Be a Race Promoter, not a race director – MOD004

Show Notes

Welcome to the Merchants of Dirt Podcast Episode #4, hosted by founder Kyle M. Bondo. This is your insider’s guide to practical recreational engineering where I teach you the art and science of building, promoting, and directing off-road races. In this episode, we’re going discuss why all race promoters are race directors, but not all race directors are race promoters. What does that mean? It means the answer will decide the future direction of your business.

In This Episode
  • 0:01

    Podcast Intro

  • 0:20


  • 0:55

    The Challenge

  • 1:42

    Why You Cannot Be Both

  • 4:47

    Owning Your Own Job

  • 10:00

    Single Point of Failure

  • 12:44

    Be The Boss

  • 14:12

    Working IN Your Company, To Work ON Your Company

  • 15:36

    An Example

  • 17:08

    Defining Your Race Director Role

  • 18:13

    Redefining Your Role as Owner

  • 19:40

    The Benefit of Choices

  • 21:55

    And Now You Know

  • 33:41

    Ricks Roasters Coffee Company

  • 23:05

    Call to Action

  • 24:11

    Podcast Outro

The Challenge

When you say: All race promoters are race directors, but not all race directors are race promoters, all sorts of people come out of the woodwork to challenge it. When I first brought this topic up on my blog at, I immediately heard from race directors that object to this characterization. Why do they object? Because they own their own companies AND direct their own races. They claim they can do both — and claim they do it well. And I agree to some of it. I do believe you can you do both. But can you do both well? I say that you cannot.

Why You Cannot Be Both

As race director, it is your job to run the race from beginning to end. And as a race promoter, it is your job to sell that race — and all your other races too — while making sure the entire racing business is successful.

Now, I also hear race directors say that the terms “race director” and “race promoter” mean the same thing. A race director and a race promoter are NOT that same thing.

Why? First off, I see the race promoter as the founder of your racing company, the overall creative strategist of each race, and responsible for the leadership and future direction of your business. And what is YOUR business? Why, it’s promoting races, of course!

In my second episode What I wish I knew before I my first race, I stated that over half of your time spent on building your races will be spent trying to sell it! Because if you want to build a racing company that makes money, selling only one race will not be enough. In simple terms, the race promoter is the boss, the driver, the one making all the decisions.

While the race promoter is running the racing company, I see the race director is a role that manages the race promoter’s plan. The race director is a job within the race promoter’s company… not the owner of the company. Essentially, the race director is a subordinate role to the race promoter. The race promoter runs the company, and the race director WORKS for the the race promoter.

Can a race promoter be the race director? Certainly! In many smaller racing companies, the race promoter and the race director are the same person. And that’s ok… if you want to: OWN YOUR JOB!

Owning Your Own Job

In many small racing companies, or racing companies that are just getting started, there are few key people available. Everyone wishes they could hire more help. But if you’re small, cash flow is a tough issue to overcome. So aside from part-timers, your entire company most likely consists of just you, free help from friends and family, and the occasional volunteer. Without a big staff, most of the roles in your company will be filled by the founder: And that’s YOU — The race promoter!

The positions you do not fill, will probably get neglected until you get around to them, making for a lot of slack for one person to pick up. This means you are now two people: The owner, and the only employee. You pay your own salary (if you get one), and you let yourself know if you’re doing a good job or not.

Hopefully you’re nice to yourself, otherwise you have a very tough job! As the owner, AND the only employee. You plan, promote, and direct every aspect of your race. You’re the only one out there trying to convincing park managers to let you race their parks, and the only one selling your race to anyone who will listen. Your boss is a slave driver — Your boss being yourself. Your boss (that would be you again) makes you go to the park before the sun comes up, and your boss (yup, still you) will not let you leaving until every bit of race has been picked up. You might be the best employee in your racing company but your boss (still you) never gives you a break, never let’s up, and never tells you you’re doing a good job. You have a crazy person for a boss, and it’s you. When you are both the race promoter AND the race director, you ARE your own boss. Congratulations! This is what it means to own your own job!

What if you just want to take the weekend off? The same weekend of one of your races? You might say, “I’ll just plan around it”. What happens when you get sick on race day? Can you call your boss for a fill in as the race director? You might again say, “I’ll just work through it.” But what happens when you have a family emergency — and you need to be both directing your race AND at the hospital at the same time? It’s a fair question, and one that causes all sorts of business to go out of business every year. It’s called the “catastrophic event”. Could your company survive an emergency like that? Could you survive a catastrophic event? If the answer is, “No, I could not”, then I’m sorry to say that: You own your job.

Single Point of Failure

The reality is: You are the owner, the manager, and the talent. If ANY ONE OF YOU takes a break, their entire company comes to a screeching halt. Boom. That is the sound of the door shutting on your business — for good. Mr. Murphy for the win! That’s why nobody likes Mr. Murphy.

If you’re lucky, some of you can weather a storm like that and manage to reopen at a later date. However, most of you will never open again. How do I know? Because I have data There is an interesting article over at Success Harbor DOT Com that states:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 50% of all new businesses survive 5 years or more, and about one-third survive 10-years or more.

So the more mature your business is, the better chance is has to survive. Unfortunately, the article also states that according to the Small Business Administration (SBA):

About 50% of businesses fail during the first year in business. With close to 34% of small businesses not surviving their first 2 years.

