Hobby Management Practices for Success

Bench Racing

by Ryan King

In business, management is often viewed as an activity you do with and for a group of people, but the reality is that management is necessary whenever complexity has to be controlled.

An automotive hobby is, if nothing else, complex – thus in need of management.

Here are six principles that you can use to help manage that complexity:

  1. Value: In business, value is something that is generated for customers, but in an automotive hobby, the customer is you – the manager. So that may broach the question of whether or not it needs to be created and/or managed. In a single word, yes. If you are not generating value for yourself from your hobby, you are wasting your time and other resources. It may be the most critical thing you can do. Managing it means being vigilant about making sure your time is spent on rewarding activities. If the activities become unrewarding then you are failing at hobbying and are wasting every single one of the resources you are applying to it, as well what is far more important: your life.
  2. Organization: There is a theory in business management that says that organization comes out of the necessity to have different people perform different tasks towards a common goal. That is a truth, but, again, complexity of any kind breeds the need for management, and that need is best addressed with a good strategy. Here, although there is likely only one person performing every task, arranging the tasks so they can be executed effectively and efficiently is critical because an hour wasted is almost impossible to recover unless you are moving at such a glacial pace and/or have so much extra time on hand, that putting in extra effort can correct for the time loss. Even then, it won't correct for the loss of other resources.
  3. Advantage: Competitive advantage is a hot topic in business and it should be, because it can mean the difference between success and failure in a highly competitive environment. However, even if your hobby isn't a competitive one, considering the advantages of how you spend your time should be an important one for you. As an example, should you perform a certain activity or should you pay to have someone else do it? Since there are many factors that play into that specific choice beyond cost, it's a question only you can answer – which is the case with every decision in your hobby. Ultimately, advantage plays a critical role in hobby engagement, whether trying to defeat a competitor or maximize your value, and you should be taking it into consideration every step of the way.
  4. Control: Simply stated, "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it." It's a quote attributed to management guru Peter Drucker and it's another valuable part of management, or, more specifically, its control aspect. Control in management means having a known successful quantity and comparing whatever it is you are doing, to it. It doesn't matter if that quantity is a number, or a feeling, or concept such as "quality." If you are making a bracket and your goal is to achieve a quality equal to an original factory piece, then you will need to have a factory bracket to compare it to and know what factors make that bracket successful, such as resistance to forces, quality of finish, etc.
  5. Sustainability: Profitability isn't really a thing with a hobby, but it is important to consider cost when engaging in a hobby. You are likely working from a limited budget, whether the budget is the limit of your income, or one you've chosen to impose for the purpose of managing your life, there is a point where your hobby becomes unsustainable because you can no longer funnel money to it. It's also critically important to recognize that sustainability doesn't relate strictly to money, either, but to other limited resources, as well, such as time and energy. Being aware of what your limits are and staying within them (control) is critical to your success.
  6. Ethics: What are ethics and what do they really mean for something that is often private, like a hobby? They may mean everything. In all likelihood, at some point, you are going to have to interact with someone else to reach your goals, even if you are a shut-in. Doing so in a manner other people consider to be "fair," may very well mean the difference between success and failure. On top of that, being considerate of others and the environment in this hobby is critical. Dumping oil and antifreeze onto the ground, or firing up your un-muffled engine at two in the morning probably won't endear you to others, may be harmful, and may bring unwanted interference or even retribution down on your head. Boiled down to a single statement, understanding ethics is just plain important to your success.

While it's impossible to go into any significant detail of these concepts and the numerous other factors that go into management in a blog post, I hope I've been able to demonstrate the value of having a strong understanding of how to manage your hobby and its importance to your success.

In case you're curious and want to know more, I got the idea for this post from the Complete Idiot's Guide to MBA Basics, Third Edition by Tom Gorman, chapter one. If you want a very down-to-earth explanation of management basics, I highly recommend this book.

If you aren't familiar with business and its principles, I recommend starting with Business Studies for Dummies and Complete MBA for Dummies, Second Edition to get you up to speed before diving into the more technically complex management principles presented in MBA Basics.

Until next time, keep her between the ditches!