A few words about Self Improvement

Written by J.K. Kelly on January 30th, 2019

It turns out the NAPA Know How slogan goes a bit farther than auto parts and how to install them. They are one example of a company that knows how to train and improve their people. In the following excerpt from FUELIN’ AROUND I described a situation and my frustration despite having been put in charge of quite a bit back in the day at VP.

I told my managers to take time to consider what they felt they needed, or wanted, to be better. I assured them that their feedback would be confidential and treated with the utmost sincerity. For me, as a matter of sharing, I told them I hated public speaking and intended to take a Dale Carnegie course in New York to improve. I had done press conferences dating back to Darlington in 1979 to address rumors that there was a rift between Waltrip and the Gardners and had made announcements to crowds in the funeral business but never felt comfortable doing it. Maybe one manager needed to take an Excel spreadsheet course. Maybe another might need management training. Everyone can improve on something otherwise there wouldn’t be any pitching coaches in major league baseball. I knew the strengths and areas needing attention of every member of the team and just wanted to give them the opportunity to self-evaluate and to improve. Plus when you show people you are trying to help them, not hurt them, they should respond positively and everyone should be the better for it.

For whatever reason the initiative didn’t get the support I needed to move it forward. I could push for sales but not train or replace a poor performer. If we had a turtle on board I couldn’t light a candle behind him. If there was someone who was bad at returning calls or emails, I wasn’t allowed to fix that in the way I would have back in my region. I knew the weak links but couldn’t tweak them. Essentially I might have been put in charge of the ship but couldn’t discipline or replace the knucklehead who ran us into a pier. I get it. Ownership was in transition and they might not have wanted the boat rocked.

Thinking back to the frustration I had felt with regard to the self-improvement initiative that never got off the ground I have to say that a few years later I now feel fully vindicated. I enjoyed hearing the following story and relayed it at the end of the book.

Many years ago I had hired a very personable young man regarded as a traction compound specialist. He would be my DH in that field and his mission was to contact every asphalt track in the region, oval or drag, and get them to try our products. He had the green light to offer them free product and to be there to show them how to apply it. Unfortunately, not much happened. I had hired him while the racing season was in full swing and admittedly I was way too busy to spend much time teaching. His personality and experience alone should have made it work. Instead, with little success and missing his family in Michigan, he left VP and moved closer to home. A few years later he was winning all sorts of sales awards at NAPA Auto Parts. Turned out they had liked what they saw in him, put him through their excellent training program, and set him loose to sell. Eventually he returned to VP and since that time, partnered with Freddie Turza, he’s been setting all sorts of sales records and making quite a name for himself. Congrats to Marc Wesler and anyone who is willing to take advantage of opportunities and to improve themselves.

There are plenty of lessons I learned from The Art of War and used them when VP hired me went after the Goliaths of the racing fuel industry. You can read about those battles, told through my perspective, and laugh and cry along the way.  Following your passion, which is winning, travel, motorsports, and winning some more is great. It just comes at a cost, as relayed in FUELIN’ AROUND.

Many thanks to the motorsports editors in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. who have given the book such great reviews.


"A truly riveting read from cover to cover." - Midwest Book Review

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