June 8, 2023

Episode #84: Geoff Dodge – Geoff Dodge Racing

Geoff Dodge was born and raised in Colorado Springs and moved to Indianapolis in 2006 in pursuit of the Indy 500. He spent the first part of his career racing sprint cars, midgets, and Indy Lights and electing to finish his college education at IUPUI. During this time an acquaintance offered a small business opportunity that sparked a passion for small business, specifically within the contracting industry.

Today Geoff owns Lamb Excavating, a water, sewer and septic contractor serving the greater Indianapolis area, as well as Geoff Dodge Racing, a sprint car team focused on sharing the opportunity he found within the skilled trades. Operating under the tagline Racing to Build Brighter Futures, GDR is partnered with SkillsUSA Indiana in promoting skilled trade and technical education along with partners Lamb Excavating, Diamond Equipment, Dirt Perfect, Palmetto Epoxy Floors, and DRC Chassis. Geoff Dodge Racing hopes to be a catalyst for young people to find the opportunity that exists within the trade industry to reach their dreams!

Transcript

hello this is coach Tim Campsall and I’m your host for the self-made as a myth make a difference together show where we are chatting with successful business owners to hear their stories of building their business and because we know that success doesn’t happen on our own we’re taking some time to recognize and give shout outs to the folks who have helped us along the way I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today my guest is doing both of the things that he said he wanted to do when he grew up at the age of five he said that uh his favorite things to do in his downtime is mountain biking and Alpine and Nordic skiing and he’s most proud of not giving up on his dreams and now he has a platform to be able to encourage others to do the same it’s my pleasure to welcome Jeff to the show today hello Jeff thanks Tim thanks for having me you are welcome man hey let’s jump in have you uh let’s have you uh introduce yourself and tell us a little bit of your personal story like where you were born and live and about your family and hobbies yeah so uh my name is Jeff Dodds uh was born and raised in Colorado Springs um that’s a little bit where the uh the skiing and the mountain biking got started um but since I was as long as I can remember I wanted to drive race cars and that ultimately brought me to Indiana so in 2005 I had been Racing for a while and and won a scholarship to enter the Indie light series which is the development series for IndyCar and moved to Indiana and take my shot at the Indy 500 so I came out here for that and have never left fantastic now um so that’s one of the two things that you wanted to be when you grow up what was the other well so when I was five my mom asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I set either a backhoe operator or a race car driver she wasn’t very thrilled with either option I don’t think but that’s that’s what I do now that’s awesome hey Jeff is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share with us today um yeah so I’ve always been pretty mechanical and a bit of a tinker and so while I was still in diapers I used to take things like television apart I took the oven door off once and so generally speaking was not to be trusted around tools wow that’s awesome hey tell us um about the business how did it come about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business whoo that’s tough question uh there’s some days I still question what I’m doing so Jeff Dodd racing started uh two years ago um and really it uh was an evolution of my passion for driving race cars um and also the opportunity that I found with another business that I own with a partner called lamb Excavating which is how I’m a backhoe operator um but anyway uh if you rewind to kind of my start in small business uh I was at IUPUI and the Kelly School of Business and a gentleman that I knew through the through the racing business um approached me and asked if I had any interest in painting some parking lots to make extra money and I had no intentions of of being a small business owner really of doing anything other than driving race cars except I was broke and uh was eager to make a few bucks and knew some Property Owners around the Indianapolis area so I agreed uh to take that on and um he brought I I thought it was going to be like a like a parking lot striper in the back of a pickup type of thing but he really kind of showed up with a whole TurnKey little business and so running alongside my education at Kelly um that was when I kind of realized that I thought maybe I wanted to work for myself very cool um well then tell us a little bit more about the companies what uh what are their names uh what do you guys do how do you help people so um lamb Excavating is a water sewer and septic excavating company we serve Marion County and the donut counties around us for the most part um we do mostly new construction work uh we do some repair and um and drainage and we’ll do some stuff for HOAs but the the bread and butter of that business is new construction mostly residential but we do a little bit of commercial stuff here and there and we tie in site utilities so um so people can live as we’ve become accustomed in the first world with running water and flushing toilet toilet

