Racing Towards your Passion with Rod Smith

We saved one of the most interesting entrepreneurial business models of the semester for our final guest speaker presentation.

“Saved” is probably a bit misleading… It suggests some purposeful action on my—or our—part. This is not the case…

Rod Smith was our final guest speaker of the semester in large part because of three interrelated reasons. First is Rod’s high level of entrepreneurial success. Second is the fact that he recently purchased a beautiful “winter” home near Daytona Beach, Florida. Third, Rod was living there over the winter; nearly until the end of the Spring semester here. He returned to Monmouth just in time to graciously fill our very last guest speaker slot.

Back to “one of the most interesting entrepreneurial business models of the semester”…

Rod sells used Nascar racing parts on Ebay.

Maybe this does not sound like a “big time operation” or even a “good entrepreneurial idea”?… Think again!!

The entrepreneurial success story of Rod Smith is one of turning a hobby into a thriving business, creating and enhancing relationships, creating and taking advantage of opportunities, taking the right risks, and persistence.

Class member Marissa A. Abston provides further detail on this amazing story below. Enjoy!!

Prof. Gabel


Mr. Rod Smith was the last speaker to visit the Midwest Entrepreneur’s Class for the spring semester of 2016. During his presentation he told us about himself, about his business venture, about his hobbies, and about what he’s learned throughout these experiences.

Mr. Smith is currently 61.5 years old. He is from Monmouth, IL. At the age of 53 years old he became a full-fledged entrepreneur. He told us that he was a partial entrepreneur until then.  Eight to 10 years ago he briefly worked at the Chicago Speedway as a Pit Stop crewman. At one point he used to work at Monmouth College as the head of maintenance. He did not get a college degree. One thing he highlighted was that he had taken up a hobby that paid for itself.

Mr. Smith works through E-bay. The easiest way to describe his job is as an independent E-bay vendor. He specializes in the area of motor vehicle parts – particularly selling used parts from NASCAR. The supply end of his operation takes place mainly in North Carolina, USA, where he buys the goods he sells directly from NASCAR racing teams.

As an E-bay seller, Mr. Smith is required to pay E-bay a percentage of his profits. In addition to E-bay, PayPal is a vehicle used for transactions. They send a form to the IRS if their user makes $20,000 or more. Most likely that procedure is to make sure no one is skipping out on their taxes.

He informed us that there used to be 300-400 people that did what he currently does. The difference between them was they weren’t turning in E-bay’s fair share of the profits. The IRS cracked down on many virtual vendors when the wave first began as E-bay and sites like it arose. Now, after several years, they have regulations and protocol in place to avoid cheating the system. He believes it pays to do business ethically. Seeing the consequences his former competitors met, it seems he’s got it right.

In his business he has never needed to take out a loan. Mr. Smith says that’s due to his good skills in money management. He recommended that we all wet our feet in it. I noticed that not many of our speakers have self-proclaimed that they are good with their money management skills. This is a good asset to have under one’s belt. It probably saves money to have more skills because then he may not need to have an advisor since he is already adept in how to handle that. Even so, he has taken on an accountant to help him keep it all in line.

Mr. Smith’s working hours vary from 6 A.M. to 10 P.M. He travels around the country collecting parts and in the process enjoys his hobby. In order to collect parts he needs a trailer, which may vary in capacity depending on what is being hauled. Usually he flies down to Charlotte, NC since he’s “older” now and will stay in hotels while he has someone drive his trailer down for him. Mr. Smith invites his friends to journey with him and pays them to pick up the parts as he does the transactions along the way. I thought that was a valuable lesson – take your friends up with you and it’ll be a more fulfilling adventure.

To efficiently conduct business he always has a hunk of cash on him to make purchases on the spot. He eluded to the fact that you never know what’s going to catch your eye until you see it. In this business, you don’t want to be caught unprepared. In addition to purchasing and supplying used parts, Mr. Smith also supplies pit crew guys for lower end/ranked teams because it is too expensive for them to afford fulltime-travel pit crews.

High-volume E-Bay sellers like Rod Smith get a lot of questions from prospective buyers. E-bay vendors are required to put in descriptive details about the items. Sometimes people want lots of information about the item and its origins. Many people fear not getting what they see in the picture when shopping on-line. Things like “How many main caps are you selling here?” and “Does the package contain the same thing displayed in the picture?” are asked often. So Mr. Smith opts to put everything that you need to know about the item in the description as soon as possible. In order to clarify what is being sold –for example– he will have a quantity of 5 items in the picture uploaded, a total of 5 items listed in the title, and will have a total of 5 items matching the picture and title exactly within the package. He gives a complete 100% guarantee on what he offers.

Mr. Smith always has very good feedback. Nobody has ever reported being unhappy nor dissatisfied with his items. The only responses he has gotten outside of good or excellent have been a total of 2 customers a year reporting that they are neutral towards his items. 1000s of customers report that they are happy and well satisfied consistently. Rarely will he sell items right out of his brick-and-mortar shop, but when he does it is usually to locals or those who are desperate to obtain a part.

