5 ways to win the race (in business)

Living outside of Louisville, Kentucky now means that I have developed an even greater love for horse racing. I grew up with quarter horses and barrel racing (and of course still extensively compete) but thoroughbred racing is a totally different industry and animal. My younger brother works for an elite and high-caliber training operation that just had horses (for their owners) run in the Kentucky Derby this past weekend — which is an incredible feat by itself. Coming from a lifelong horse background, having family directly involved and now living within 20 minutes of the mecca itself, Churchill Downs — gives me an even greater connection to it all. And, trust me when I say that attending the Derby is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. You have to experience it at least once in your life.

With my connection to racing horses in general, whether it’s thoroughbreds racing on the track or quarter horses racing around a cloverleaf pattern in an arena, I find that there are actually a lot of similarities between it and running a business. Sounds weird, right? Read on and see what I’m talking about. 

1. Have a strong team in place.

There is an endless amount of time, money, meticulous care and maintenance that goes into managing these valuable, high-class equine athletes. From those who wrap legs, walk, groom and clean stalls to the foremen who manage the track shed rows, to the trainers who prep them for races, there are a lot of individuals responsible for keeping these horses going on a daily basis. Even if you’re a solopreneur, you still need a support system. Whether you hire a VA to handle administrative or marketing tasks, a coach to help you get your business to the next level, or you even just find inspiration and help from Facebook groups, everyone needs somebody in their corner, pushing them to be better, stronger and stay motivated — so that they can always come out on top. Nobody can do it alone.

2. Don’t worry about the competition.

Horse trainers absolutely observe and take notice of the other horses that their horse will be up against in its next race — but they don’t over-stress about them. At the end of the day, they know that their horse still has to show up on race day and run their race. There are many other variables that effect how a horse will perform (the weather, the track, how they break from the gate and even how they recover post-race) — much like in business. As entrepreneurs, we have too many things to worry about on a daily basis that are within our control (how we manage our time, how we get new clients and more) and worrying about others who do the same thing as us shouldn’t be one of them. Focus on yourself and moving forward, instead of looking at who is coming up behind you.

 3. Setup a game-day strategy.   

Although horses have minds of their own and trainers can do everything in their power to prep them to win, sometimes they just don’t run well. However, if a strong strategy is put into place, a horse is at least somewhat setup for better success. This might mean training them at a center that they like (keeping them happy), putting them on a healthier diet or entering them in a race that they’ll excel in and not one that they won’t. The same goes for business. You have to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and for who you’re doing it, in order to attract the right kinds of clients and do work that matters. We have to be smart about how we spend our time, have the proper workflow systems in place and plan actionable goals that will let us reach our goals. It’s all about doing a lot of the “little things” well— that lead to bigger results. 

4. Realize that success doesn’t come overnight.

This one is a hard pill to swallow for most. When we put so much of ourselves, energy and money into something, we want to see results right away. And, that comes from a good place — we are passionate about what we do. Whether it’s watching a horse run its first race, or you’re about to launch something for the first time in your business, it’s great if you see some success, but don’t be too disheartened if you don’t. Good things are in store — you sometimes just have to be a little patient. When you work hard, in horse racing or business, it will payoff. It might not happen tomorrow, but there will be a bigger reward for you down the road — and it will make all of your hard work worth it. Just keep swimming! (Or, running, in this case.)

5. Enjoy the ride.

Sometimes, you never know what life is going to throw at you. A horse can be healthy and racing’s next superstar today — and sustain a career-ending injury tomorrow. Unfortunately, even if you’re your own boss, things out of your control can still happen and cause you to change course in your own business. You can lose a major client or you can get sick. Regardless, although you can plan and be as strategic as possible, life happens. With that said, celebrate the good days and shake off the bad days. Even if you’re sitting atop the world’s fastest horse and you’re scared to death and uncertain of what will happen — you’ve still got to enjoy the ride.   

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