MP: It wasn't so long ago that IndyCar's technical team was somewhat anonymous and understaffed, yet today, it's become a great example of what adding talent can do to a department. Do you foresee the same growth and expansion needs with your commercial department – to build it out and have it become a source of pride?
MM: My belief is that the headcount is not the linchpin issue. Some people thought when I started talking about merging or consolidating IMS commercially and IndyCar commercially that it must mean I was going to whack a bunch of jobs. I'm not thinking that and I'm not thinking that we have to add a lot of bodies yet. It may mean that there needs to be some changes in the way we invest the dollars we invest on talent, whether that's some agency help, some other marketing consultancy, PR consultancy, we'll see.
We think, and the Boston Consulting Group stuff suggested, there's probably enough money here already to go about growing, and if that's the case, then we'll grow. So I don't think we have to cut in other areas to make it happen. We may have to reallocate what's there now in the budget to make it happen.
I think we're more likely to make investments in another way. In the partnerships we developed, we've got to work with folks who have the same view of the IndyCar brand that we're trying to develop and we're willing to invest in promoting. That's not a new thought. But if your emphasis as an organization is only about bringing in the next dollar, you're ultimately sacrificing the quality and integrity of the brand.
So here's an example of what I'm referring to, and this is something I need to get us thinking differently than we are right now: We recently had a contract plan on my desk for signature with a company I won't name. It's a small six-figure annual deal, with annual payouts. I read the contract and said, "What's this company buying?" What they were buying was the hope that we would be able to expose them to our teams and our tracks and ourselves and then a bunch of those folks would become customers for the particular service they provide. They would effectively be paying up front for the introductions.
Well, part of what we do is business-to-business, for sure. And that's fine. But a very small six-figure deal where we're going to be put in the position of hammering our stakeholders to do business with this person isn't right for our brand. The amount of time you'd have to spend to make those people happy, while risking our own stakeholder rapport…I sat back and I sent an an e-mail and I said: "We're not going to do this." The same amount of time spent selling a $500,000 deal to somebody that wants to work with us, can benefit from working with us to sell their product or service, but also wants to promote the IndyCar brand is how we ought to spend our time.
I don't mean to sound harsh, but the investment I want to make could involve charging a little less to partner with someone who wants to help the sport, and in turn, we'll help them. Signing a contract that has us opening up the paddock to our teams and our tracks without any benefit coming back to the series – other than a small sum of money – isn't the right approach to take. It can't be the way we look at things – that any deal involving a check is a good one.
Randy [Bernard] helped to improve the position of IndyCar financially; we've still got a long way to go, but more than anything, we're in a position where we've got to grow this sport with a strong long-term strategy, not just look for the short-term harvests.
The bottom line is if you don't know what you are as an organization, you don't know what to sell and how to market. For where I'm trying to take things, it's less about getting people – anybody – to write checks and more about caring more about the investments they'll make for the right reasons. It's about finding the right balance.