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January 28, 2021

SportsCar Feature: Six Years On

SportsCar Feature: Six Years On

This article first appeared in the November/December, 2020 edition of SportsCar Magazine. Everyone can read the current and past editions of SportCar digitally here. To become an SCCA member and get SportsCar mailed to your home address monthly in addition to the digital editions, click here.

As his tenure winds down, SCCA Chairman Lee Hill takes stock of his term on the SCCA Board of Directors

My six-year tenure as the SCCA Director from Area 3 and my four years as Chairman of the SCCA Board of Directors (BoD) is drawing to a close. Come 2021, I go back to being “just a driver and F&C volunteer,” and frankly, I’m looking forward to the change. Truth be known, six years is long enough for anyone to serve on the BoD, and four years as Chairman certainly amplifies that experience. The last six years have been interesting, productive, and at times frustrating, but it has never been boring. Overall, though, I’m left with a sense of having made a significant contribution to the future of the Club.

I am very proud of what I and the 25 dedicated volunteers whose Board service overlapped with mine have accomplished. Every one of those Directors served with passion for the SCCA and they all did their best to move the Club forward. We did not always agree but I am proud to have served with them and honored to have been selected by them to be Chairman for the past four years.

What did we accomplish, you ask? To begin with, any attempt to evaluate the success (or not) of the past four years has to start with an understanding of the role and responsibilities of the SCCA Board and its Chairman, and the tools available to it. Contrary to popular opinion, the Board of Directors does not “run the Club.” The Board’s primary role is to hire, direct, evaluate, and, if necessary, replace the President. The President is the Board’s only employee – and the relationship between the President and the Board is absolutely critical to the success of the organization.

The Chairman is not an executive position. In fact, it has little or no authority, but the position does hold some influence. He or she is the manager of the Board, the primary spokesperson for it, and is also the primary liaison between the SCCA President and the Board.

In the role of Manager of the Board, it’s the Chairman’s responsibility to ensure that all Directors are heard and also to provide constructive guidance to Directors as required. Note that the Chairman is managing a group of peers – this is a collegial relationship, not a top down one. As the primary liaison between the SCCA President and the Board, the Chairman must maintain a relationship of mutual trust and open communication with the President. Anything less will act to the detriment of the organization.

Another popular misconception is that an SCCA Director is like a congressional representative, elected to serve a particular constituency and expected to bring home the bacon. While it is true that a member is elected to the Board by the members residing in a particular geographic area, their legal, moral, and ethical obligation as a Director is to the welfare of the entire organization. The choice to use a geographic approach to Director election when the Club was organized was an arbitrary one – there are many other methods that could have been used, but the selection by Area does ensure that the Board has members who understand the different needs of our motorsports programs in different parts of the country.

The Board of Directors is also responsible for the appointment of Directors to the Boards of any wholly owned subsidiaries. In our case, those subsidiaries are SCCA Pro Racing, SCCA Enterprises, and the SCCA Foundation. In 2016, we decided to combine SCCA Pro Racing and SCCA Enterprises into a single corporate structure called SCCA Ventures, with a current member of the SCCA Board to serve as Chairman. We made this change to ensure that the SCCA Board had improved visibility into the activities of our subsidiaries. We recently amended the SCCA Ventures bylaws to define a Board consisting of a single Director. That single Director is the President of SCCA Inc., which brings our subsidiaries under direct control of SCCA Inc., in order to ensure alignment of strategic goals, simplify partner relations, and improve oversight still further.

According to the SCCA bylaws, the Board of Directors is also responsible for developing the rules under which our various motorsports programs function. The Club’s bylaws further allow and encourage the Board to create committees to do the actual development work leaving the Board in an oversight role. As such, the Board of Directors does not make program rules; it appoints the members of the Program Boards (CRB, SEB, TTB, RXB, RRB) that do this vital work and then reviews and approves (or not) the rules changes proposed by these bodies.

