Eric Paradis – Executive Consultant Business Development, Flatrock Motorsports Park
“The interesting element of being here is that I am at the beginning of the movie, so to
speak: Flatrock is going to be one of the most spectacular venues for racing in
the United States and I am delighted to be part of this story.”
Eric Paradis is a professional motorsports expert with over 25 years of experience in driver training, automotive education, and manufacturer event organization and execution. He has worked with numerous automobile and motorcycle manufacturers, including Acura, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche. In the last eight years, he has also worked as an Executive Consultant for Circuit of The Americas, where he provided business development and consultancy services to improve the organization’s overall performance and operations.
He has also worked in the automotive industry as a professional driver, facilitator and delivered sales training programs and certification processes for automotive retailers. As a driver he has participated in various racing events, including the KTM X-Bow Battle and also tested a Formula 1 car at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Currently, Eric serves as the Executive Vice President of Business Development at Flatrock Entertainment Group, LLC, where he assists in creating economic vitality, generating millions of dollars in revenue through his integral role. His duties include strategic planning and marketing, business development and revenue generation, and resource planning and management.
Where it all began…
The first race I ever attended was when I was ten: the Formula One Grand Prix in Montreal with my mother and her friend (who was from Belgium, where motorsports is ingrained in the culture). That day, I became totally hooked on the idea of becoming an F1 driver. The problem was that I didn’t really know how to make it happen. All I knew was that it would require lots of financial resources. Coming from a humble lower-middle-class family, the odds were against me but the more I was told it was impossible, the more it gave me the energy to work harder and strengthen my faith that dreams can come true.
I took out a loan which allowed me to join a three-day racing school, which took me three years to repay! But it was the first step into motorsports for me. There was an innocence about this which allowed me to take these chances and go on this difficult and complicated journey.
After many years of competing in the Canadian Pro Formula Ford 1600 series (in addition to testing in F1600 in France, racing the Liberty Challenge in the Indy Pro Racing series as well as the VLN & RCN series at the famous Nordschleife and in the KTM XBow Battle in Hungary) I was struggling financially and depending solely on sponsorship, only earning about $20-22,000 a year. At some point, I visited an Auto Show to connect with automotive manufacturers and sponsors and I saw a Team Principal with a fellow racer at the BMW booth. I didn’t know there was such a thing as pro-divers who were hired to do driving academies & educational days on behalf of automotive manufacturers. I had a chat and offered myself as a volunteer and thankfully they gave me an opportunity. I thought I was initially going in as a volunteer but instead it turned out I was being hired as a ‘product specialist’ in their Ride and Drive program.
Two weeks later I received my first check which was more than I had made in months! From there I went on to work with Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar. I got to travel to Germany and UK for training purposes and became a vital asset for these companies.
This ultimately led me to get my role at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) after I worked there as a client (for Jaguar) in 2013. They were impressed by my work on that project and – after some lengthy negotiations – they offered me a job as a consultant in 2014 to overview their commercial department to help build a successful track rental component at COTA.
I realize now looking back, that after twenty plus years of racing and negotiating with sponsors to help fund my early driving career with no outside support, these skills naturally transferred over into the sales and commercial environment I found myself moving into.
My role in 10 words or less
Helping to generate, identify, develop, and pursue commercial opportunities.
Why What I Do is Important
The difference between knowledge and wisdom is this: knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.
I apply this logic, learned over many years, in my current role as Executive Consultant for Business Development at Flatrock Motorsports Park. I know what works and doesn’t work. I know the business cycles; I know what the automotive manufacturers want when it comes to working with us. This means I can maximize the assets available to us here at Flatrock.
On a wider scale, what happens at Flatrock will affect many sectors of the local economy, including companies that interact directly with attendees or with Flatrock LLC throughout the year. From retailers, hotels, restaurants, and transportation, the activities at Flatrock will bring good business to the area!
My First Race
My very first race was the Montreal F1 GP in 1985 when I was ten years old. Many people expect it to be my Dad who got me into motorsport, but it was actually my Mom and her friend who took me to my first race and it was this experience that made me realize what I wanted to do: I wanted to race!
My very first race as a competitor was in FF1600 at a local track named Autodrome Saint-Eustache. As an inexperienced driver, I ended up starting in last position but managed to fight my way up to finish 7th and 4th in both my races that weekend.
Eric’s vehicle that day not pictured! Eric’s driving career led to testing a Renault F1 car at Circuit Paul Ricard.
My Most Challenging Moment
Relocating to Austin [for my job at COTA], away from friends and family, and having to start a new life in Texas in a completely new environment, new country was definitely one of the biggest decisions I ever had to make.
To make matters more complicated, initial negotiations weren’t easy as I had a different vision to the (then) senior management team on how I wanted to build this part of the business. I didn’t want to leave everything behind to join an organization where I had to fight internally in order for the organization to succeed. I actually turned the first offer down but sometime later they returned with an improved offer – oversight on the circuit activities’ commercial department, reporting only to the CEO and with full control of how I wanted to realize my vision – as long as I helped grow the business.
