Raise The Stakes: How To Stay On Top Of Your Business Game

You may be asking yourself, “What does horse racing have to do with my business?” More than you might suspect.

Last Update: May 9, 2016

Are you on top your business game? If so, how will you stay there?

While annual resolutions are a great tool, every small business owner can take proactive strides to commit to plans above and beyond the “once a year promise.” It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

I’ve found that becoming successful in business has everything to do with daily habits in lieu of annual commitments. Nonetheless, I’m still eager for the fresh and clean slate that each year seems to hold. The exhilaration reminds me of a stakes race. No not the legendary Derby, Royal Ascot or Belmont Stakes … we’re talking about the business race. Winner takes all.


The greatest race of a lifetime

You may be asking yourself, “What does horse racing have to do with business?”

More than you might suspect.

The Kentucky Derby may be the “greatest 2 minutes in sports,” but entrepreneurship is the “greatest race of a lifetime.”

I liken every year in business to the adrenaline rush of a highly anticipated horse race. As the previous year comes to a close we prepare to launch fresh out of the gate in the New Year. It’s like a deep breath before the plunge. Every small business intends to make it out of the gate better than they did the year before. But, have you noticed how some seem to “always” start strong … you know, stay on their game?

It literally seems as if they burst out the other side, hastening resolutely toward an invisible finish line. It always looks beautiful, elegant, graceful and calm. But one thing you possibly haven’t considered is like a thoroughbred — the keen focus, relentless effort and diligent pursuit of purpose that won’t let them stand still. It’s not so much what happens at the gate … the fan fair or the show of support, it’s more so what’s been happening the weeks, months and years beforehand.


Stay on top of your business game

The best way to stay on top of your business game is to realize that poor preparation makes for poor performance … on and off the track.


1. Consider how you train a race horse

You train a horse with a consistent regimen. How do you build a successful business? As you can imagine the answer is quite similar. Slow deliberate actions produce long-term positive results.

As an entrepreneur we train for speed (execution) and endurance (habitual execution).  Our goal is to get really good at execution and then execute non-stop. One of the best examples of a routine you can start today is focusing daily on revenue producing activities. This simple move will help you easily decipher “busy work” from productivity areas that will enable you to win long-term.


2. Qualifying for a stakes race takes time

Overnight success stories – they seem magical, wouldn’t you agree? But the only pixie dust or mystery behind it is hard work. A horse doesn’t all of a sudden qualify for the Breeders Cup or the Derby — races where only the top horses compete. Before a race horse can get to that level, he or she will have started out at a much lower level of competition. As with business, keep this in mind.

There are many qualifying moments along the way as you build a successful small business. If you’ve yet to win a race, achieve a small goal or take an essential business risk don’t compare yourself to those that have done that and more. Measure your business achievement based on your personal goals and accomplishments – not someone else’s.

Remember, a good headline sells – but it’s the story that counts.


3. Think like a thoroughbred on race day

I wonder, has anyone ever observed a champion pedigree casually canter out of the gate on race day? I doubt it. And if you’ve been vigorously training and preparing to win something it’s not likely that you’ll carelessly trot about either.

It’s also unlikely that you’ll be distracted by the sideline of fashionable onlookers (observers who may look the part, but haven’t trained a day in their life) and you certainly won’t care who’s betting on you to win or lose.

A race horse wears blinders for two reasons, to eliminate the view of what’s behind (failures and challenges) and eradicate the view at the side (competition and onlookers). Blinders have one purpose – to keep a horse focused on what’s in front of it. As a successful entrepreneur … you’d be wise to do the same.

Remember, staying on top of your game in business requires a disciplined, deliberate and habitual routine of execution, qualifying moments to move to the next level and unrelenting focus.

Entrepreneurship is a ritual, much like horse racing, that is played out thousands of times, in the minds of great people and on racetracks all over the world.  Prepare for your highly anticipated win, and remember that it’s not how well you start that matters … it’s how well you finish.


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