Mr. Smith’s suppliers and customers both trust his character as a business man which furthers his reach into the industry and market. Due to that, business draws to him because people know they will get good quality. In some cases he must keep items for a minimum of 2 years before selling anything because of a deal that he made with the suppliers. Those are usually secretive products that the supplier wants him to wait on selling to test that he is trustworthy as a partner. Due to his integrity he passes those tests with flying colors, and goes on to do great business with them. His business has high demand all over the world. Mr. Smith is also brought business because others recognize this trustworthiness.

In addition to earning suppliers’ trust he ensures that his customers get the greatest offer by carefully examining whatever he is shown before purchasing it.  Sometimes he sells products for a higher price than he purchased it for because the item is so rare and can only be attained through NASCAR. Even so, he makes sure to never cheat his customers. Mr. Smith made an emphasis on the practice that he does not allow broken, dirty, or raggedy items to be sold regardless of the fact that he sells “used” pieces. He does his best to fix them up so that they operate as good as new or better. Then he sells it for a great price that is still cheap for the customer and profitable for him. There is a tool he uses often that cleans up even the greasiest parts they acquire. It appears that he is very fond of this tool because he boasted that it “works beautifully!” I believe that speaks to his character because he oozed the pride of a wholesome seller when he said it.

As Mr. Smith projected into the future, he said that they may need more workers down the road to keep up with the demand which is steadily increasing. Mr. Smith conveyed that hobby racers have increased despite the economy’s downturn. Such a trend helps his business grow. He told us that some equipment, such as engines, are much more difficult to transport. Occasionally his team has to take apart or split engines [or other major parts] in order to transport them. Tasks like that will eventually require more aid when he and his current helpers get older.

Following that he gave us a virtual tour of his winter house; it is very nice. Mr. Smith was pretty humble about it. One amusing insight was that he was nervous to touch anything inside for a while because he thought it was all too fragile. Though he enjoys his winter home Mr. Smith says he won’t sell his Monmouth home ‘for nothing’, he loves it here.

Another topic we shifted into was his two favorite hobbies. Mr. Smith likes golfing in his free time. He says it is a really nice pastime; especially in that southern weather. What he enjoys more is racing! He bought an entire racecar once from the UPS team at the end of a season. He told us that he raced himself [his times], but it hasn’t been for years. Mr. Smith would suit up his own cars with the parts he sold – he trusts what he buys. It’s the hobby that pays for itself [if you’re good at it].

Now he goes to car shows and engages in other ways. Local racers know him well. Instead of racing he has relaxed into driving an electric car and has only filled it with gas 5 times since he’s bought it. He found that amusing, because now he’s more interested in aspects that don’t involve him driving it although it’s a nice car.

After that Mr. Smith enlightened us that these things [our preferences] aren’t out of reach. He says it only takes 2-3 days to be taught how to create an E-bay business if that’s what you are interested in doing. Then he told us what he’d do different: Mr. Smith says if he’d lived in the Charlotte area he would have made a million dollars easily because it is flooded with racing fans and participants. But he’s glad he didn’t and he won’t because he doesn’t like the summer weather – it is north Daytona, too hot. Jokingly he also said it’s too easy to get lazy in that beautiful southern weather in Florida. Most of the class shared that sentiment with chuckles.

What is the biggest challenge Mr. Smith foresees? Getting older. A simple and straightforward answer. He says as time progresses it gets harder to get out of bed and start. He’ll never get bored with this, but he may get too tired to conduct business like he currently does – fully immersed in it 1st hand. So he’ll go with the flow and find a way to still go further with it.

Mr. Smith says this business has been a dream come true. In the past he thought he’d retire from Monmouth College at 75 years old. He would have been happy doing that. However, this turned out to be better and he is very happy with the results. Nobody tells him what to do now, but he does work with a team and they have to work better to have optimal performance. He left us saying “Drunk kids break stuff, it’s a part of the flow.” and laughed – that concluded our time with Mr. Rod Smith.

Listening to him, it is visible that you can go further in your career when you actually enjoy what you are doing. You are more likely to care about it and also more likely to explore how to do it better on your own time – it is no longer a chore. I think the essential lesson from our last speaker –Mr. Rod Smith– is that we can make a fulfilling life out of doing our hobbies as our occupation; work doesn’t have to be work.

By: Marissa A. Abston

Tim Wells ’87: “Find Your Lick” and Relentlessly Pursue your Passion

It is not often that one can honestly and accurately say that they are in the presence of someone who may well be among the best few in the world at what they do.

However, that is exactly how I felt last Thursday in the presence of Tim Wells, a 1987 graduate of Monmouth College. I suspected it the moment one of the students introduced himself to Tim with the words “It is a pleasure to finally meet the legend…” and it was confirmed for the subsequent hour and twenty minutes he was with us in class.

