THE RACING BIZ: TEAM FRED + TEAM FOUST = SUCCESS
Picture in your mind Tanner Foust 10 years ago. Try hard. Can you do it? Probably not. Why? Because he wasn’t a top professional driver then, nor was he the television personality he is today. But today he’s both. How did he get to be so popular? The road to being a professional rally and rallycross driver can be full of bumps and curves (puns intended). It takes more than just raw driving talent to maneuver to the top.
Racing is a business. A huge business. Without experienced guidance even the most talented driver doesn’t stand a chance of going pro, let alone actually making a living. The business side of professional athletics is inevitable.
It takes another type of professional to guide someone like Tanner Foust to the top. It takes a knowledgeable manager, someone who’s well-rounded in marketing, negotiation, strategizing, logistics, financial management, and contract law. RallyCross360.com was fortunate enough to sit down with one of the best managers in the business, Fred Chang. He’s been Tanner Foust’s manager for the past two years and manages some of the personal aspects of Scott Speed’s career. Here’s an excerpt of our exclusive interview with Fred, also know by many as “Team Fred.”
Having known you for a little while and talking with you on occasion, it’s apparent that you wear many different hats. What’s your biggest challenge on a daily basis? Is it negotiations on behalf of your client, keeping him on schedule throughout the day, keeping relationships going with sponsors, developing a marketing and promotion strategy for Scott and Tanner, etc…?
I wear a lot of hats but ultimately all my “hats” complement other aspects of my job. It allows me to do a variety of things, which in turn keeps me busy, but also keeps things fresh. I manage all aspects of Tanner’s business from sponsorship to business development and everything in between, both on and off the track. Depending on the client, our agency services vary. I help out Scott Speed, who is a personal friend of mine and now Tanner’s teammate. I originally introduced Scott to VW’s Motorsport last year. And although I’ve been helping put together some personal deals and consulting on his career path since his entry into rallycross, my efforts for Scott are primarily focused on personal sponsor deals.
I control and manage 100% of Tanner’s business. Scott is very different and very limited in terms of our services so we don’t manage him in the same capacity of Tanner. Tanner and I work together on a daily basis and have meetings throughout the year in an effort to accommodate sponsor needs and requests which ultimately aid in guiding our plans for the immediate season. Long term goals and strategies are all part of these discussions since our decisions today can positively or adversely affect our future plans, so it inadvertently becomes a very fluid process.
We know that Tanner has a very busy life. How difficult is it to keep his schedule on track and, for that matter, him on track?
Tanner does a great job staying focused during race weekends. The key is not to talk about business and leave out as many distracting outside influences as possible which helps yield the best results. It definitely isn’t easy keeping up with the schedule with constant changes from either Top Gear, races, testing, etc. You just have to be patient and nimble during the process in order to keep things moving forward as planned.
Because you need to get along with your clients, do you look at a client’s reputation, character, and personality before accepting them?
Absolutely. It’s important to have a good personal relationship with your clients because so much of our business dealings are based on trust. They need to trust your decision making, the advice you provide them, and furthermore trust that you would never exploit any personal aspects of their lives. Drivers need to also be understanding of my situation as their actions have repercussions in my dealings with other companies that may be directly or indirectly tied to that driver’s program. If a driver has a bad rep and it’s been tarnished beyond repair, that would discourage any management company considering them unless that attribute could be used to their advantage (i.e. a bad boy image). So yes, client rep, character, and personality all play into consideration for management.
We watch your clients’ lives play out on social media, television, and news but you must be going a 100 mph behind the scenes to make all that happen. What kind of a staff/assistance do you have?
Our agency has over 50 full-time employees and I have a staff of around 10 people dedicated to motorsports. Not all 10 are dedicated to driver management as they have specific roles in supporting our client services department from travel, social media to general maintenance. I couldn’t do all this without them.
You look like you have fun and enjoy your job. What’s the best part of the job? And of course, I have to ask, what’s the worst part of the job?
I’m very fortunate to do something I love and am passionate about. I turned a hobby into a business and I’m really lucky to work with such great people. The worst part of job? Not being able to take my dogs with me on my travels.
When did the negotiations begin between Tanner, Scott, Andretti and Volkswagen begin?
Our discussions began last year in October.
Can you give us some insight into the world of professional racing athlete management?
It’s a very tight-knit group of people who comprise the racing industry, albeit they differ based on the racing discipline. I’ve never raced professionally, only local track events and I’ve done some time-attack events with my personal cars. I grew up with a lot of people in the industry who have gone on to become team owners or pro racers. The majority of my contacts come from my teenage years. The athlete management thing just kind of came to me when Tanner had asked if I would want to work with him and manage his career.