John races Super Stock, Troy races Pro
Stock, Mike races Super Comp and Super Gas and Jeg, the youngest
of the Coughlin brothers, has earned two NHRA POWERade Pro Stock
championships. That's just what they will race this weekend at their
home event - the 40th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals at
National Trail Raceway in Columbus, Ohio. The brothers Coughlin,
to say the least, are racing junkies. But to be honest, that's third
on their list of priorities. First, comes family. Second, comes
the Jeg's Mail Order business that all four run together. Then,
racing fits into the schedule. They work together, they race together
and if that wasn't enough, they eat lunch together every workday.
Getting all four brothers to sit down and chat about each other
is a tricky task. It may seem like they were all in the same room
together, but really, they just share some similar opinions. In
this Q&A session, John, Troy, Mike and Jeg talk about what their
parents did to make them get along so well, why they spend so much
time at the race track and what they like about each other.
Jeg Coughlin, Sr.
CP: What makes it possible for all four of you to get along
JOHN: I have to give credit to mom and dad
because I don't know how they did it, but they were able to withstand
having four brothers so close in age and really promoted and strove
to have the family get along. If you didn't get along for some reason,
the objective was to sit down, talk about it and work through the
issue. The secret to success is communicating, talk about it and
move on. Family is very important to all of us, so we make sure
to always communicate.
TROY: I think it is all due to a good upbringing
from mom and dad. The four of us have a good relationship in business
and racing that's successful from a communication standpoint. Communication
is high on our priority list and that is the major key to keeping
us in the right direction. If there is a problem, we sit down in
the office or conference room, we discuss the problem and get it
solved before we leave the office and make sure we don't have that
same problem in the future. That comes from mom and dad raising
us that way from the beginning. We have a cool set of parents.
MIKE: We had a lot of guidance from our parents
on how to compose ourselves and how to act and work together as
a team. My mom and dad were adamant about that and I know that helped
out a lot. We all share a lot of common interests, we all like to
race which is a big help. It's rare and amazing that all four of
us like to do the same thing. But it does work, although it's not
common. Family is what it's all about, especially in our case because
we work together and race together. Even when we are at home, we
go to lunch together everyday. If we didn't have that we wouldn't
be as successful as we are. Working together is a lot better than
working against each other. It's a way of life for us.
JEG: I think there has been several contributing
factors. We grew up in an automotive and fun environment. No other
kid on the block had a father that was in to speed, racing and an
automotive business. That was always fun. We always looked up to
him for that because that was good fun. His hobby eventually turned
into a big business. We all grew up and were fortunate enough to
be able to participate in his racing. We also had family dinners
almost every night, like the ones you always saw on TV. That always
kept us together. Pop worked with us a lot at all ages to prepare
us for a life in business and racing. John got into it first, then
Troy. Our family meetings on the business level prepared us for
more than anything I learned in school. We didn't want to do anything
other than work in the family business and in racing. When he allowed
us to come in and start working at different departments, that was
really interesting on many levels. It gave us respect for work,
respect for the name over the door and the people who worked there.
We had 20-30 employees then and now we have 320. We always had a
close family, consistent parents who loved us dearly and supported
us. We got support and respect, but we also had a lot of discipline,
especially when dealing with the business. When we started racing,
it was the same thing. Mom and dad made us work for it, so we respected
what we had.
CP: The four of you eventually bought out your dad and
now own and run the business. What was it like working at the family
business at an early age?
JOHN: The people we worked with also
did a good job of making sure we were respectful of the business.
If I was ever late for work, my boss was on my case big time. I
am not sure if he really enjoyed it, but he taught me work ethics.
Work ethic is very important and I think family is very important.
I don't know if it all goes together, but the bottom line on keeping
us together, is having mutual feelings about communication, life
values and work ethic.
CP: How did the brothers come to take over the ownership
of the business?
MIKE: We all worked there as teenagers and
young adults. We all started right out of high school and we all
showed an interest in it, which is rare for a big family. In the
early to mid '80s my dad decided to see if we wanted to buy the
company and we worked on a deal to buy the company back in 1988.
We took it from there. We are the owners and dad is the president
and we are vice presidents. Nothing changed but the paperwork.
CP: How do you each split up the responsibilities of the
MIKE: John oversees the whole company, and
he and Jeg oversee the company on a larger scale. Jeg works with
the distribution center; John works with advertising and the buying
and purchasing group. They see more of the day to day stuff. John
has been pretty busy with the race teams and working on the business
with smaller projects. He's pretty adamant about organization. He's
always on time, always prompt, always wants to keep us organized.
