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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4 tips for how to deal with competition in business

I just returned from spending a long, few days at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, which is literally the largest horse show in the world. Luckily for me, I’ve grown up attending and competing at it, as it’s based in Columbus, Ohio, which is only an hour drive north of my hometown, Chillicothe. Thanks to a great, once-in-a-lifetime horse that my family has owned for almost 30 years, who is now retired of course, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience winning championships there — which is something that most horse owners and exhibitors only dream of doing. Now, years later, I’m back there competing on a different horse and it hasn’t always been easy to start over. “Layla” is 9 now and after a lot of time and hard work, she has become a really nice horse and one that I feel competitive on again. The last couple of years, she has even started earning her own Top Ten and even Reserve Champion honors there. With the thousands of horses that haul into Columbus every October, it’s easy for anyone there to get overwhelmed by all of the money, prizes to be won, fancy bling and other competitors. It’s extremely important for me to just focus on myself, my mare and the job that we need to perform.

The only thing easier than getting caught up in a competitive mindset at the world’s largest horse show is getting caught up in the comparison game of running a business online. I used to find myself (and still do, occasionally) “cyber-stalking” fellow lady designers who I thought were running kick-butt businesses and who I wanted to be like, more than anything.

But, was I admiring from afar in a healthy and normal way or spending too much time being envious and jealous? Sometimes, figuring that out is a tough call. The good news is that there can be positive aspects to both mindsets. Admiring fellow competitors and businesses similar to yours allows you to see what’s working for others, what’s perhaps not working for you and helps you to keep an open mind to new strategies and practices. And, even if you are feeling a little competitive with them at the same time, it’s OK to recognize that, embrace the feelings and understand why you’re feeling them, but then — remember to follow these 4 tips for how to deal with those negative feelings at the end of the day:

1) Follow and admire a few favorites.

Instead of looking at those fellow business owners (whose Instagrams you obsess over and who are killing it with their launches and packaged services) as competition, view them as networking buddies! Connect with them via social media or engage with them in Facebook groups. See if it’s OK for you to ask them a few questions about how they got to where they are today. Look at the things that are working for them in their businesses and consider trying to do something similar for yours — with your own twist, of course. Try to even email them! Many times, people that we all consider to be super successful are still gracious enough to take 5 minutes to respond. Some even open free time slots every few months to schedule calls with them, so take advantage of that! No matter what, remember that they’re normal, everyday working people, running a business — just like you! Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and form a possible professional relationship. You will soon not be viewing them as competition. Doing this is much healthier and more positive, all around.

2) Collaborate with others.

You should also try to not call your “competitors” just that — “competitors.” I don’t even like to use that word because they shouldn’t be viewed as such and it’s given a negative context. After all, we are all in this entrepreneurial journey together. So, in addition to reaching out to those potential business pals, look into possibly even working together! Poking around in Facebook groups is a great way to find someone who does something similar to you, maybe has the same client base and even the same style. Brainstorm a project that is based on the needs of your clients — something that can helpful to them — and create a product or service, with the help of someone else. This should be a no-brainer that it’s a win-win for both of you! It creates a great partnership; puts both of your businesses out there and most importantly, will benefit your clients. 

3) Stay unique and still do you.

Even if you see what is working for other people, don’t forget to still stay true to yourself. It’s easy to get swept up in what everyone else is doing, but at the end of the day, you have to do what truly makes you happy and what feels right in your gut. For example, you can be a graphic designer (like myself) and although there are thousands of other designers out there who are females, around my age and offering the same types of services that I do, none of them are me or doing the work EXACTLY how I am doing it. What attracts your clients, makes them happy, keeps them coming back for more or at least referring you to others, is often the emotional experience that they get when working with you — and only you can give that to them.

4) Remember that there is always room for everyone.

This is a huge lesson for all business owners to learn. No matter how many others are out there like you, doing exactly what you’re doing, there are going to be people who buy from them AND who buy from you. Don’t stress over the idea of competition. Quite frankly, it’s a waste of time. If you focus on yourself, your business, how to create the best experiences for your clients and really love what you do, you will be successful and your clients will find you. And, other business owners will connect with theirs, as well. Embrace that we all are passionate about what we do, want the same things and have big dreams. We really are all in this together and can help each other out — not tear each other down. 

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If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!