that’s awesome yeah I had a I had somebody on uh earlier in the week and they were talking about um a Ministry work that they’re doing and and helping people to have water that is drinkable instead of the brown sludge that comes out so yes we we haven’t come accustomed to something that doesn’t exist in all parts of the world yeah I mean we’re we’re very fortunate here in the United States to live in the comfort that we do um my wife is is involved with a Ministry and and a well project was a recent a recent thing they were doing in Kenya and that kind of obviously strikes close to home um when you know our biggest problems are figuring out how to get it from across the yard hey Jeff share a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it even though maybe you didn’t think that you could and the impact that that person had on you well I think that’s a good one to go back to my first little foray into business um gentleman’s name is Kurt shuttleworth uh he’s actually still involved with with Jeff Dodge racing financially uh through a couple of his companies but when he showed up with the uh with the parking lot striping equipment and and said here this is this is what we’re going to do and here’s some flyers and business cards and I look straight back at him and said hey I’m not a salesperson like I’ve got a few people I know that we could probably go do a little bit of work for but like I don’t I mean this is not what I expected and he he kind of was like no you’ll be fine just let’s go get in the truck and go try to sell something and so we started walking in Walking In businesses um my first ever sales call was was into the White Castle on Crawfordsville Road if if you’re from Indianapolis and familiar um and it just so happened that they were looking to get some parking lot work done and the regional man the district manager was coming in the next day and we got a call back and um and so my first sales call that I did kind of from the driver’s seat uh we ended up Landing 46 White Castles across Central Indiana and when we went and it was kind of uh that confidence boost that whether I was good at it was debatable but it was pursuing yeah for everyone listening it’s sales is not always that easy you don’t always get 46 yeses on your first attempt to be fair though I mean you know sales is is still a numbers game I think and um really the biggest thing that changed my perception of sales was instead of thinking about it in terms of going out trying to sell somebody something um it was really more about understanding their needs and how you could meet them yes absolutely I love that because sales is actually professionally helping people to make a decision that’s right for them yep it’s not about selling if it’s not right it’s not right and I love what you said it’s a numbers game right we move on to the next person until we get to a yes

it’s not rejection it’s just if what we have doesn’t meet their need then no harm no foul right yep hey Jeff share a story or or elaborate on that so how did how did he instill that that confidence in you or inspire you what was it that that he did that made you feel like okay yeah you know what I’ll give this a shot I mean kind of put the boot to my rear and was like I’ll walk in that place and do what I did at the last two we went to um but I think really just just kind of came alongside and took me out and um and was there I mean there wasn’t like a big pep talk or hey you’ve got this and I see something in you that you don’t see in yourself or anything like that it was just walking into a few places and hearing what he said and how he approached it and realizing like yeah that’s not that hard I I just need to ask to speak to the right person and then ask that person if we could if we could give them give them a number on the work and and um in a lot of ways that’s still what I do today right yeah fantastic what’s been your biggest learning as a business owner