When we started racing, he was the main organizer for a long time.
Troy does a lot of work on the race team also, works with guys and
the pro teams and he also does a lot of real estate work for our
company and helps my dad with that stuff. Troy is dedicated, he
probably is the most dedicated to keeping the teams working, he
works closely with the guys. He pretty much started our Pro Stock
racing program in 1994. Jeg is the most focused of us all. He is
as hard core as it gets. Nobody is better than him when it comes
to focus. On or off the race track. He can focus and he has a lot
of common sense.
TROY: Mike oversees Jegster, which is the
company's chassis division. We make components and pieces and he
oversees that. He also oversees the race teams.
CP: What do you like about your brothers?
TROY: I like the fact that if you have a problem,
in racing, the business or any real estate dealings we have, no
matter what, if there is a problem, all of us drop what we are doing
and try to solve it. Whatever it is, we work to solve any problem
from start to finish together. That's one of the best things about
JEG: In our case the work environment gives
us the opportunity to have a small sounding board. We use that to
our advantage quite a bit. It's easy to bounce off ideas with the
other guys about what's going on and through that discussion something
else comes out. That works out real well at our management level.
We all have our own personalities and effective traits and help
us participate in the business and that's good. When I talk about
something with John he looks at it differently than I would or Mike
or Troy and so on. I like that we are brothers who are able to work
together and race together. We spend a lot of time thinking about
how to prepare for the third generation taking over. Our goal is
to continue to grow it as a family business. We want it to be an
aggressive company that still has a lot of fun. We want people to
JOHN: They all have different qualities, that's
what makes it so fun working with them. We all have a way of contributing
to the business, to racing and to the family. I might be better
at one thing, Mike another, Jeg and Troy something else. We compliment
CP: What is the most difficult thing about working so closely
with your brothers?
TROY: I don't know if there is a difficult
thing, but you feel bad if you take a day or two off because we
all work in the business and work hard at it. There really isn't
anything else, to be honest. I feel bad if I take a day off, but
you can talk to (wife) Julie, it doesn't happen often with any of
JEG: I don't think there are a lot of negatives.
We do get along well, we get along well enough work together and
travel and race together and I see that as a key ingredient to making
it all work. We all respect each other for what we do.
Jeg Coughlin, Jr.
CP: John, why do you race Super Stock?
JOHN: I enjoy handicap style racing, I enjoy
racing Super Comp and Super Gas too, but I enjoy Super Stock the
most. I like to either spot someone or being spotted and racing
to the finish line. I like the full tree. It's challenging, it's
fun and there is nothing better than bracket racing or super stock
racing with a handicap tree. If you are spotting someone and there
is a second, that's cool when one light comes down faster.
CP: Mike, what do you like about your categories?
MIKE: The fact that there isn't a lot of maintenance
at the races. If the cars are maintained at the shop and if everything
goes well at the races, these categories are a lot more laid back
compared to the pro side. Our pits are a lot more quiet and there
is a lot of fun. It's different kinds of racing, but obviously still
drag racing. You have to race against the clock and the other guy
at the starting line and finish line. You have double duty but it's
a lot of fun. The way I explained the difference between this and
when I used to run trucks is that from the starting line to half-track,
the trucks were more fun because you were shifting, driving and
steering. From half-track on these are more fun because you have
to race the guy to the finish line.
CP: Why did you get involved with your dad's business in
the first place?
JOHN: When I was very little my dad used to
take me to work with him. I have great pictures of me with him at
his business. I've always been around racing, always been around
the business and this is all I wanted to do. I always enjoyed the
business and it's been a lot of fun. We are real fortunate because
we get to work at a business that compliments our hobby and we have
a hobby that compliments our business.
TROY: It's a fun place to work and a lot of
our jobs in running the company is making customers and people we
work with happy. When they are happy, it's easier for them to do
their job. From a customer aspect, making them happy, getting them
what they want and backing that up is very important to us. That's
the neatest thing about what we do. There are a lot of people that
don't need the stuff we sell to survive. It's a niche, a hobby that
attracts all walks of life in the people we deal with as customers
JEG: I watched my brothers all go into it.
