Lessons Learned

 

The trip across the country has begun! I am learning new things every day, reflecting on things I’ve known for years and learning new reasoning why the things we do are important, need to be updated or critiqued! I have already met TONS of people and gotten their input on what they personally feel works, doesn’t work or can be improved. Alan Randt, Chuck Weir, Randy Hawkins, Jared Bolton, Shane Watts, Kailub Russell, Jason Thomas, John Penton, Johnny Campbell, Quad Racers, Pro Racers, Team Mechanics and owners, Sportsmen Racers, UTV Racers, Promoters, Club members andd more. Just talked with them about their experiences, how they got to where they are today and more!

I am sharing the knowledge in an effort to better ALL off-road, not just my series or any other series, but off-road as a whole. In this community we are all in it together and a healthy amount of competition is what keeps us all honest and on our toes.

 


 

1. The goal needs to be too make each year better, each event bigger, progress with every experience… not just to rack up the “annual” dates of an event.

All great events started from meager beginnings. Erzberg in 1995 which now 20 years later hosts 1500 SOLD OUT entries and 500 qualifiers, King of the Hammers which started with a handful of guys and a 30 pack and now brings nearly 1000 entries and over 50,000 spectators and vendors and so on. These event’s work to draw more and more participants each year by upping their  game every season.

Many other events, especially locally, only look to host their event again. Hope to draw the same amount of riders and maybe more, but do not put forth any improvements – beyond fixing mistakes – to garner the participation. They only say “Next year will be bigger and better” thinking that hosting the event again automatically means more people will show up.

2. Instead of telling a club “What to do” work along side the club to make sure things get done.

In many instances, especially with the NHHA, there are guidelines that the hosting clubs must meet. Personally, I over see a lot of those guidelines. The start needs to be set up a certain way, the pits need to be set up a certain way, the lay out of the finish needs to be set up a certain way. There is currently no way to ensure the hosting club does these things beyond giving them the guidelines – which they sign the guidelines and agree to comply to ensure uniformity and professionalism in the National Series – hoping they follow them and then reprimanding them when they don’t follow the guidelines.

This causes the clubs to get upset as they  have hosted these events for “X” amount of years and know what is best. All going back to Lesson 1. If the series is to grow it needs to improve every year, not just stay the same as it’s been for 40 years.

In many instances the person who has volunteered to set up the pits, set up the start, set up the finish has no idea what documents the club has signed or agreed to or what the greater goal of the series is. They only know “This is how I’ve set it up for 40 years” or “Ehh, this should be good enough” or “This is what they told me to do so I’m doing it.” As a Director going at it by telling them what to do and what they’re doing wrong is an aggressive approach, immediately puts the club/volunteers on the defensive and only makes things worse.. The responsibility of the Director is to make sure that the event is being managed correctly, uniformly and efficiently and the best way to do that is work along side the club/volunteers to make sure things get done correctly and to the guidelines, explaining why it is being done this way while doing it together.

This way instead of stepping on the club/volunteers toes or making them feel you are taking their event away they will see that you are only trying to help create GROWTH and SUCCESS in the series as a whole.

 3. Never Stop Racing/Participating/Learning about Other Series.

The only way to really keep up with whats going on in the world of off-road is to participate in it! Racing other series, traveling to other events, keeping up to date on what the rest of the world is doing is really the one way to achieve this.

One thing that really impressed me about talking with Alan Randt is that he knew almost every single reference to current off-road I could throw at him and then he started to throw some back at me that I had absolutely no idea about. We talked about J-Day, World Enduro, Brand X Enduro’s in Canada, Eastern and Western local series, West Chec, GXE, Baja, British Sprint Enduro’s and more.

I learned a lot about the what is going on with the World Enduro Championship, the professionalism involved in that, short falls and where they make it easy on themselves.

HOWEVER, it does not mean you have to mirror what they are doing either. In discussing the ISDE and FIM events I asked if there was any thought given to making our racers competitive on the International Level and Randt said very straight forward “No. That is what they are doing at WEC, this is what we’re doing here. That is what works for them but this is how things work here.”

4. Ask EVERYONE for input and suggestions.

The best way to see what people think is to ASK them. Not just stand at the finish and shake their hands and make sure they had fun. Really sit down and ask the Pros, the ATV’s. the Beginners, the Women what they think of the series and events. What they would like to change, their favorite parts, their least favorite parts, and take that all into consideration. The Team managers definitely have some insight to what they want to see and ultimately have the final say to whether the “team” is coming or going but the riders are the ones that see the course itself. The more RIDERS there are the more the teams want to stay because there is a market, exposure… ect.

THE NEXT STEP – IMPLEMENT: actually make improvements from what you and learned! Not just hear all of the input and then say “but this is the way I’m doing it anyway.” The riders are your customers and the more customers return the more sponsors want to support the series, the more sponsors the more coverage, the more coverage the more riders… it’s a cycle.

