Two Steps In The Right Direction
As noted in Monday’s post, there hasn’t been a whole lot of news coming from the IZOD IndyCar Series this offseason. The general sentiment seems to be that after former CEO Randy Bernard was jettisoned last fall, the board of cronies have been sitting around with cigars and brandy congratulating themselves on a job well done while the series is laying to waste. Well…not quite.
When Mark Miles assumed his new role of CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent company of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR, he promised there would be positive changes coming in the near future. This past weekend, Miles took two steps in the right direction in fulfilling his promise with the promotion of two of the more capable men within the organization into more visible roles.
Doug Boles, the former VP of communications for IMS has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer at IMS – allowing IMS president Jeff Belskus to work more closely with Miles. The current President and COO of IMS Productions, Robby Greene, has been tabbed to be the Interim COO of INDYCAR – chosen to run the day-to-day operations of the series until a more permanent CEO can be found.
A lot of people have been clamoring for bringing in new blood or fresh faces to the organization. This is not exactly new blood, but that’s OK. New blood doesn’t always understand what this sport is about. The sport of IndyCar racing isn’t a company that makes baking powder with the primary goal to raise market share by ten percent over the next three years. This is a different animal.
IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 both have a very passionate fan base. The problem is that they need more fans – a lot more fans. The series cannot survive long term with the low attendance and poor television ratings they are currently saddled with. Hiring just any bean-counter with a magic wand is not going to do the trick. But you don’t just go out and hire a bunch of fans, either. Fans will make emotional decisions that make no sense. You need someone who understands solid business principles, yet also comprehends what appeals to racing fans.
It’s a tall order finding the right person who fits both criteria. Even sound business people make head-scratching decisions. How else can you explain placing the marketing decisions of the series into the hands of an aging rocker and allowing him to force something as atrocious as “I am Indy” down our collective throats? But I digress.
Mark Miles has hit a home run by elevating these two men into their respective positions.
Doug Boles gets it. I think he gets it more than any of the current higher-ups at 16th and Georgetown. If you follow him on Twitter (@jdouglas4), you know how often he tweets unique pictures of his beloved Speedway. He shows us pictures of IMS in the snow, the Pagoda at sunset or the Turn Two stands at dawn with the sun just beginning to pop over the top row of the SE Vista. You know he does this because he understands how special the place is to so many of us. In turn, we also understand just how special IMS is to him.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is special to me, but that doesn’t qualify me to run the place. That’s where the experience of Doug Boles kicks in. His extensive legal background can help him navigate the many potholes in a job of this magnitude. His experience as part-owner of Panther Racing helps him to understand the position of the owners. His background in other forms of racing over the past couple of decades, have prepared him for this role. I’ve always thought he would be an excellent choice as Randy Bernard’s successor as CEO of INDYCAR; but given his passion for the Speedway, he is probably happier with the role of COO of IMS. Either way, he is one of the bright stars within the organization.
As far as Robby Greene is concerned, I’ll be completely honest and forthcoming – I was not familiar with his name when I read of this promotion last weekend. In short, I had never heard of him. I’ve read the same press releases and articles that most of us have that state how he turned IMS Productions from a money pit into a profitable concern in just a little more than a year. That sort of a performance will turn the heads of most board members. But I was concerned that Greene was just a suit who understood how to turn red ink to black.
Since this announcement, I’ve had a few conversations with individuals whom I trust, that are much closer to the inner sanctum of INDYCAR than I am (which isn’t close at all). They all assure me that Robby Greene gets it just as much as Doug Boles. The common denominator of everyone I spoke with, tells me that Robby Greene is someone who could and should be the face of INDYCAR. He knows how to work with sponsors, teams, drivers, and perhaps most importantly – track promoters. He appears to be that rare blend of an astute businessperson that is savvy about the inner workings of the racing community.
Mark Miles has a tough road ahead of him. Not only does he need to figure out a way to attract many more fans that will stick with the IZOD IndyCar Series, he has to shore up the fan base that got fed up with Randy Bernard’s firing last fall. Many sponsors were infuriated with the firing, as well. I think that the board vastly underestimated the relationship that series sponsors had with Randy. Mark Miles has a lot of damage control on his plate. From what I hear, the elevation of Robby Greene can go a long way in mending those relationships.
With Robby Greene heading up day-to-day operations for the series and Doug Boles taking care of everything at IMS, Mark Miles has made two excellent choices. There is still a lot of work to do going forward and there are still miles to go, but these moves are two steps in the right direction.