Although many people treat their business like it is a life and death proposition, 20 year old Chase Mattioli is actually faced with that prospect. The Pennsylvania native is finishing his sophomore year at Fordham University where he is majoring in business administration, but he is also the Vice President of Pocono-based Mattioli Racing. That means that Chase literally wears many hats, or helmets. He is a student, an aspiring race car driver (he is a Rookie of the Year candidate in the ARCA series, akin to AA Minor League baseball) and he is responsible for a good part of the bottom line for his company (and for Pocono Raceway), a multi-million dollar racing platform that hosts two Sprint Cup races for over 250,000 people.
It is a mix that may not be unusual for seasoned drivers and executives, but it is very unusual for a young man who is trying to keep a growing business moving along while navigating race turns at 200 miles per hour on a weekend. Here is a look into Chase Mattioli and how he helps keep his racing business running:
Despite coming from a NASCAR family, you appear to be making a lot of the business decisions for your racing team. Do you enjoy the business side of racing?
The business side to racing is not that different from the racing side, as both are so intertwined. In racing, speed has a cost. Everything from good engines, tires, gasoline, testing time, and anything else we have to use on our car costs money. So I make it a point to be highly involved with the business side as success over there (such as landing a sponsor, finding a new trade deal, or extending my own brand) will directly translate to better results on the track.
You have been working in the family business since you were seven. What has that been like and whats the most valuable bit of experience you have picked up?
Having had the opportunity to grow up in the sport I love is one that I’m grateful for everyday. As a child, my grandfather put me right to work on the clean up crew, and then every year as I grew older I gained more and more responsibilities. At the age of 12 I was running our 30 corporate skyboxes, and then at when I was 16 I started to handle our sponsorship and special promotions along side my father, Joseph Mattioli III. I think all of these experiences had great individual lessons, but I think the best was that I was able to see the racetrack through every employee’s eyes; I was able to see how the business was seen by our janitors, ticket salesmen, landscapers, caterers, and even management. Having the knowledge of the feelings of everyone in your business is great, because it allows you to relate with all your employees, and create a corporate culture in which you can find ways to inspire them to work harder without simply raising their pay.
Family-owned businesses in sports and entertainment are quite a rarity these days. What is it like being in such a large business with cousins and brothers and parents?
It is very hard to get yourself involved in a business world in which your family surrounds you for the most part. I personally love my family more than anything else in my life, so being able to see them is great. The best part about my family and our business is that were able to make our business act more like a family and keep our family from becoming a business. By this I mean that we are able to always act as a family and support each other no matter what, without letting our corporate personas or egos ever get in the way. Everyone is considered an important part to the mix, and everyone is given equal respect. I think this characteristic is why we’ve been able to last in the sports world.
What are some of the duties you have to oversee with your race team?
My job as the driver is making sure that the car is perfect for the race. That means I work with my crew chief, spotter, and car owner, and communicate with them what I need to go fast. Outside of the car, we many great sponsors who support our team with their brands. We have to cultivate the leads, build the interest and then deliver on what we have promised. Some days this might mean I have to play Pokemon with kids, or sit and have tea with some moms, or if I’m lucky I’ll just have to talk racing with some people.
Do you find working with sponsors a challenge? What is the best experience so far?
Working with sponsors is never a challenge. These people give me the support I need to fulfill my passion in life. So whenever they need me to do anything, rest assured it only takes one call. My favorite thing to do is charity type events with my sponsors. Once I had the opportunity to serve a charity breakfast in my racing suit for the Make-A-Wish foundation. That charity means so much to me personally, that I jump at any opportunity to contribute, and especially like when my sponsors support and encourage my involvement.
If you had to choose business or racing for a long term career which would it be and why?
Well if this were a dream scenario, I would definitely choose racing. But realistically, if I could racing until my mid 30’s that would be enough. Some of the best advice ever given to me was to do something drastically different with your life every ten years, or you’ll become stale. So who knows what I’ll do after racing. Most likely I’ll seek other business opportunities around the sport, but I also hope that I’m able to do thing that have nothing to do with the sport. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll see me with my own art gallery, or restaurant. I never say no to a possibility.
Do you have and drivers you model your business practices after?
Not many drivers that I model my business practice after, but family for sure. My grandfather has run his own business successfully for about half a century now. What I love about my grandfather is that he never let the business become something he doesn’t want or ever let someone else control it. He stays involved with every detail of the business, while exploring new ways to expand it, such our the new solar plant were installing at the track.
What advice do you have for someone looking to break into the business of motorsports?
The business of motorsports resembles that of circuses. You’ll find yourself on the road constantly, living out of hotels or motor homes, and only getting two months off a year. There are no real formulas or ground rules for success, just a bunch of people doing whatever works. So I guess if you can handle the lifestyle, the only thing you need is motivation. Bill France, the founder, was a gas station mechanic from Florida. My grandfather was a dentist from Philadelphia. All they had that made them successful was passion and determination, which is the only fuel you need in the business of motorsports.
Are there challenges with what you do that apply to any business start-up?
I think you have to have passion for what you do, and I have been working and learning every aspect of this business since I was seven. I have picked up trash, learned how to count tickets, how to sell sponsorships, how to work with people, how to write a business plan and on and on and on. The bottom line is we are all part of a team, whether it is racing or at Pocono Raceway, and we are literally and figuratively family. We have learned by doing as much as by reading, and I think that hands-on experience in any field is just as valuable as book learning these days. On the race course, I dont have fear but I am not reckless, and I think that applies to the business side as well.
By Jerry Milani