In exercising its oversight responsibilities, the Board of Directors’ primary tools consist of the selection of individuals to serve in the various positions that report to the Board and the direction provided to those individuals. In the case of SCCA’s President, there is constant bi-directional communication through which the Board provides its guidance. Each fall, we hold a “budget strategy” meeting with the President of the Club where we discuss the priorities that staff will use to guide them in developing the detailed budget for the following year. That budget is presented to the Board by the President at the December meeting and adopted by the Board (either with or without modification).

Back to the question of what the Board has accomplished during my tenure: Based on what I’ve just said, evaluating the performance of the Board of Directors is a fairly simple, if somewhat subjective, process. Does the organization have the people it needs in those key positions that report to the Board, and is the organization moving in a positive direction?

My opinion is that the leadership team that we have in place with Mike Cobb at its head as SCCA’s President and CEO is an outstanding one. When we hired Mike, one of our key asks was that he act as the leader of the entire organization, not just the leader of SCCA’s staff. Mike has clearly taken that message to heart and has devoted enormous time and effort to improving communications and understanding between the SCCA National Office and the Club’s 100-plus Regions. I have been listening in on our periodic Jumbo Region RE calls throughout my tenure as Chairman, and the dialogue on those calls has changed noticeably from confrontational to a collegial exchange of information between SCCA staff and Regions.

The Club’s financial performance over the past three years (2017-’19) has resulted in a cumulative net operating income of around $700,000 and financial performance for 2020 has been very good given the difficult circumstances this year has presented. Current financial forecasts are for no worse than a modest operating loss – an outstanding job by SCCA’s staff, which includes significant sacrifices on their part since many were furloughed and the rest on half-pay from April to June. Investments made in improving technology and internal processes with the development of the Member Account Portal, which allows members to manage their membership, licenses, and volunteer hours via my.scca.com have paid off with membership renewals continuing at nearly normal rates even with the office being closed during the spring by government direction.

At SCCA Ventures, where financial losses by the SCCA Pro Racing division have been a serious concern, Area 7 Director Dan Helman, serving as volunteer President of the SCCA Pro Racing Division of SCCA Ventures, has developed an exceptional management team. At the midpoint of 2020, SCCA Pro Racing is showing a modest profit and is projected to finish the year in the black. Meanwhile, SCCA Enterprises has continued the development of the Gen3 Spec Racer and updated the Formula Enterprises car with a new Mazda engine and Sadev gearbox. Both the SRF3 and FE2 have solid entry counts at our events, which contributes to the success of SCCA’s Regions.

I do have one final thought to share, and it’s in regard to the Club’s many volunteers. When most members think of SCCA volunteers, what comes to mind are those they see at events. Indeed, the efforts by these members are critical, but there is another group of SCCA volunteers whose efforts are just as important but largely take place behind the scenes. These are the members who provide the administrative backbone of the Club: the many Region board members, Region officers (REs, Treasurers, Program Chairs, etc.), and the Divisional volunteers who administer Divisional series, maintain Divisional rule sets, and organize Divisional activities. These behind-the-scenes volunteers also make up the National program boards and their supporting committees, the Divisional Exec Stewards, and the Road Racing Court of Appeals.

Without the many hours that these dedicated and passionate members devote, there would be no motorsports programs. They are the critical core of the SCCA, and they receive relatively little acknowledgement or recognition. They are also the ones to whom most complaints are directed. I would ask all SCCA members to take the time to thank these dedicated members for their efforts – and, when they see something that maybe isn’t being done as well as it might be, please put yourself in their shoes and come forth with constructive suggestions. You can even offer to help!

As I step down from the Board’s Chairman position, I see a Club that is in good shape with strong leaders in key positions, a robust set of programs to appeal to motorsports enthusiasts of all types, and a number of strong initiatives (despite their being placed on temporary hold by circumstances beyond our control during half of 2020). I can’t help but leave the Board and Chairmanship with a real sense of satisfaction, as well as my sincere thanks to those with whom I have served. I have also met many outstanding members of our Club and our sport whose paths I would probably not have crossed had I not served on the SCCA Board. To all, I say thank you.

The Northeast Ohio SCCA is a regional chapter of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). We are Ohio’s home for every motorsports enthusiast

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