SBJ/Sept. 9-15, 2013/Game Changers

Game Changers: Paula Miller

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Miller has played a key role as NASCAR restructured four major divisions.
Organizational Drivers
Paula Miller
NASCAR | Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

W
hen Paula Miller took over human resources at NASCAR in 2008, the sport was facing some of its biggest challenges. Sponsorships, attendance and ratings were all under pressure, with an economic recession starting to take hold. NASCAR Chairman Brian France decided the organization needed to reconsider how it was set up and how it approached everything from marketing and communications to competition and digital media.

Over the next four years, the organization restructured four major divisions — communications, competition, partnership marketing and media — and hired four new senior executives from outside the NASCAR industry. Miller, who is a member of NASCAR’s executive council, played a pivotal role in all of it. She helped advise France as he looked to marry his goals for the company with structural changes, and she spearheaded the searches that led to key hires in the process.

It’s organizational changes and the prospect of making major hires like those that attracted Miller to human resources when she left business school at Purdue University. She’s always believed that the key to a company’s success rests in marrying its business plan with a plan for attracting and retaining talented executives. “In the back of the house, you manage payroll, health care, compensation and everything else,” Miller said, “but it’s the connection of the business strategy to the talent strategy that helps ensure the business will be successful. It’s the people who deliver on the CEO’s strategy.”

— Tripp Mickle

  • Crowning professional achievement: Shaping NASCAR’s executive leadership team for the future.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: That I didn’t spend even more time working internationally. (Before NASCAR, Miller was on the traveling audit staff at General Electric and worked in Mexico, Hungary and Singapore.)
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Pat Summitt. She has grit, class and a winning spirit.
  • Best advice you’ve received: Do what you love, and you will love what you do.
  • What would you, at age 18, find surprising about the person you’ve become today?: That I am in sports. I always considered myself the “corporate type,” but sports requires the same demands of traditional business and is a lot more fun.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Identifying best-in-class talent and integrating it into the sports environment.

“[Paula] has a very strong compass and has demonstrated over the years that she knows how to ensure that she is focused on the right things, at the right time. She considers all points of view before making decisions and is very fair. She is a role model for other women in executive positions. She knows how to establish and nurture relationships in and out of work.”

— Mary Liz Finn | Chief human resources officer | Nielsen

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