5. Consistency – the #1 issue with everyone

Consistency seems to be the one thing that everyone keeps coming back to. The goal has always been to be more consistent with the series and has always been the biggest struggles as each host club does things differently. While each club see’s it as “the spice of their event, to be ran THEIR way” most participants see it as a head ache, to have to LEARN how the club’s way is on the fly.

In talking with Alan it is the same struggle for the NEPG. Many host clubs just don’t care. There is absolutely no incentive for the volunteers. If the event does well, they don’t gain anything personally, if the event does poorly they don’t lose anything personally. If the event is viewed poorly they don’t say “John’s event was bad” they say “The club’s event was bad” and in the same token if it was viewed positively they don’t say “John did a GREAT job!” they say “The club did a great job!” And most times in my position and with the NHHA they say “The NHHA screwed up” or “The NHHA did great!” as the promoting body.

Basically Alan said this is just something that is hard and is going to be hard no matter what. Some clubs are on top of it, are more then willing to update things that need to be updated, fix things and comply to the rules and organizational guidelines that they have agreed to while others will be stubborn and want to “maintain the sovereignty of the way they’ve done things for the last 60 years” – to quote directly – and will view the guidelines as trivial and unnecessary.

We will just have to continue to work closely with the host clubs, do what we can, where we can, weed out the organizations that are unwilling to be a part of the “team effort” of the Series as a whole and keep moving forward.

Consistency in Rulings: this is ANOTHER part of the issue. The riders, teams, sponsors and others want 1 person they can go to for questions, for answers, for rulings, for help. Having to go to “eeeeehhh, John is the ref and I think he went… uhhhh. Hmm I don’t know. Haven’t seen him in a while.” or having to deal with unsure, uninformed referee’s with little grasp of how the rules work OR having to deal with people they may see as having a bias one way or the other. More often then not the people that go round to round to round want to talk to the same person.

WHICH has been hugely successful with the National Youth Series. Parents, kids, riders come to me with questions and know I will give them a solid answer. THIS is what needs to be done more then anything with the NHHA series. There needs to be one end-all-be-all decision maker at ALL events. One by-the-book, “these are the rules, don’t care who you are”, fair and straight forward “NHHA Referee” at every event. Making sure things are done by the rules, situations are handled professionally and consistently and fairly. Rules are broken by riders and they are taken care of. Riders have issues with the event its taken care of. The WORST thing you can have is riders going home feeling they were “wronged”. Everyone needs to go home feeling that their situations were handled fairly, equally and by the book. PERIOD.

All of which Alan definitely reinforced with stories from the last weekend’s National, several different instances with Mullins and more instances throughout the years. Racers will be content with decisions, even if they are not happy, if they know it was handled fairly and un-biased.

6. NO FORUMS

There are plenty of public forums where people can go join other riders in discussion about off-road racing.  A host series website is not the place for it. Look at all the biggest series – GNCC. No Forum. National Enduro. No Forum. World Enduro. No Forum. Their websites are COMPLETE with all information for every event, post event write ups, results ect. Contact information if you have questions and there are plenty of local forums where you can ask questions and be directed towards the answers.

This way instead of misinformation, negative information, misleading information,  inconsistent information, rumors or anything else will NOT get spread about an event. All it takes is one “I heard it might get canceled” and that’s all it takes to make people think an event may be canceled and not show. This also adds to the headaches of administrators who have to deal with mediation, correcting information and causes nothing but problems. It ends the ‘Key board” warrior mentality and ultimately there was never a need for a forum except for gossiping ect.

Additionally, it allows the riders to see that other series exist beyond their own little nitch series. It allows for out side opinions instead of direct moderation of things that actually happen which creates an engineered and many times false history of events that occur.

 7. Profit is not a bad word

One thing that seems to get thrown around more then anything, ESPECIALLY locally, is that “for profit promoting” is some how a bad thing.

First – Step back for a moment and realize that a CLUB must profit to continue hosting their events. Regardless of how many volunteers are involved.

Second – the Local Districts need to profit to continue to operate. No matter how many volunteers are involved.

Third, and finally – without a motivating factor there is no reason to continue to grow and keep up with the times. Only to “break-even” with the bare minimum.

Profit is the best motivating factor there is. It is what this country is founded on. Competition, Profit, Providing a Product that is worth what you are paying. It ensures the growth and success of your series, ALL series, especially when profit is directly related to how well your event is promoted, hosted, organized and covered.

8. Post Promotion is Key

Sure… you’re event happened and it was a success.  Sure… people there had a blast and will be posting on their FB for days. Sure… you spent months promoting your event up front with fliers, promo videos, Facebook Event’s and more. Now what? How are people going to know your event HAPPENED?

Write Ups, Post event Videos, Articles Submitted to online magazines, Online Newsletters ALL are a must! You need to show everyone what they missed! Additionally give those who participated the due coverage they have earned!

Having an official photographer is definitely a huge things for your series. This last round – the Barstow 200 – we didn’t have a photographer and we paid for it. No real photos to cover the event, nothing to post, it’s basically like the event never happened. Besides the helmet cam footage, the news paper articles, the instant results and few write-ups we were able to post we had no photos. Hugely effecting the ability to cover the event.

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