"Be Great at What You're Good At" | Jeff Crutcher on Running the Cycle Zone KTM Team

Jeff Crutcher talks about being Team Principal for the Cycle Zone KTM team for the General Tire Arenacross Series and 250 East Supercross. He lays out how he sees his relationship with sponsors and giving them what they need.

When it comes to marketing and finding sponsors in this sport it can be fairly cookie cutter. There seems to be a limited number of endemic companies that every team or rider has to choose from. Jeff Crutcher, Team Principal for the Cycle Zone KTM team, has a unique way of looking at the process. His team will be competing in the General Tire Arenacross Outlaw series as well as 250 East in Monster Energy Supercross. He took some time to tell us all about it recently.

For the full interview, check out the YouTube video right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.

  Jamie Guida


Jamie Guida – Vital MX: First I want to say, when Michael Lindsay suggested you as an interview, I had to do some research. I found you as an interesting guy. 

Jeff Crutcher: I'm a I'm a big, big fan of M.L.'s. He's been so solid for me in my program. I've spent countless hours just bothering him. As a new team principal of an operation that's getting into Supercross I've been making Michael's phone bling regularly. Full disclosure, I just ask him, “hey, where did you screw this up? What lesson did you learn that I can take and apply”? And dude, he has given me just absolute nuggets of gold that I thoroughly have implemented into my outfit. He's been a very valuable adversary to me as a man and also as operations with the race team.

Vital MX: What was his answer? Where did he screw it up?

Jeff: Michael's pretty open about this. The one thing that's most important that he stressed to me is not necessarily staying in my lane but being great at what I'm good at. And on the heels of that, not biting off more than I can chew. We've seen it so many times, these flash in the pan teams that come in blazing saddles for a season and a half and then they just disappear into the ether. And I really, really, really do not want to be that guy, that team, that type of flash in the pan in the industry. I'm in this for the long haul. Meaning, don't grow so fast that I can't manage both expectations and realities. And like I said, be great at what you're good at. And what I'm good at is content, social media, networking, and marketing. I'll be the first to tell you right now I like being a manager in charge of other people. I didn't set out to be the boss. I set out to put a different spin on this. There's a book that I have that's called, The E Myth. E as an entrepreneur, and this book is written by Michael Gerber, and he is a business coach. I mean, the man has done many magical things, but the E-Myth and Gerber Way is essentially to understand what it is that you sell. As a race team or actually let me back up to an average fan or to a guy that's in moto that is not super plugged in. Well, I'm sure they think that a race team sells results. A race team sells performance. And that's very easy, you know, from an armchair perspective of a guy to sit and look at our race team and say, “Well, they have these riders because they need results”. We use the Devol X-Shot Holeshot System. It's a performance product. But what we bring to Devol is much more than just getting holeshots. Are we looking for holeshots? Yes, absolutely. But the content that we're able to build around them, their brand, their device, their product, their whole reason for being, that's what it is that I'm focused on. In all reality, we're a content team that goes racing. Yes, we're out there for results because the better results, the better content we're going to be able to generate. Even though they’re a performance product company, what we offer them is attention. I'll give you two examples here. FedEx, for example, you go to the FedEx store, you buy a shipping label, you put your stuff into a FedEx box, a FedEx agent handles your transaction. Now, what is it that FedEx is selling? Well, FedEx is selling a service. What they're selling you is tomorrow because you need that package there tomorrow. And that's what their guarantee is. They're selling the guarantee of the service to be tomorrow. Another example is McDonald's. And this one's really easy for people to wrap their head around. McDonald's sells cheeseburgers. McDonald's sells French fries. McDonald's sells the best original tasting Coca Cola. And while that's all true, that's what you get in your transaction. What it is that you're really buying from McDonald's is speed, because you know whenever you go to McDonald's, you're going to get your food fast. And that's what their reputation is built off. It's fast. It's consistent. Whether it's consistently good or consistently bad is kind of in the eye of the beholder. I look through the same lenses of what is my purpose, what can I be great at? What is it that we sell, and we sell other people's attention. Through social media marketing, one on one interactions, fan interactions, doing appearances, content creation, everything that is built around being a content team, what we do is we generate stuff for people to pay attention to us, and then we take that attention and then we slide our partners, products, services, etc. into our content. I mean, that's the name of the game. That's showbiz at that point. When we're talking about commercial enterprise, not just being a race team that shows up on Saturday night trying to get first place with our athletes. Are we doing that? Yes, we are. But we have to create the content built around that lifestyle. All of the stuff that we do is cool to look at and people pay attention to us, and we take that to action or essentially sell it to the highest bidder. 

Vital MX: You make a point of understanding what your sponsors do, and I want to get into that in a minute, but I want to back up just for a minute with the team. How did you start the Arenacross team?

