Strategy, Legal & Operations

What motorcycle racing can teach you about running a business

Motorcycle Racing

Our brains are wired to be interested in people who are interesting, which is why it’s so refreshing to find professionals who have a passion outside of work. And Rebecca Berneck is a perfect example.

When she isn’t racing vintage motorcycles, she’s the founder and “big head” of Officeheads, which provides financial management and strategic coaching to small creative and professional services companies.

A few months ago, I interviewed Berneck for the Green Apple Podcast, and we discussed how her hobby for vintage motorcycle helped her run a better consulting business.

It all started innocently enough with the purchase of a Vespa 16 years ago. A short time later, she saw a woman on a motorcycle and decided to give that a try, so she bought a 1975 Honda and got involved with ChiVinMoto (Chicago Vintage Motorcyclists), a group of like-minded Chicago residents who are “passionate about wrenching, riding and racing vintage motorcycles.”

Berneck was a natural and soon found herself on a track to improving her skills and then competing in road races around the country-leaning left, taking turns and attempting to drag her knee in front of 70,000 people at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. And that’s not even the most exciting thing she’s done on two wheels.

“The coolest thing I’ve ever done is set land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats,” she says.

Berneck realizes that her passion for racing motorcycles strengthens her leadership skills at Officeheads. “The correlation between winning a race and running a business to win the business race is uncanny. There are so many parallels.”

Here are Berneck’s top four parallels between the race track and the corner office:

  • Race bike: Every race team needs a bike—you can’t enter a race without one. In your business, this includes your financial engine and the tools and software you use to function. As Berneck describes in her ebook, “The Financial Management Guide for Small Business,” each of these need to be running smoothly and quietly in the background in order to focus on the finish line.
  • Pit crew: The motorcycle rider doesn’t perform maintenance on the bike, which is why business owners should delegate operational tasks to their trusty team of specialists (think CFO, CPA and bookkeepers) who maintain the financial engine. Leverage their expertise so your race bike is running as efficiently as possible. “Someone else should be making sure that your financial engine is running tip top so you, as the business owner (or motorcycle racer) can get on with a laser focus on what you’re trying to do—without having to think about the machinery and the tools that you’re using,” she says.
  • Race coach: A CEO truly benefits from some outside influence to make sure they’re performing at their maximum level, which is exactly the same as a motorcycle rider needing to gain perspective from each race to improve. An outside consultant or a peer group of other CEOs are a great resource for such business coaching.
  • Racer: Every race team needs a person who gets on the bike, expertly maneuvers around competitors and guides the machine across the finish line. This is you, the CEO or small business owner, who needs to maintain focus on where the business is headed and how to be smooth and nimble to get there.

This is summed up by advice she received early on from her racing coach: “You have to know your bike, know the track and know yourself.” Or, to put it in business terms, you need to know the financial health of your business and your market, and have the passion and drive to lead your organization across the finish line.