who man um I think understanding a little bit more about the different types of people and um the way that you have to interact and treat different types of people from whether it’s it’s different personalities or uh I don’t know maybe character traits to to like complete you know other cultures that you might interact with right um and understanding how to do business in a way that they are comfortable with um again I hate to keep going back to our first little business but um we did a lot of a lot of work for hotels and it was a niche that um and with lamb Excavating you still kind of do some Hotel work uh it’s probably the biggest portion of our commercial work um and there’s in Indianapolis here at least um that is that is heavily dominated uh by Indian culture and I was going to school at IUPUI and ran around with a bunch of Indian kids that were friends of mine and they really kind of came alongside me when I was frustrated with a customer and they were like no no no no you just you’re thinking about this from the American perspective like you need to know how we do business in India and if you can do that I think maybe you’ll do better and so they um they kind of culturally told me how it was and you know hey this isn’t personal and um and we love to haggle and like that’s part of a good business deal for us so come in prepared for that and honestly um we anytime we’re working on a hotel we’ve we’ve taken a piece of their culture um and we ask our customers to provide that for us even outside of their culture because in many cases they have um maybe an assistant type person and they’re going to go out to make sure that the boss doesn’t get shorted and that they have you know that whoever’s doing the work gives them what they’re paying for and it was my friends at school that said they are kind of culturally someone that takes orders and so don’t be shy about asking them for what you need and they’ll do it and and that proved to be really the pivotal thing that changed the hotels for us from a challenge because you always had something that was in the way or you know needing to get get something moved or find something or whatever it was and suddenly we had um basically an owner’s representative on site with us all day every day and and we ask for that now because it is was so effective so um so yeah I mean that was probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is just trying to learn about different types of people learn about the different cultures business-wise that you’ll encounter out there and then um trying to figure out how to leverage those uh both for your benefit and the customer’s benefit I love what you’re saying because um we are all programmed differently or hardwired differently and one of the tools that we use is the disk profile so that helps us understand you know what’s our communication preference or our communication style so to your point right it’s it’s very common that you know one person is wants to build a rapport and build a relationship and likes to interact with other people and and another person just wants to look at the facts and wants results and wants you know doesn’t want to doesn’t want to build that relationship so you know there’s a natural conflict that can happen there but once you understand what the other person’s needs or preferences are it’s easy to adapt to to their style and to their preference and give them what they need so they can make decisions that are right for them so yeah that’s awesome that you that you’ve identified that and that you had people that could help you to you know accelerate your learning curve well I’ve my whole life has been kind of a sequence of being in the right place at the right time um you know whether you call it call it Destiny or you’re calling or whatever but the right people have always seemed to be around when they needed to be and and I’ve been very blessed in that way that’s fantastic so Jeff um we know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation so share with us one of your biggest uh business challenges during the years and maybe a fellow business owner who you know came alongside you and helped you get through that

