The Winning Formula

A day is full of shifting gears when you're helping build a new Formula One racing team

[Editor's Note: Mark Preston is in the middle of his first year in the Executive MBA program at University of Oxford Saïd Business School.]

As team principal for Preston Motorsport, a company located at the Silverstone racing circuit on the edge of Northhamptonshire in Britain, I am responsible for the management of the eight-person group of professionals who have come together with a common goal: to enter a new team in the 2007 Formula One World Championship. Formula One is an international series that uses open-wheeler cars. Ten teams of two cars compete in 19 races per year on five continents. It's one of the most popular sports in the world.

I interact with the senior management on the team every day, developing new proposals for potential sponsors and investors. The other core members cover the finance, technical, operations, and commercial roles within the organization.

To achieve our goal of entering the world of Formula One racing, we have some important hurdles to consider. Sponsors and investors are cautious about giving away money to a young team, so we are working to position ourselves differently from the current teams in the competition.

We are constantly refining our marketing pitch and creating a business model that provides a realistic return on investment in a highly competitive sports arena. We seek to provide value as a team, not initially by being on the winner's podium, which would be impossible given our daily search for funding. What sets our team apart from the crowd is 50-plus years of motor sports experience and knowing "how to win."

Here is a snapshot of a typical day on the job for me:

7:30 a.m. -- One of the best things about living in Oxfordshire is the picturesque drive through the countryside between my house in central Oxford and the Silverstone Formula One racing circuit roughly 40 minutes away.

8:00 a.m. -- A hands-free mobile telephone allows me to make calls to European companies while driving to work. Since I hate wasting time, the night before I usually prepare a list of people with whom I have to catch up.

8:15 a.m. -- Arrive at the new Preston Motorsports base inside the Silverstone Innovation Centre. Every morning, I look at the circuit where I hope we will be racing our own cars in the future.

9:00 a.m. -- I set aside the first half hour of the day for catching up on e-mails that have come in overnight from the other side of the globe; many of our potential sponsors or investors come from outside Europe.

9:30 a.m. -- The networking at Saïd Business school has turned up some leads I must follow up on today. Before I started my MBA, people told me how networking is one of the most important parts of the course, and it has turned out to be true.

10:00 a.m. -- Daily update meeting with our finance and operations directors to discuss the latest budget forecasts required for the proposals in the works. We then discuss the latest marketing strategy to bring everyone up to date.

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