5 Ways to Be a Successful Entrepreneur Like Penni Bengtson (Event Director of the Month)

In late 2006 Penni Bengtson had had enough of the corporate world and decided to venture into a business of her own. She’d been working with race management companies while employed full time for a Silicon Valley firm; this helped her and her husband, Tim, determine it was time to venture into work that fit with what they were both most interested in: running. Thus was born Finish Line Productions.

With three full-time and 12 part-time contractors on board, the company is in constant motion, managing races and at times handling the timing for other events. Finish Line Productions has an event nearly every weekend. They kick off the year in April, managing Run for the Parks, on behalf of Livermore Recreation and Parks. The event includes a 10K, 5K, and a Kid’s 1 Mile. In May they put on their first full-on Finish Line Productions race of the year, the all-women’s Daffodil Duathlon™, followed by the Dip & Dash Aquathlon Series, and their biggest event of the year – their signature event – Tri Santa Cruz, a weekend of multisport activities during which participants can choose triathlon, duathlon, or aquathlon.

Here are 5 ways Penni has built Finish Line Productions into the success it is today:

1. Relationships. Whatever the event, Penni makes sure she connects with ongoing participants (there are a lot of them), letting them know they are important – not just a race bib number, a shirt order, etc., but someone who makes a difference in the lives of the Finish Line Production team.

2. Realism. Penni is dedicated to keeping things manageable. “My philosophy was never to have huge events,” she says. “I cap our ½ marathon at 1,500. When an event sells out, it sells out. And it does every year. Triathlons are capped at 500 (except events we manage for others). It’s about quality, not quantity.

3. Technology. Penni relies on Active Network’s race management software, which integrates with USA Triathlon’s database. The integration saves her time and work because the system automatically verifies USAT memberships, collects membership fees (if needed), and integrates waiver sign-offs.

4. Charity. A charitable component is at the heart of Finish Line Productions’ work. Penni is proud that they are part of events such as a Thanksgiving morning event and the Jingle Bell Rock in December, where money is raised for Toys for Tots. Finish Line Productions takes no money for Jingle Bell Rock – everything above event costs goes to Toys for Tots. The company also provides donations to schools whose students volunteer for Finish Line events, which helps fund school sports teams and ROTC groups. And there’s a Rock & Run they handle for a local construction company, which gives 100% of the proceeds to the sports programs at a small rural school. The construction company matches donations dollar for dollar. In total, Finish Line Productions has raised about $50,000 over five years for local sports programs and charities.

5. Teamwork.
“We’re like a family,” notes Penni, who insists each team member participate in at least one event. “It’s crucial that they know what they need to do to help our participants on race day. I also require them to volunteer at other races. This has really helped me develop ‘best practices,’ something that continues to grow as we do.”

“But as much as I demand from my staff and volunteers, I give. We throw a kickoff party for each season and another at the end of it all. Everyone’s invited, from the former Highway Patrol motorcycle officers who ride the refs around, to sponsors, to the ham radio guys doing updates. You have to appreciate people giving up their time. They have to like it as much as the athletes.”

Congratulations to Penni Bengtson for being selected as our Event Director of the Month for April! 

Read more about Penni Bengtson and Finish Line Productions.