnhardt was named NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for a record fifteen consecutive seasons. Dale lives in Mooresville, North Carolina, with his wife, Amy, and their daughter, Isla Rose.