Sunday, June 19, 2005

Lessons from other industries

You can learn a lot just watching the mistakes of others. Here's one I hope we never make: forgetting the reason for your company's existence.

I'm a car-nut. I've spent my life pouring through the pages of auto magazines. I asked my dad to buy a Ferrari when I was age 10 (he didn't go for it). I've been to the Indy 500, drag races, NASCAR at Watkins Glen, and a host of other events. Today, I watched what happens when a group of folks forget why they're around. At the US Grand Prix Formula One race, one of the tire manufacturers (Michelin) screwed up. They brought tires that were unsafe for the track and couldn't fix it in time for the race. The various power players butted heads, couldn't reach an agreement, and so the Michelin teams didn't race. The "Grand Prix" consisted of a grand total of 6 cars starting and finishing the "race", if you could call it that. The fans were livid. They changed their schedules and paid anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars to be there.

If there were zero fans in the grandstands and zero viewers on TV, the decisions made by all involved were probably correct. Neither Formula One nor the other tire manufacturer (Bridgestone) should have had any reason to accommodate Michelin. Michelin screwed up and the teams that relied on Michelin were wrong by having no fallback position. Motor racing at its purest is Darwinian. Those that are unprepared should not succeed.

But, it's obvious that all people involved (Formula 1, Michellin, Bridgestone, the head of the various organizations, the lead team owners, etc..) have forgotten why they pour billions of dollars into the sport, it's for the fans stupid. Teams won't spend $400 million/year if there's no audience. If they had cared about the fans, they would have forged a real compromise and allowed something that allowed the fans to be happy. Not because it was the proper racing thing to do, because it was the proper way to treat the fans. Instead, they put their competitiveness above all reason on display for the world today. Today I think they killed the golden goose. They forgot who pays their bills.

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