So, then I had a big decision to make! Do I start a new life in America or stay in the job I had done for 7/8 years at home in Canada? Ultimately, I decided to go for it, got my visa and made the move to Austin in June 2014. I had nothing when I moved into my apartment in Austin, not even a roll of toilet paper! I remember having to drive to Walmart at 3.30a.m. to get some along with a pillow and blanket. I started completely from scratch. It made me understand the challenges of immigration and the many hurdles people have to face.
I have no regrets, though. It was one of the best decisions of my life and COTA provided me so many opportunities which I’ll be forever grateful and have led me to being here at Flatrock in Tennessee today.
My Proudest Moment
It’s hard to pick just one moment but if I could be a little more general, what makes me most proud is that I have had the opportunity to give back in career – both on a professional and human level.
Realizing that your work has made a significant impact and contribution to the community that reaches far beyond my professional responsibilities with COTA, is a source of great pride. Through the work we did at COTA we helped creating economic vitality and helping to generated millions of dollars in revenue, sustaining 100’s of jobs in the process. I consider this the greatest victory of my career.
According to AngelouEconomics, the total economic impact of direct spending by participants, as a result of the track rentals at COTA, equaled on average $45.5 million per year. As this direct spending filters throughout the economy through indirect and induced effects, the total economic contribution of track rentals equaled on average $86.5 million a year. During my spell at COTA consulting from 2014 to 2022, the combined amount came to $543 million, with a total economic impact of $978 million on COTA’s overall operations and events.
On a human level, I am very aware of the importance of being a mentor and giving back.
Without the support and guidance of people and sponsors in the past, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today so this means a lot to me.
Back when I was racing, I remember there being a young driver who came from a modest background and who lacked the confidence to seek sponsorship. As a result, he seemed to lose his spark and passion for racing which was a real shame. I didn’t have the financial means to support him but what I did have was a racing car, so I arranged for a test day and offered him to take my car for a spin. It gave him the opportunity to see what car racing was really like and regain his spark.
I also helped another young driver with limited means while at COTA who was in a similar position. Recently, I found out that he signed a professional deal to race at Daytona in an LMP3 car and at the Nordschleife on the Nürburgring with a professional GT team.
I’ve done this for a few drivers now and seen some of them progress through the ranks as a result. This makes me very happy as I love sharing my passion with people. I always say motorsport is like chocolate: if you have never had a bite, I’ll buy you a chocolate bar and you will immediately want a second bite! It’s so important to give back when you can.
A Motorsport Memory I’ll Never Forget
Realizing my childhood dream to drive an F1 Car at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France.
It was a few years ago now, but I had been having discussions with a promoter who was operating a racing school and wanted to work on hosting the school at the Circuit of The Americas.
They also operated the Renault F1 experience at the famous Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet. One day he called me up to say a customer for the F1 experience had pulled out and was wondering if I wanted to take the slot. Of course, I jumped at the chance and got on the first flight to France! I did three laps and it truly was a magical experience and one I’ll never forget.
My main thought at the end was how privileged the [current Formula 1] drivers are to get paid to do this for a living – I’d do it for free!
”Motorsport is like chocolate: if you have never had a bite, I'll buy you a chocolate bar and you will immediately want a second bite.Eric Paradis
My Next Goal Is…
I’m satisfied with all the blessings in my life. My next ambition is to leverage all my abilities for the success of Flatrock and those involved in this amazing project. I hope that I’ll grow wiser and smarter to make a positive difference for all of those in contact with me.
The interesting element of being here is that I am at the beginning of the movie, so to speak, compared to COTA where the facilities were already in place when I arrived.
Artist’s Impression of the Entrance to Flatrock Motorclub – the members’ enclosure inside Flatrock Motorsports Park which grants exclusive track days among other unique racing experiences.
Here, everything is still in the construction phase which makes it so exciting to be part of from the very start. Flatrock is going to be one of the most spectacular venues for racing in the United States and I am delighted to be part of this story.
How I’ve Worked With SMG
It is always a pleasure to work with SMG. I know I can trust them to be completely professional and fully dedicated to the job at hand.
I’ve known Tom personally for many years now, dating back to when I first started working at COTA. He has (and continues to) supported COTA with its international promotion efforts and as a result, we often collaborated together.
Flatrock promises to be a ground-breaking motorsport and entertainment venue, built in the heart of Cumberland County, Tennessee.
When I decided to come to Tennessee and take on my new role at Flatrock, I knew that once this amazing venue was in a position to ‘go public’ I wanted to get SMG on board to help raise awareness and tell the story of this ground-breaking motor racing venue being built here in the heart of Cumberland County, Tennessee.
As such, we were delighted to have SMG support our PR efforts when we officially broke ground at Flatrock late last year and we are now busy working together on promoting the Flatrock experience in the short and long term.
My Advice To Others Wanting to Get Into Business Development in Sport
I believe in passion, for me passion is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your objectives.
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Never give up and keep the dream alive!