um I think honestly we’re I’m I’m sort of in my my biggest business challenge to date now um I’ve always I’ve always wanted to race and I’ve been fortunate to have enough ability and to stumble into the right place at the right time often enough that I got to do a lot of things that I didn’t really um but in starting to launch my own operation that meant that I had to try to fundraise and you know I could sell parking lot striping jobs I could sell Asphalt ceiling jobs I could sell Paving patching jobs I could so uh post-construction cleanup for for another business I worked for after um at one point and I could sell Excavating jobs but I’ve never been very good at selling Motorsports Partnerships um and so there have been a few people that have come alongside to help get us off the ground um there’s a gentleman named Mike Simon uh he’s a YouTuber a construction YouTuber and he’s he’s come alongside to support us a gentleman named Bob ruckin from Diamond equipment they are Case Hyundai and Takeuchi dealer that has partnered with us this year he’s come alongside and and those guys have really kind of helped me to gain confidence that that our program which is really aimed at showing young people the opportunity I found in skilled trades um which has allowed me to to launch this racing Endeavor on my own um but you know they’ve come alongside and given me some confidence that that what we’re doing is valuable and uh and believed in me and my program enough um that we’re kind of putting one foot in front of the next so I still think it’s probably my biggest challenge it’s um it’s funny how the thing that you love the most is the thing that is the hardest for you to kind of wrap your hands around um but thankfully I’ve I’ve had people like that that have come alongside and kind of given me the confidence to keep trying I love that that is awesome now tell us a little bit more you um in the intro I mentioned that you now have a platform to encourage others you just talked about that a little bit but if you wouldn’t mind why don’t you elaborate a little bit more on on how you’re uh using that to to help motivate others to go after their dreams yeah so basically um I was looking at what my life was at the moment that racing full-time to put food on my table was kind of no longer viable and or not it wasn’t really a career um when you were when I was in my 20s and renting a room at a friend of mine’s house and kind of just as long as there was something to put on the table and eat for dinner most nights and the rent wasn’t too late um but hey you know what all you had to do is say that you race cars for a living and that was pretty cool uh but you get to 30 and you start to look a little bit longer term and and think about things like man you know I’m never getting ahead of anything and like it’s always hand to mouth and just scraping to make ends meet kind of uh the stress of being in or out of a ride and you realize that maybe that’s not the life you want forever um that it was time it was time to grow up a little bit and get focused and so um anyway I was looking at where I was when I stepped away at that point and then at the point that I started putting my own program together and I made a list of Facts of Life on one side where I was when I stepped away and I ultimately ended up in construction and then I made a list about Facts of Life uh when I started buying equipment to put my own program together and was like wow you know cool I’m getting to do this racing thing but like my life doesn’t even look the same anymore um you know it’s hard to believe it’s the same person and then you look at the timeline for that you go well that’s like five and a half years apart um that’s about the amount of time it takes somebody to go get a college education and um by then it was pretty apparent like I said I did I did go to the Kelly School of Business and I’m not anti-college education by any stretch of the imagination um but my wife was kind of the counter example of someone that went into an immense amount of student debt she’s the most intelligent woman that I’ve ever met um but ultimately she has a degree that she doesn’t use for what she does and she’s very successful uh in the tech industry but she made her own way ultimately and yet you know we’re still working to get out from under that debt load and so I look at young people and I I just thought you know what like maybe this is sort of an advertisement for our industry because uh as as far as I’ve been able to come with business my biggest challenge now um as my partner and I start to work on the business more than we work in the business is who is going to work in the business yeah and um you know the median age of of someone in our Industries like 46 years old and um and so I was looking going wow this is the opportunity I found for myself and I need to encourage some other people that want to come into this industry otherwise I’ve I’ve hit the glass ceiling already and I have a desire to go fast and turn left and people like to buy tickets come watch us do it so maybe I can roll all those things together and help encourage people that this is a place that you can make your dreams come true regardless of whether you wanna you know have a single income household or the coolest boat on the lake or you know um own your own business or whatever it is that this is a place that you can come and you don’t have to have you don’t have to have a prestigious education that you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for I mean we started started lamb Excavating ultimately with less than a thousand dollars so um and just you know a lot of hustle and and I look at what our business is looking for and it’s it’s that if there’s a person that wants to come and learn to do this we’ll pay you to come work for us while we teach you everything you need to know to be successful and deliver deliver the experience that that lamb Excavating um has grown under yeah that’s awesome I love it Jeff um I’m gonna put you on the spot here uh if I was to ask you to pick three people in your business owner Journey that you’re most grateful for them being there to help with your business’s growth who are those three people and how they help you um already mentioned Kurt uh very thankful that he came along and for whatever reason decided that it was worth it was worth kind of getting started with me um second person is my partner Brian spagnolo um mainly just he’s a guy that is upstanding wants to do the right thing but ultimately you know is going to stand back to back with you through through the fire um and I would encourage anybody starting a business I mean there’s a trade-off when you have a partner obviously like with a partner you’ve got to share some of the spoils of Victory but the flip side is um if it’s not Victory and and the blood is flowing and the battle is fierce you’re not there by yourself yeah um so Brian’s probably the second one that I would be most grateful to um and man to pick a third is tough because there have been a lot of people that have influenced us played a part in what we’ve done um in one way shape or form uh there’s a gentleman from Pennsylvania that I know through racing named Gene frankoviak and he his some of his little tidbits of wisdom um still resonate to this day um there’s a group that does a Paving Company out of Westfield called dilello and Sons they’ve been very good to us over the years we knew them from the parking lot striping days and I think they’ve just been a model of of what kind of business we want to be um you know doing high quality work delivering exceptional customer service and and frankly being paid well for doing it um I could I could probably keep going on and on there’s so many people that have influenced us in one way or another um and I kind of feel bad but uh gentleman Shane Wade Marion Underground Construction uh he he’s been influential in many ways um guys right here in town uh matter of fact like a couple people that um you might say we’re in coopetition with uh we’re we’re fortunate that there’s enough work around that that even amongst some of our competitors you know we can trade and pass jobs around and ask questions um and and get honest answers even though come bid day you know somebody might be evaluating us uh to pick who they’re going to choose but um but yeah there’s there’s been a tremendous number of people that have helped us that is fantastic I love you use the word coopetition we use that as well in in our world um the difference really how we position it is if you have an abundance mentality then you cooperate or you it’s coopetition right if you have a scarcity mindset then it’s uh competition so I love that you use that word it resonates with the way that we think as well that’s awesome that’s that’s been something that that Brian and I have have kind of believe for a long time um is that a lot of times you’ll find what you believe you’re looking for what you believe is out there and so we’ve always kind of felt like um that business was not a zero-sum game with a winner and a loser um that there were scenarios where you could have win-win or win-win-win um and and I think that you know if you if you go into business with the mindset that everybody that does what you do is the enemy you’ll find that you have a lot of enemies right yeah but if you go into business with the mindset that you’re competing for market share and I think especially if you’ve if you’ve picked a good business um this goes back to that guy I mentioned Gene you know in in the right business there should be enough of a profitability to allow you to work with nice equipment that will allow you to um be selective about what type of work you take yes uh or or what you do and so I think when you found a good Niche for yourself um that a scarcity mindset really just limits your possibilities and and frankly lengthen it lengthens your learning curve right um because you know if you’ve got somebody who’s who’s further along down the road and maybe they’re on to slightly bigger and better things than what you’re trying to go after as a startup um a lot of times they can they can kind of help help you see some of the pitfalls in the places that um that you need to be aware of without having to learn those lessons the hard way yeah Amen to that hey um as you think about the next three to five years Jeff what are the biggest challenges that you see that you’re going to face in reaching your goals and who are the types of people that you’re going to need to help you solve those challenges

