The Ferrari with the Honda Engine

One of my brothers is a master mechanic. He can fix any vehicle and has been that way since he was very young. When he inherited his tricycle (he’s the third child), he didn’t just ride it. He pulled it apart and put it back together.

One of his very early jobs was working for a company that swapped out the Jaguar engines with Chevrolet 350 V-8s. At the time Jaguars were notoriously finicky and to some people, it was worth the money for some to have the look of a Jaguar but the power and dependability of the Chevy engine – here’s a whole article on the history. It seems it doesn’t matter how sleek and amazing a car if you think it won’t get anywhere.

That’s why this quote from Tyler Haney, Founder of Outdoor Voices, an athleisure company she founded in 2014, caught my eye:

“We were a Ferrari brand with a Honda engine. The perception of the brand was much larger than the reality. There were issues. We needed the right operating leader in place. That’s hands down my number one regret. Our organization was growing too fast. We were hiring too many people not to have a central operating system. I totally underestimated how important that was.”

Tyler Haney, Inc Magazine

Tyler raised $60 million in funding before she was forced out as CEO after calls of operational mismanagement in February 2020. A few months later she returned as a Board Member and Founder.  Ty now engages at a very high level with brand and product, but she is no longer involved in the running of the company she founded.

She now realizes how much she misunderstood the importance of an operational system that aligned to her brand and vision. And I think it is a cautionary tale for any visionary CEO.

No matter how dependable a Honda engine is, it won’t power a Ferrari easily, if at all.

It’s no secret that I preach operational optimization all day long, but I am not naïve. Businesses cannot survive if they do not have a great product or service (or the potential of one).

Products, services, markets, and customers are always first and we build the operations to make the engine go as quickly as the sales and marketing can take us. It’s not uncommon, though, for CEOs to minimize or defer creating the operational match to their grand vision because they don’t understand what the implications are if they don’t.

The majority of entrepreneurs do not have venture or private equity investment, so the chance of them being fired is very small. But they do have the same risk of Ty Haney – ignore basic operations and business essentials and put your company in peril. That’s something that Ty Haney says she will never do again.

If you plan on driving a Ferrari, make sure you can keep it running.