John went in right out of high school. Troy and Mike worked there
through high school. When I was in eighth grade or so, I started
working there during the summers doing odd jobs one or two days
a week. None of my other friends were working, but I really wanted
to and I enjoyed being there. I enjoyed the people and it seemed
like a great family of people. We've had a very consistent group
and we have been able to grow through a lot of times together. I
went to Ashland University to study management and marketing right
out of high school. I raced through college. I was racing with my
brothers just about every weekend in college. Going into my senior
year I manipulated my schedule so I could go racing more often.
Every summer I worked at the business in just about every area except
the service center. When pop decided he was going to retire and
not go into work everyday, I was fortunate for a year or so to be
able to work with him and groups of people that he trusted. I absorbed
his people skills, his communication skills and anything else I
could. His wit and logic are second to none. Those courses weren't
offered at school, so when they were offered at home, I tried to
take advantage of that.
CP: Where do you see the business in five years?
JOHN: Hopefully continuing to grow. Our business
through the Internet has grown and we are constantly working on
JEG: Pop is still such a great sounding board.
He knows the business better than anyone. Some of the aspects of
the business have changed, but he still knows it. He browses the
Web site, has thoughts and questions and contributes there. It's
great to have someone like that to help you build such an empire.
The family business is not a new concept to this world. But I would
like nothing better than to hand it down to a third generation.
We've spent a lot of time figuring out how the third generation
can work into the business.
CP: What is your fondest memory of National Trail Raceway?
JEG: I've got quite a few that involve 100-degree
weather, soaking our T-shirts down in the four or five gallon igloo
water cooler and putting it right back on it. We have a lot of racing
memories there because we all grew up there. I remember watching
dad race and do well there. Then John started racing and he did
well. I started racing street cars, when I was about 16 years old
and my fondest memory was the first time I went down the track in
John's Z-28 street eliminator on a Wednesday program. Six rounds
later I got a trophy and some cash for my efforts.
JOHN: Winning on Father's Day with my brother
Mike in Super Stock last year was special. It was great not only
because we won, but also because all our families and employees
and my 96-year old Grandma, Ga-Ga, were there. That is a very fond
memory. Winning in 1999 and hearing my dad yell that I won over
the radio in Pro Stock Truck was also a great memory. I just really
like the track because it's close to the house and we've done well
and we get to have all of our family and friends there. It's fun
because you love to win at home and everyone gets excited.
CP: Why do you enjoy and participate in racing?
MIKE: Really it's what we always have done.
We all went racing with dad when we were younger. Our big business
is racing. I like to drive. Anything I could get my hands on that
had wheels, I was driving it whether it was a wagon, a tractor or
a bicycle, and I just like to drive things. Two or four wheels -
it didn't matter. We had mini bikes when we were kids. I love anything
with an engine. We always used to have races, grew up on a street
that had a hill and we raced our bikes everyday. We had our share
of trips to the emergency room. We were pretty lucky as kids that
we didn't get hurt that often, because as much as we did, it could
have been a lot worse. I think we were just lucky a lot of the time.
Now that I am a parent, now I realize what my parents did go through
and to me, it's amazing. I'm not sure exactly how they did it and
how they were successful at it. Amazing what kids can do. My son
Jack is only three years old and it's just amazing. He is the best.
A lot of work, but fun.
CP: What is your favorite category?
JEG: I have a lot, but I really enjoy the
professional world probably because I am racing it right now. I
enjoy the appeal it has to the consumer with the working doors.
With the exception of modern day fuel injection, it is something
that 100 percent of the audience can relate to. Top Fuel and Funny
Car are fun to watch because they might flip over, blow up and the
excitement level is good. The fumes are pretty amazing too. But
growing up as a kid, I would watch local guys in Super Gas with
a clutch and a four speed shifting gears and racing it to the line.
I thought I would like to race a car with a stick. Never really
thought it to be Pro Stock. My career developed through Comp Eliminator
in 1997 and that's when I took my first step toward the pro level.
It was a challenge and I enjoy things changing up to make me think
and be creative.
CP: What do you think about the Jeg's Foundation and the
commitment to bring awareness and funding to cancer research?
MIKE: I'm glad we started that foundation
a little over a year ago. We like to try to make a difference. Even
if it is a little difference, it all helps. I was excited because
it's important, every little bit helps and the more people who are
aware of it is good and any time you can make a difference its worth
it. If we can make one person happy or one person more aware of
cancer and the need for more research, it's working.