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Evel Knievel is known as a stunt man, but as a businessman, he can teach us valuable lessons about using business systems to overcome fear. He’s my hero for what he did as a businessman. And personal chefs can learn a lot from him – and his crashes. This is his story from my lens of owning and running a private chef business, and of overcoming fear while doing so. It’s an indisputable account of commitment, overcoming fear, and a cautionary tale that can save chefs from breaking bones.
My business hero, Evel Knievel is a committed businessman.
Over a twenty-year period, Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel negotiated seventy-five stunt agreements, some wildly sensational successes and others bone crushing failures. In his business he always went big, often paying dearly for it with his body—literally. One such example occurred on May 10, 1971, in Yakima, Washington, in a sponsorship agreement with PepsiCo.
The problem was that Evel Knievel entered a contract with PepsiCo and had to keep his word even though he knew he didn’t have enough room to gain the speed required to hit the ramp and clear thirteen Pepsi-Cola trucks. He knew his success hinged on his ability to make a decision and keep his word, no matter what. After all, how many times would audiences buy tickets for his stunts if he bailed out every time he was afraid?
One reason I love Evel Knievel and regard him as a legendary businessman was his mastery for overcoming fear. That’s because one of an entrepreneur’s toughest jobs is to make a decision and stick to it. In business, our finances and livelihoods are on the line every day. But for Evel, business got real!
Fear of making decisions can sideline solid business plans.
Many people simply see an insane, Liberace-style stuntman and dismiss the endorsements, marketing, engineering, event logistics, and products that were his empire. To me, his story illustrates the mastery of fear needed to pursue a business upon which his life literally depended. He exemplified making and sticking to his decisions.
Evel’s spectacular jumps and launches provided entertainment, but he left behind a greater story of sheer nerve in the face of fear and inevitable failures. Given that some of his fans (customers) were excited by the possibility of seeing him fail, this iconic stuntman’s life exemplifies entrepreneurial performance under pressure.
Overcome your fear: Running a business won’t kill you, but don’t be stupid.
Evel Knievel made his biggest business mistake on May 10, 1971. Here’s how his workday went: He mounted his thousand-pound, 750cc American Eagle motorcycle, waved to the crowds and crashed. Big time. Watch.
The motorcycle came down front wheel first at 70 mph. He broke his collarbone, suffered a compound fracture of his right arm and broke both legs. He did not fail because of a lack of talent. He simply came up short in a small area of his day-to-day business operations.
Think about it. Before attempting the jump, Evel knew the approach runway was insufficient. He was the best in the business and did his homework. So why did he fail? Checklists are a fundamental system of business. And Evel’s checklist was in the wrong order! The order should have been first to inspect venue and second to negotiate the contract, not the other way around. His failure, and his injuries, resulted from poor business practices, not a lack of talent. Ironically, his commitment to keep his word and pay for it with his bones resulted in loyal, raving fans for the rest of his career.
Chef, Evel Knievel can teach you valuable lessons for using business systems to overcome fear.
In fewer than ten months Evel jumped again, for more money and bigger crowds. Failure paid big dividends in his line of work and earned him a peculiarly admirable place in the Guinness World Records as a survivor of the “most bones broken in a lifetime” – 433!
You might be asking what this has to do with being a personal chef or becoming a private chef since death isn’t on the line in your day-to-day operations.
But you often act as if it is.
Do you avoid big decisions because you fear failure? Or worse, lead without business systems in hopes that foolish bravery and a helmet are good business strategies?
We are meant to learn from our failures, not endure them.
In business, you can’t afford to throw caution to the wind or avoid big jumps. Each day real bad-ass entrepreneurs don their red, white, and blue capes while others sit in the grandstands.
Evel’s business never killed him. Yours probably won’t either. Still, plenty of talented people fail because they lack the necessary business systems and skills to handle the daily demands and decisions required to run a business. Statistics show that the typical restaurateur can pair excellent food with poor business acumen for about six to twelve months before crashing. The crash stats are similar for virtually every type of business.
The solution is to work with experts so you can intelligently stare risk in the face. Even then, you will still have to overcome fear, but you’ll be better prepared with an experienced coach helping you design a great ramp.
Next time a business decision feels life-threatening, remember this: you’re engaged in the art and skill of doing business and you’re (probably) not going to die.
Then, ask yourself: What would Evel Knievel do?
Becoming a personal chef isn’t a life-or-death proposition – business systems help you overcome fear and greatly increase your rate of success.
We’ve come a long way. Today we all use bicycle helmets. Thanks, Evel.
Evel Kneveil was a pioneer and his vision and business acumen gave rise to each of them. He took it on the chin for the rest of us. Today, the business of sports and recreation have made what seemed impossible possible. What was once just for spectators, is now something an average sports enthusiast can do. How? Systems.
One of my friends and favorite business mentors is Tim Silva, President of Sun Valley Ski Resort in Idaho. In 1996 he said, “Holly, if you’d told me 20 years ago [that] we’d put metal rails on ski slopes and rent snowmobiles to the general public I’d have told you you’re crazy.” And here we are in 2020, with the business systems in place to reduce the risks of these activities and make them approachable and fun for weekend warriors. That’s what leaders do. Thanks, Evel.
(Okay, I admit it. I can’t get enough of him. Get pumped up about starting and running your personal chef business, overcoming your fears, and mastering business systems with another video just for fun.)