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Chip Foose: Hiring, other business decisions driven by passion

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Automotive design star Chip Foose earlier this month repeatedly pointed to the concept of “passion” as a dominant force in developing his famous small business.

“Every decision I’ve made in my business has been passion-driven, not logic,” the Foose Design owner told a SEMA crowd Nov. 1 during a SCRS-Capital One Spark Business event. “If it’s something that I really truly want to do, then I jump in on it.”

“I was born into this industry,” he told the crowd at the conversation with Capital One small-business credit card head Buck Stinson. Foose traced his start back to a desire to be “as good as my dad” when it came to drawing cars.

Upon meeting auto designer Alex Tremulus and seeing Tremulus’ work, Foose decided, “That’s what I want to do.” However, Foose figured he’d work for an OEM, and “hot rods would just be a hobby.”

But he eventually went to work for Boyd Coddington’s Hot Rods by Boyd — “wow, I just turned my passion into my career” — and then started his own custom car design business following the bankruptcy of that firm.

“I feel lucky and blessed that I get to make a living doing something that’s 100 percent unnecessary,” Foose joked, calling it a passion-driven industry in the sense that clients pay designers to deliver automotive dreams.

Asked about hiring — which Stinson described as one of the major small-business concerns (a sentiment Foose shared) — Foose said he looks for a similar automotive passion in candidates.

“Passion, number one,” he said. “They’ve got to have the desire to do what we do.”

One of his most famous and important hires, licensing manager Carson Lev, “had the same passion that I have for cars,” Foose recalled.

In fact, when he called Lev to offer him a job, Lev was dying for a chance to be more passionate about a job, according to Foose. He recalled Lev saying, “I’m so glad you asked me that, cause I’m sitting here at my desk thinking, ‘I need to get out of here.'”

Upon launching Foose Design, Foose recalled being inundated with calls from former Hot Rods by Boyd colleagues seeking work. However, he only hired those with a passion like his own. “For me, it’s that dedication and desire to build the best.”

Loyalty was also an important quality, Foose said. And in his case, marrying well helped:

“The top challenge is finding the right people to help me,” he said. “… I’m extremely blessed that I married the right woman.”

See more of the small-business-focused conversation with Stinson with the extensive footage posted Tuesday by Collision Hub in conjunction with SCRS. (And a hat tip to that footage for helping us double-check and derive some of these quotes.)

More information:

“SCRS and Capital One Spark Business talk with Chip Foose at the 2016 SEMA Show”

Society of Collision Repair Specialists-Collision Hub via YouTube, Nov. 29, 2016

Featured image: Celebrity builder Chip Foose is seen in a past partnership with WD-40. (Provided by WD-40 via Business Wire)

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