well well with the Jeff Dodge racing front I think um our biggest challenge is going to be to find Partnerships uh that allow us to hire the Personnel that we need um to do to take our program to the next level and become more and more competitive to acquire some of the assets we need to be a little bit deeper on the asset side um and that kind of parallels to a certain degree uh what we’ll see with lamb Excavating and part of the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing with the race team is um you know we need to find motivated hard-working individuals that uh that want to come into our business like it’s not too hard to find people that need the work that we do done and we’ve been in the business long enough that um that the phone does ring um but we have to say no to a lot of things because we can’t deliver uh our experience to more people than who are delivering it to now yeah and so um so really I think that’s that’s the biggest challenge I see in the next three to five years uh on both sides is is finding the people that we need to be successful and so um we’re hoping that that maybe the two sites can scratch each other’s back and right you know if uh if I’m honest I don’t think that that our little race program is going to change the world but again going back to you often find what you put out um you know in in talking to a lot of uh oems and and manufacturers of construction equipment um and asking them what the skill Gap means to them and and how they see that impacting their business it’s been interesting to hear some of those responses um you know some of them wanna glaze over and oh yeah we have no problem finding people to make our stuff and and life’s peachy and you kind of are standing there and you look back at them and you go I think you’re missing the boat I would be a potential buyer of your of your product but I’ve got equipment sitting on the yard that we’re not using currently so I don’t need more stuff sitting back there right so yeah until I can find some people I’m not interested in purchasing your product now what do you think um but then there are others and and you know I think Diamond equipment’s a great example they’re building a new corporate headquarters in Evansville across the street from from a career in tech school and the idea is that the students will then be able to use their shops as a place to gain experience and get their hands dirty and you know they’re not shy about the fact that they’re hoping they have the opportunity to pick off some of some of the best and brightest students in that school to stay within the diamond family and so um you know so that’s that’s really who we’re looking for are are the types of companies that um that have recognized that we have a growing problem in the United States for for skilled labor um case put out a statistic at the Conex show that I think kind of illustrates the problem uh basically over the next 10 years we’ll have the largest Federal expenditure of funds toward infrastructure as a percentage of GDP since the building of the interstate highways and uh the contractors that would be expected to do most of that work typically are going to see a 40 or 46 reduction in Workforce due to retirement there’s no plan to fill it so there’s immense opportunity um and and we just need people yeah wow hey uh Jeff it sounds like you’ve been blessed with some incredible people that have uh you know been uh with you along the journey if they were all on the show here today what would you want to say to them ultimately thank you um I mean I don’t think I don’t think I would be where I’m at or be who I am without all of those people and uh I certainly don’t have it all figured out and would like to go a lot further and and kind of achieve a lot more before it’s all said and done um but I would probably I don’t even know where I’d be without those people um and so I think I think thank you would be the first thing I’d want to say awesome Jeff it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today thank you so much for being on the show much appreciated Tim and uh hopefully we can stay in touch and love what you’re doing with um with getting some business owners to kind of show people that you don’t do things by yourself awesome to everyone who tuned in thanks for listening to the self-made is a missed show with your host coach Tim cancel be sure to help us spread the movement by liking the show and posting about it on your social media and to join our movement go to be mad together.com all right folks that’s a wrap make sure to pay it forward and I’ll see you all next time take care