Jeff: It would have been in 2019 when I first launched it. So, we are in our third season of operation. I was working at FedEx Express at the time and I was a seven-digit employee to a Fortune 100 company, and I knew that. But in trade, for my time and effort and my physical well-being, because it's an extremely physical job, they paid me handsomely. They gave me a 401k with 75% company match. I had a pension. My health insurance cost me $6 a week for myself and my girlfriend. I mean, I was riding the gravy train on biscuit wheels financially. But eventually it caught up to me whenever FedEx started playing around with our pension and new hires were not qualifying for it. We had a regional director come in and he held a meeting and did not introduce himself. It was his accord that we as his employees, even though I never met this man before in my life, it was his accord that we were supposed to know who he was. So, he did not introduce himself, started barking off about his trucks, his numbers, his workers, his this and that. And then he started talking about our pension and how they were going to change our pension. They were not going to change his pension, but they were going to change our pension. I was like, “Dude, I have to get out of here before this gets bad”. At the time, I was doing my sticker business, which goes by the name of Rippin Ruts. I knew that if I wanted to go full time with it, I could. But the timing wasn't right. There's never a good time to quit your job. There's never a good time to start your own business. There's never a good time to be financial liable. So, I said, “Screw it. I'm handing in my two weeks”. Two weeks later I went full time with my sticker business and just jumped in feet first. Let's not say that I had free time, but I was more available to control my time. And I raced all that summer. And then as summer started wrapping up, I was kind of looking around like, “Man, I've raced Arenacross a lot before in my life. I know I can cut up a rug on a four-lane track. Maybe I ought to do this”. And by “this” I mean at the time, the Hoosier Tire Arenacross Nationals. I spoke with Jay Reynolds, the promoter of the series, and we developed a plan. He was going to help me afford the racing and I was going to run his social media. And then there's another pro rider from Kansas City here, Brandon Yates. And I called Brandon. I was like, “hey, dude, let's go do all these Hoosier races. I'm going to take care of everything that I can, and we'll just start a team. I have a pickup truck. I don't have a van. You've got a high-top Ford Transit van. That'll be your investment into the program. We take your van. I pay for everything. I provide every part that I can. I'll get you kitted head to toe”. Brandon bought in. This will actually be good for my graphics brand. I'm going to make the wildest graphics possible. I'm going to do this extremely loud. I'm going to do it better than anybody ever has in our series. And hopefully it's a slam dunk. The learning curve that I went through of being responsible for someone else was something very new for me and being contractually obligated to deliver and knowing that in this industry your reputation is everything.

Vital MX: What is the plan for ‘23? 

Jeff: We're going to do Supercross East in the 250 class. Cheyenne Harmon and Carter Biese will be competing in 250 East. We will miss the first round in Houston because that is the same weekend as the final round of the General Tire Arenacross Outlaws, which is in Memphis. And the series pays damn well every night, and it pays very well at the end of the season, especially to the top three. And I expect both of them to be within that money. Now, the caveat is in order to collect the championship winnings, you have to be at the last race. So obviously we're going to the last race so my guys can collect their money. I'm not going to short them so we can go to Houston to be a fish out of water. But you know, it's going to be my first time operating a team at a Supercross race. Then additionally, we're going to do one 450 round in Denver. The plan initially was to do Kansas City whenever the rumor had been leaked that we were going to race in Arrowhead, obviously that's 30 minutes from my house. I can't not do that event. Well, conveniently, Denver is 7 hours from Cycle Zone, so that's not too much of a jaunt. So, we're going to pop in and do one 450 race. It's a big undertaking going from eight rounds of racing to 17. We're all the way in.

Vital MX: I heard you talk about knowing what your sponsors do so that you can tell other people why you choose the sponsor and why they're good for you. Talk about your sponsor relationships and how you view giving them what they need for helping you. 

Jeff: I am a big advocate of choosing my words wisely. My mindset is I don't have sponsors, I have partners. This operation that I have, this entire outfit, my organization is 100% sponsor funded. For example, before the season this year, I had $1300 in the race team checking account. What am I going to get with that? I might be able to get four 15-gallon pails of race gas. What else do I have? Nothing. So that's the thing, understanding that without them, we don't go do this thing. Without them we're sitting at home and we're twiddling our thumbs. It's so easy to go to a partner and simply ask them, “What can I do for you? What do you need help with? What is your next objective? What is coming down the pipeline”? All of those things show that you are on board with whatever they have. If I have these conversations with people, they don't know me from Adam. I'm just another phone number popping up on their phone that's asking for money. “Let's not even talk about money or product or anything. What's your target? What's your objective? How do you measure success? Where are you going to be in this company in five years”? Whenever you start to talk multi-year with brand managers and marketing directors it shows that you're not thinking about getting a buck today. You've got these guys that are like, “Oh, bro, we'll slap the logo on the bike. We're going racing, dude. Your company will get exposure”. Let me tell you something. Let's say I'm sitting in my pit and a bike passes by at idol speed like you're supposed to do in the pits. I don't even know what sprocket he's gone on there. The bike’s moving. I can't even see the sticker on the swingarm. He's 15 feet away from me. So, tell me how you going racing is going to pay what my investment is. This whole industry is built on the bro flow and getting free product just because I'm fast. Whereas, for me I ain't shit. I'm a local ‘A’ rider. So, what do I have to offer? It ain't speed, that's for certain. 

We'll use EVS as an example. EVS is really big in content marketing. They also are a global company. They sell an American brand globally. Whenever guys are buying knee braces in Germany or elbow pads in Venezuela, they take this American race team content that we put out. We deliver thousands of dollars’ worth of digital assets to them at the beginning of the year and then throughout the rest of the season they then distribute to all their importers, to all of their stockists, to their catalogue builder, to their distributors. And it's all digital assets that are released ready to use in full high definition. Without us, EVS doesn't get that content. They’re having to pay somebody. It's very beneficial in both directions. At this point now what are we selling here? Are we selling knee pads? Yeah, we're selling knee pads. But how? Through a lifestyle, through the American motocross racer lifestyle. It's never just slap the logo on the bike, use the product, tell my friends and family. That's the kind of stuff that I'm looking at. What do you need that no one else can provide for you or I can provide at a better quality, at a lower cost. It is extremely satisfying. 


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