How Formula 1 World Champion Jensen Button Manages Risk as an Entrepreneur

opinion expressed by entrepreneur Contributors are yours.

Jensen Button has achieved lifetime success in just a few decades of life, by various parameters. From his early days as a racer, this winner of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship (among many other first-place finishers) won like a candy-grabbing kid, yet once partly defined as someone. manages to be remarkably approachable. The checkered flag and all the swag that comes with it.

There was no feeling of pretense or frugality from sitting in front of him. Button was casual in dress, attitude and mannerisms, and at the start of our conversation expressed a belief that, without skin in the game, all efforts in the entrepreneurial world are empty expressions of vain. The 42-year-old is British by birth, yet his “roll up your sleeves” mentality holds true in many cultures, and it is the same approach he applies to his role with the British Formula 1 motor racing team, Williams Racingand many other companies for which their sweat equity is a component.

“Williams Racing gave me the opportunity to race in Formula 1 in 2000, as they did [for] So many young drivers – giving them opportunities and see if they have the skills, ‘minerals’, as we say,” laughs Button. “It’s such a lovely team… family-oriented and welcoming . When he asked me to join him as a senior advisor and ambassador, he took me in [as] A little fresh blood. They put everything in to develop it into a front-running team, but it takes time… a few years. Everything is fine now, but it takes time.

“I owe something in return for giving me my chance in Formula 1,” he says. “Frank Williams, the owner… We were great friends. I thought it would be great to be a part of this team again. I have a lot of experience and decided to do my small part in helping the team.”

related: 30 Legendary Athletes Who Became Business All-Stars

the turning point

When asked what many sports professionals look forward to after their competitive days are over, Button explains that, “Many struggle to find purpose and direction. They are looking for something that will help them win.” Gives the same energy as fighting. In 2009, I remember crossing the line in Brazil when I won the world championship – finished fifth in that race, but [that] It meant that I had won the championship. I celebrated with loved ones, family and friends and it was such a special moment. I went back to the hotel, took a shower, went to the party with the mechanic and shook hands with everyone, thanking them for their hard work.

“I found myself leaving after 20 minutes and walking back to my hotel room… just satto [there] On its own, and it was the strangest feeling. I worked very hard for 23 years to achieve my goal, and sat there thinking about all the experiences of my life up to that point… the sacrifices as a child, my partner, everything that made me passed, and it was very emotional. But then I thought, ‘What will happen now?’

“I didn’t plan what would happen Later I reached my goal. I don’t believe anyone ever actually does. So, it was a strange feeling: I didn’t know what the future held for me, but at the time I knew I needed a new challenge. While I was still running in Japan and [at] Le Mans, I needed something more in my life that I could look to the future. I enjoyed the TV stuff I was doing with the Sky Sports F1, but remember I was nervous. My wife used to say, ‘What could be worse?’ She was right and has been very supportive.”

From Racer to Entrepreneur

“People say that when you leave Formula 1, you do so at the same age you came in as a driver,” Button said. “Everything is done for you in the game: you drive a racing car, but everything around you is controlled and taken care of. Paying bills, ordering food at the circuit, when There is food, getting the massage setup by my physio, meetings etc. … It’s all handled so that you can focus on the motivational element of the job.

“So, it was a reality check leaving Formula 1, but I love the process. I enjoy finding things outside of driving that I’m good at. For example, redford, a car manufacturing company, has great people, and we’re working with manufacturers on limited-edition cars, based on an older Lotus model. Getting into the design aspects of this great car is an area I’m particularly good at. This is a startup which is backed by passionate people, who work tirelessly day and night.

“I am also working on other projects – TV, Williams Racing and a whiskey company that makes a Scottish blend called coachbuilt whiskey, and my business partner is a whiskey connoisseur. sometimes, when you [attach] A well-known name for a brand, it doesn’t work because you took the easy route and went for something that isn’t of high quality, hoping that some well-known name sells it. For me, it was the other way around. I only wanted to work with an amazing whiskey, and the only way to do that was to work with a whiskey connoisseur.”

related: ‘To declare! You have a seat at the table ’cause you earned it’: Bacardi’s Laila Mignoni

firm foundation

Button was born in Frome, UK, and grew up in Wobster, Meles, not far from there. In those earlier days, Button recalls that, “I lived in a village with a handful of houses… my wife was from the suburbs of Roseville, Calif. I was raised with simplicity, but now we’re in Hollywood. Live in – Vine – especially the air, and it’s different. It’s a lovely house with a garden and swimming pool, but it’s not necessarily set in reality. It’s important that my kids grow up with the same upbringing Well, I wanted to see what was really important in life.

“It’s not necessary to fly a private jet to Hawaii for the holidays, so it’s important to understand the value of money and the importance of being a good person. If they’re good people, that means doing well for Mom and Dad.” That’s fine. If someone wants to get into race car driving, that’s fine, but I’d never pursue it. It’s important that they find their own direction.”

“Skin in the Game”

Button emphasizes being physically involved in the brands it supports—that they are not just the support component of a larger equation. For example, he invests directly in the people he is a part of, and points out that such a stance makes a real difference. “I’m in a lucky position, [in] that I have money to invest in businesses when they are not doing well,” he says. [sometimes] I had to put more money into them than I initially thought. It’s about being brave, and believing in something big enough to put my money in, not just in my name. There’s an added commitment if you have skin in the game.”

risk tolerance

“I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask about the risk involved in being a Formula 1 driver,” laughs Button. “When I raced, I knew there were dangers. There’s risk, but it’s in the back of your mind. You go through a high-speed corner, and move the way you think [about] range. It can hurt if you hit obstacles, but it’s not at the forefront of your mind.

“I’d say I’m actually more scared Later Formula 1. Getting into business has been more difficult for me. It’s probably because I’m not completely in control. I was a control freak like every racing driver, but you’re not often in that position in business, and it’s difficult, but it also generates adrenaline and excitement.”

related: What my family’s off-road racing business taught me about taking risks

a holistic approach to success

When asked for advice on how to achieve success, Button immediately recommended “…don’t jump on the first thing you think is a great opportunity. Instead, try to understand a company and do your research.” I’ve gone wrong jumping into something that sounds great but not doing my homework believe it will be great. It’s important to do that work. It’s also really important to understand the people you do business with What are they doing and what are they looking for to get out of the situation.”

The multiple championship winner may have once had a singular focus on the car in front of him, but in business he has made it a point to widen his gaze – taking a more holistic approach to the challenge of winning, and accepting areas in it. To be fearless includes to invite strength into every new garage (as it were), and to hold firmly to the belief that, in many ways, his race has just begun.