Roger Penske: Building Team Penske
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It’s impressive when an intelligent fanatic in business dominates another field simultaneously. Imagine this scenario: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick maintaining his stellar track record as an NFL Coach, while owning several NFL stadiums, and building a multi-billion dollar sports equipment conglomerate.
Such a feat seems impossible. A fairy tale.
But it is not. Roger Penske is one of the rare few that has accomplished this feat. He has dominated business and a sport with equal vigor.
Since 1966, Roger Penske’s Team Penske has accumulated the best racing record, ever. As of this writing Team Penske’s record is the following:
…more than 470 major race wins, over 540 pole positions and 32 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 52-year history, the team has also earned 16 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win and overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The illustrious Scuderia Ferrari Team, founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1950, has dominated Formula One. Ferrari’s Formula One record stands at only 228 victories and 213 pole positions. The record trails Penske’s. As we’ll describe later, Enzo Ferrari’s leadership style was not on par with Roger Penske’s and led to the near death of his company. Ferrari would suffer financial difficulties and experience racing problems from 1962 until Enzo’s departure in the 1980s.
The racing team with the closest record to Team Penske is Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick, led by Rick Hendrick, has been the dominant force in Nascar since 1984. They have won a total of 300 race victories. And, similar to Roger Penske, Rick Hendrick has managed to simultaneously build a car dealership network that in 2017 recorded $8.5 billion in sales. Not surprising to us, Rick Hendrick has a management and leadership style similar to Roger Penske.
Hendrick has an amazing track record in business, but he is still second to Penske. While dominating racing for half a century, Roger Penske parlayed one dealership into a transportation conglomerate that today produces $26 billion in annual revenues. His record includes turning around ailing Detroit Diesel and building a mammoth truck-leasing business.
How did Roger Penske dominate two separate fields for more than 50 years? How did he turnaround ailing Detroit Diesel from 3% market share to 25% in only a few years?
To Roger Penske leading a business is like winning a race. The smallest details count. Every part is essential, and the whole team must all work together. The tone is established from the top. Everyone within Penske’s organization knows that Roger demands hard work, but they also know that nobody works harder than Penske himself.
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