Tim is among the very best in what he does with regard to (1) “primitive hunting” (via bow and spear [note that he threw the javelin while a student at Monmouth College]), and (2) creating and running an entrepreneurial enterprise related to the pursuit of his passion for “primitive hunting.” In this regard, Tim (1) is the creator and host of the #1 bow hunting cable TV show in the world (“Relentless Pursuit”), (2) holds sponsorships with several major hunting product manufacturers, (3) sells a variety of hunting-related products via his personal webpage, and (4) is a major star within the world of hunting on YouTube (and other online venues). Information about Tim and his entrepreneurial ventures can be found at the links below.


Another thing noteworthy about Tim’s visit is that while many of our guest speakers this semester have spoken about “pursuing your passion” I believe none have pursued and lived out that passion quite like Tim has.

The one thing that will stick with me more than anything else from Tim’s visit in this regard is his loyalty TO his fans/customers. Allow me to clarify… In business classes, we often talk of seeking loyalty to the firm and its products among customers/clients (e.g., via consistent meeting of customer expectations and the creation of meaningful and valuable experiences). It seems that Tim Wells has done such a good job of creating loyalty amongst those that follow him that he in turn feels an intense loyalty toward them.

This was witnessed most vividly when Tim spoke of the harrowing experience of running one of his spears through his own thigh while on a hunting expedition in the African wilderness. Specifically, while telling us the amazing story of how he survived this ordeal, he discussed how he realized he might well die but that he felt he owed it to his loyal fans to film every bit of his death and to share it with them. Luckily, he lived through the ordeal… Not many things “blow my mind” but this tale indeed did… Wow…

I now turn things over to class member Cole Trickel to share with you more details on the amazing Tim Wells ’87 and his visit to the Midwest Entrepreneurs class last Thursday.

Prof. Gabel


First things first…

Thursday April 28th Tim Wells came to campus to talk to a group of students about his entrepreneurship adventure. He grew up in Canton, IL which is just a hop, jump and a skip from where he graduated from Monmouth College in 1987, where he came to run track. Tim also talked about how times have changed since 1987, when he was allowed to have his bow in his room and string a buck up from the balcony of his dorm room. “Canton is a great place to grow up, if you like the outdoors”, just for the fact there is not a whole lot of indoor activities in Canton. This is part of the reason why his foundation of success is built on faith and family values. Tim claimed that you cannot be successful without a solid foundation and a good education.

Tim created and hosts #1 bow-hunting show in the world, “Relentless Pursuit,” and shared with us a number of the thousands of wild stories that go with it. Included in the stories he shared with us was “the shot heard around the world.” This might seem a typical hunting story that you would tell around a bonfire late at night, except this was no fictional story. “The shot heard around the world” is the story of Tim Wells putting an arrow between the eyes and through the skull of a North American Brown bear. It was said that it could not be done, and so he set out and accomplished the task that no one else was brave enough to attempt. This “relentless pursuit” of the seemingly impossible is key to Tim’s entrepreneurial success.

Stories like these are all fine and dandy but Tim’s successes is not what made me envy him as a successful entrepreneur. The way he claims that we are part of the circle of life, humans are consumers of Earth’s every resource. It is of high importance for people to understand where Earth’s resources come from. Tim travels the globe to hunt but also to spread awareness to pursue the passion of hunting. Tim is a lover of life, you take a life, you give life to something else, it is all part of the circle of life.

Tim also talked about how the education he received here at Monmouth College has helped him to set himself apart from the competition in the hunting industry. The writing skills that he was required to receive here and helped him to write his book, “A Demon in the Dark”, that has been published globally. It distinguishes the difference between hunting and poaching. Tim claims that we students are the future of society and to keep an open minded; not bull-headed like I know I become sometimes. If you have a great idea and work ethic you can go anywhere, do almost anything and be successful. With that being said, success will follow, but success sometimes breeds jealousy. People wish they were as successful as you are and will cut you down to get it, this is why Tim says to surround yourself with good people, people that want you to succeed. With technology now-a-days it easy to do something stupid on camera and everyone is going to see it.

Now for some number figures… Once you become famous people will know your name and people will want to be like you or cut you down; it goes both ways. Tim told us, for example, that he gets paid 5K every time he wears a certain hat or t-shirt on television and/or talks in some sort of interview and an additional 100K a year just so that one hunting products company can use his name (as a user and sponsor of their products). Tim talks about seizing every opportunity possible because you never know when one opportunity is going to be worth that 100K every year. Talk about marketing at its finest. Tim is basically a “rock star” celebrity in the world of hunting. Professional hunters and other sportsmen want to grow up to be like him, just like little Billy wants to grow up to play Quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Last thing… Tim owns the word “slock”. I have never shot a bow before that he tells us that it is the noise that a bow makes when the arrow in released. That is pretty awesome to own a cool word like “slock”.

The last couple of things that Tim wanted to leave us with is that while sacrifices have to be made to be successful, just make sure they are not the wrong sacrifices. Entrepreneurial moment: “When you find your lick, and are making the good money, reinvest in your company. Don’t be stupid like me and blow it all away like I did when I first started off.”  Also have the ability to take risks, keep your sense of humor wherever you are, whatever you are doing, be able to laugh at your failures and learn from them.

Who you are as a person defines you, that is why Tim’s foundation is built on faith and family values.

Cole Trickel