Wednesday, January 19, 2011

ECOGOLD’s Secrets of Success in 14 Easy Steps

by Patricia Da Silva - VP Marketing

After a great start to 2011 with free hugs, here are ECOGOLD’s Secrets of Success in 14 Easy Steps.

(Ok, I lied. They're not easy)

On my desk, I have several cards from our suppliers and sponsored riders wishing us “a very successful year”. This got me thinking about success and how to achieve it on a consistent basis, year after year.

In our business, we’ve been lucky to get to know some very successful people, both inside and outside the horse world. What do they have in common? What does it take to achieve success?

There are a lot of books about success, from the more spiritual "à la Oprah" books to business bestsellers. Here we explore success in the first degree, in the “rising to the top” sense not whether that makes one happy and fulfilled.

This article is not based on academic theories, but is deeply rooted in reality.  It is based in our own experience building a business to conversations with successful riders.

As there are different delicious chocolate chip cookie recipes, there isn't one uniform secret formula for success. There are several.  Feel free to give us your input on our Facebook page (click here for the link). Who knows, this post might just be the first of a series as we keep exploring the subject….

Here are the Secrets of Success – you want to be successful? (or at least, MORE successful?) Here’s how.

1. Commitment to excellence

The first step is to commit to excellence. Success doesn’t just happen by accident.

Great example: the Canadian Eventing Team. They seemed to come out of nowhere to win the Silver Medal at the World Equestrian Games…was it an “accident”?

Not according to a source close to the team: “It would appear that this was something that came together in a perfect storm but it was a beautifully orchestrated symphony that was 4 years in the making. David O'Connor has had a lot of practice at winning and knows what it takes to win. He implemented a system four years ago and the riders bought into it lock stock and barrel!”

You have to decide that average doesn’t cut it anymore and raise your game. You can have the best plan and the best people in the world helping you but if you are not fully committed to excellence, you will not get there.


2. Don’t be afraid of failure

The fear of failure makes people risk averse (and boring). In order to succeed at anything, you have to go for it. Like Nike says: “Just do it!”

Here’s the catch: you will probably fail a bunch of times before succeeding at anything. Then, you have two options: 1. panic, blame, depression and defeat or 2. say “ok, I’ve just learned how NOT to do it” and move on.

Dressage coach Jane Savoie told a rider in one of her clinics: “You are allowed to suck here! I have to see what you are doing wrong, in order to teach you how to do it right.”

See, no biggie. What counts is the end result, not the setbacks along the way. So, chin up and kick on! (not my quote…but I like it)

3. Look forward

Whether they’ve experienced a big win or a major disappointment, successful people tend to celebrate or be depressed for a relatively short time. They quickly look forward to the next challenge.

Using the Canadian Eventing Team again as example: As we had supplied the saddle pads for the team, I asked Amber Heintzberger, our PR writer who was at WEG, to get quotes from the riders for a press release.  This is what came back:

Canadian team member Hawley Bennett-Awad said, “Ecogold has been a huge factor in the Canadian team. The horses look beautiful and the saddle pads are amazing. People have been asking about them all through the competition. We just got the ‘Who Dat?’ award here at WEG, but I think that at the London 2012 Olympic Games we will be a team to look out for!”

They had just won the silver medal a few hours earlier and were already looking ahead to the next challenge.

 
4. Focus and determination


Have you ever seen a rider come in the ring with that look that says “I will not be denied”? Scary. Successful people have a focus, strong will to win and they go after their goals with an unwavering determination. They are able to get “in the zone” and not get distracted.


5. Blood, sweat and tears

Sorry to disappoint, but success takes effort.

Top US rider Boyd Martin said: “To succeed you need to start with natural ability, a feel for the sport and then you need a strong work ethic. You have to work hard and be determined to do things that other people find too challenging.”

World Equestrian Games Silver Medalist Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch said: “People who are successful have a constant desire to keep learning about the sport, and they keep searching for ways to improve skills and techniques. At the end of the day, dedication and hard work will always beat plain old talent."

 6. Work smarter


You can’t make something work just by throwing sheer hours at it. You can waste a lot of time fixating on inconsequential details instead of putting your energy where it truly matters.

US top rider Doug Payne sums it up: “It all comes down to efficiency. What separates successful riders from the masses is their analytical approach to their performance, attention to detail and time in the ring. Everyone can spend countless hours perfecting their skills, but the efficient will make better use of their time and progress at a much faster rate. However, all the practice in the world is for nought without experience.”  

So don’t just work more. Look for ways to do things better, faster. Work smarter.

7. Hearing “NO” is a good thing

Does everything happen for a reason? I don’t know… but I can tell you some of our biggest successes, started with someone saying “NO”.

Remember this video about our Cross-Country Boots? (if you haven’t seen it…take 1 min, it’s fantastic.)

Stroke of marketing genius? Not really. We made it because our test rider refused to try the boots as they did not seem to be protective enough. We had to find a way to convince him, and came up with the idea of the axe impact test video.

Whoever said necessity is the mother of all inventions was right. Had the rider agreed to try the boots from the beginning, I can assure you we never would have thought about the impact test video. Looking back, that “NO” was the key factor to ultimate success.

It is disappointing to hear NO and it can get you down. But you have to stop viewing it as a bad thing, and as part of a process to reach your ultimate goal.

 8. Passion

Someone told me: “True passion is a gift not many people are blessed with in life.” Successful people love what they do.

 9. Sacrifice

I don’t know of any successful athlete or business person who has not made sacrifices in the pursuit of their goals – financial or otherwise.

10. You need a great team

Look behind every great rider and you will see a great support team – groom, coach, vet, farrier, family. You need to surround yourself with people that make you more efficient and improve your results.

In Good to Great, author Jim Collins puts it as: “getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats”.

11. Ambition
“Good is the enemy of great.”  Successful people are rarely fully satisfied with what they have.  They’re always hungry for more.


12. Perseverance

Never, never, never, never give up. Ever. 
Watch Karen O'Connor.

13. You gotta Believe!

A week prior to the World Equestrian Games, I texted one of the Canadian riders: "Do you really think you can win a medal?"

The answer popped back on my phone almost instantly: "YOU BET WE CAN!"

No hesitation.

Someone close to the team told me: "Getting those riders to buy in and truly believe in themselves was key. They were so cohesive and operated as a group. That was so evident to me in the barns and was different from other teams. Their "Canadianess" ie quiet humble confidence set them apart.

There is a difference between a walk of confidence and a swagger. It is something that is internal and hard to teach but each of those riders possess that quality and it served them well."

Many people confuse being cocky with confidence. Confidence is all about believing in your ability, knowing you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing… and doing it well. So… “YOU BET YOU CAN!”

14. All that and a bit of luck…

Successful people will disagree and say “you make your own luck”, as it is a factor they cannot control – very scary to the Type A control-freak.

But luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Sometimes, you are just at the right place at the right time. Then it is up to you to do the right thing.

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