Rick Hendrick is the most successful team owner in NASCAR, with his big-name drivers, including Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne. He’s been in the racing game for 30 years, and he knows what it takes to lead a team to success—with 11 Sprint Cup Championships since 1995 under his drivers’ belts.
He knows how to succeed off the track, too. Hendrick Automotive Group, which started as a struggling dealership, has 100 retail franchises and employs 8,000 people.
It’s safe to say Hendrick knows how to win, in competition and in business. Here, he shares his leadership advice with SUCCESS:
How has your vision of leadership evolved over the past five years? Ten years?
Business is always moving, and we’re always adapting. But I don’t think my philosophy has changed much at all. I know some think it’s corny, but I’ve always believed people are the key to the success of any company. Taking care of employees is the most important thing. I’ve never walked into any business that had unhappy employees and satisfied customers.
If you can give advice to other business leaders about how to teach teamwork and getting everyone together for the greater good, what would be your top five tips?
- Look for talented people who share your passion and vision.
- Treat your employees like family and give them the tools to be successful.
- Make sure there are processes in place to ensure communication and sharing of best practices.
- Take great care of your customers and business partners.
- Have patience.
How do you create a culture of teamwork?
I don’t believe culture is something you can demand. The people really have to believe in what you’re doing and buy into the philosophy. So we look for folks who have the right attitude and approach. You can’t force things like communication and teamwork.
Who do you look up to, in leadership and life?
I’ve never seen anyone who worked harder than my dad. He served our country in the military, always treated people with respect and would give a stranger the shirt off his back. Really, both of my parents were my heroes.
Winston Churchill is someone I’ve always been fascinated with. I have a book of his famous sayings about things like perseverance, leadership and courage. I tend to quote him pretty often.