Lessons Learned from Playing in the Rain

If you are reading this, then you are likely aware that I spend most weekends entertaining race fans somewhere in the U.S.  And if you are a NASCAR fan, then you are also aware that the first two events of the 2024 season were plagued by the dreaded four-letter word… RAIN.

As I sit back and try to recap the events of the past couple weeks, I am reminded of five key lessons that can apply to everyone’s daily grind.

1. Plan for Things to Change

  • The forecast for the Daytona 500 was bleak for more than a week, but it’s not in our DNA to let the weather gods win without putting up a hell of a fight. As soon as I received the first weather forecast, I sent a note to our production partners telling them to prepare. This didn’t simply mean stocking up on  mops and plastic wrap but also to identify fallback locations that could prove useful if the primary locations were compromised. The effort and the energy that goes into contingency planning is never a waste—and in my experience eventually comes back to help you. (We might not have used the media center for the command this week but that doesn’t mean we won’t need it for Supercross.)

2. Stay Flexible

  • By understanding what resources you have at your disposal as well as the variables that are out of your control, you can stay flexible and pivot quickly. This ensures the most favorable result.
    • Example: Last Sunday, as the rain was falling and we were canceling the concert, I asked our production partners to keep the sound wings operational and develop an ops plan to get them set and struck quickly. After a quick huddle, we determined that these assets could flank a third stage that had been constructed to introduce VIPs. It was parked in such a way that we would be provided with 150’ of staging that looked grand enough to be used for the Daytona 500 Driver Introductions. Additionally, it could also be struck in a compressed amount of time that wouldn’t impact the start of the race.

3. Slow Down and Process the Full Impact

  • I had the privilege to sit in some of the weather planning meetings at both the LA Colosseum and the Daytona International Speedway. My takeaway from both  events was how many factors needed to be considered when making what appears to be a simple decision.
    • For example, how will fans know what seat to sit in? Do we have enough support staff (i.e., ticket takers, police, catering, sound engineers) on the property to run an event early? Has chartered aircraft left team headquarters yet? Can the TV partners keep you on your preferred network? Will the rain hold out long enough to dry the track if the sun and the wind aren’t helping the drying process?

4. Communication is Key

  • By better understanding bullet #3 you can clearly communicate with stakeholders who might be impacted by your decision.
    • For example, by understanding the steps that go into delivering a VIP suite experience, you can work with your Partnership and Catering teams to manage guests’ expectations when running an event 24 hours prior to the scheduled start time. (You might not have chefs on property, food deliveries, and/or meals prepared yet.)
  • By clearly communicating the desire for an exceptional guest experience and the need for volunteer assistance, the NASCAR Human Resources team was able to send out an all-staff communication early. They asked for assistance then rapidly deployed a tremendous team of staffers to under-resourced areas and backfilled critical areas of the event day experience. (There is nothing better than seeing your CMO hold ropes to guide  fans or watch your boss scan tickets at the gates to realize that we are all in this together.)

5. Have Fun

  • Attending a NASCAR race at the Los Angeles Colosseum or the historic Daytona 500 is the chance of a lifetime for many people. Therefore,  as the forecast becomes more ominous it’s important not to let that impact staff morale. It’s easy to be discouraged by the thought about how much planning went into trying to create the perfect day; however, for over a hundred thousand people who watched William Byron become a Daytona 500 Champion, it was as perfect as it was meant to be. We are lucky to have these amazing jobs and attend these bucket list events. So, no matter what Mother Nature does we are still living our best lives and should appreciate every moment of it.

Without a doubt I earned my paycheck in the past 30 days. However, I will now be better prepared for the next time a challenge is put in front of me. I remain excited to be on this journey with you. Now let’s pray for nothing but Chamber of Commerce days for the rest of the season.

Until the next one,