So if you survive the first two years, and mature your business over time, you have a greater chance of staying open. There are many different reasons for a business to close. The article does argue that we shouldn’t treat closing a business with a failing business. But you also should not confuse a business owner that retires one day and shuts down their business, with an entrepreneur that got sick or died. But there are other reasons business fail beyond catastrophic events, such as:

  • Can’t pay your bills
  • Offering something no one wants
  • Failing to attract paying customers
  • No business skills
  • Unable to build a team
  • Or being unable to create systems that work

Be The Boss

This may be tough to hear from most of you race promoters out there. Many of you love being the face of the company and you might think that your customers only come to your races because of you. When you’re first starting out, that’s ok. In the early days, you don’t have the money to hire someone to fill the race director role anyway. Plus, you haven’t been directing races long enough to even know how you would want your hired race director to behave in the first place. You need experience, written processes, and time to build a job description that defines what your future race director will and will not do. But you can only do that by working in the job yourself.

However, once you have a strong understanding on how you want your race director to focus on managing and delivering your races, you need start stepping back, and begin defining and refining other jobs within your company too. You need to decide to be the boss, and mature the business. The data shows about 50% of all new businesses survive 5 years or more, and about one-third survive 10-years or more. Does maturing your business mean remaining as the race director? I don’t think it does. I equate maturity of business with growth. How can you grow if your business are too interconnected to survive a catastrophic event?

Working IN Your Company, To Work ON Your Company

Think of all the things you could work on if you were NOT the race director. How do you run race day registration? Write down what YOU would do for that. How do you build courses? Write down what YOU do for that. How do you draft proposals that go with your permit? Write down how YOU do that too. Write down every responsibility you think each position should have and do it as if you yourself was in the role. Each draft version of these “position descriptions” will help you establish a “job description” for your company’s future employees.

By borrowing a concept from Michael Gerber’s great book, E-Myth Revisited, Gerber’s book summarizes that If you are going to run any business, you have to FIRST go to work IN your business, before you can go to work ON your business. This might be difficult concept to understand for most race promoters, especially those that have been self-proprietorships for some time.

An Example

Imagine your first job interview you plan to do as a business owner. Now imagine your first employee sitting across from you:

  • What do they need to know about the position you want them to fill within your racing company?
  • What do YOU want, expect, and require of them?
  • How will they know what to do?
  • Will you stand over them all day long and monitor each aspect of their job, or will you give them a guide to what you expect them to do in their job because you already defined it yourself?
  • How will they know what is expected of them?
  • How will they know they are doing a good job?
  • How will you know they are doing what you want them to do when you’re not looking?

By working IN that job, and DOING that job, you know exactly how you want that job to function. Then all you have do after working IN that job, is write it down! Then the written description becomes VERSION ONE for any future employees to judge their own efforts against your provided standard.

Defining Your Race Director Role

Of course, one of the most important positions in your racing company is the race director position itself. You cannot cut your ties with the Race Director role without first defining all the elements of the work that YOU think a race director should do, and how they should do it. You don’t want your future race director to do what THEY think should be done in that position. You want them to do what YOU think they should do in that position.

The goal is to communicate how you want the work done, by explaining it as if you were doing it. Once you have it written down, then and only then, can you think about hiring someone for that position. You cannot build past your symbiotic relationship with the race director and race promoter roles until you decide that someone else could and should do the job in your stead.

Redefining Your Role as Owner

If you think about it, you are essentially trying to work yourself out of the day-to-day tactical functions of directing your races so that you can work on more important things, like actual race promotion

In other words, being able to go to work selling your races full time. That’s what I mean about going to work IN your business. That’s what race promoters do.

But many race promoters cannot move past this phase. They cannot see that the position of race director is a job, while the position of race promoter is a mission; a mission to grow a successful racing company. They stay race directors and never go beyond their comfort zone.

While there is nothing wrong with that, and there are many small racing companies that do fine by staying small, their attention will also be split between race director and race promoter. They will have extreme difficulty focusing on the much broader and more expansive challenges within their companies, and growth will be determined by how much energy the race director has in any given year. One catastrophic event, emergency, or bad day could jeopardize their whole operation. Because when you own your job, your company stops working with you do.

The Benefit of Choices

Meanwhile, there is some positive benefits to replacing yourself as the race director. One of the most important benefits is your new capability to start going to work ON your business. When you go to work IN your business, you define all the parts that make your company run. But when you go to work ON your business, you will finally have choices.

Choices are what you don’t have as a race director. Choices like deciding if you want to be there on race day or take the day off, or maybe the choice to go on vacation, or have two races going on the same day. When you were the race director, you didn’t have these choices. Either you did it, or it didn’t get done. But with proper delegation, you can grant yourself the freedom you so desperately sought out when you started building a race company in the first place.

Now you can decide what your company does and does not do, not just how it gets done. You are now free to think about trends, new types of races, new territories, or experiment with other discipline. You can begin to leverage your race promotion system, and finally be able to spend a significant amount of your time building your business and selling your races. As the race promoter, and not the race director, you will finally be unencumbered to put all your efforts into selling your races.

By going through the effort to build a race director role that will implement YOUR methods, processes, systems, and controls, you will allow yourself something you have never been able to do before: time to enjoy running your company!

Ricks Roasters Coffee Company

A shout-out to fellow Veteran-owned Ricks Roasters Coffee Company in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Ricks Roasters helped sponsor the Wolf Bouncer All-Mountain mountain bike race in September 2016. Their donation went to support the George Mason Cycling Club and in putting on the 2-Day event. Plus, it is the only coffee I drink right now. They have dozens of blends to choose from, but my favorite blend is their Four Horsemen coffee.

Why the Four Horsemen?

Because of it’s Apocalyptic Taste, of course!

This is really good coffee! Sean and Keely Ricks have really created something special with this company, so please support Ricks Roasters Coffee Company by visiting their website. You’ll find everything about their blends, where to find their coffee, and even how to order it online!

And Now You Know

I have a few things I want you to do right now:

Action #1 — Join
Go to SLASH Join and drop your email in the box so I can tell you when a new episodes has come out.

Action #2 — Feedback
Did you learn something useful? Is there something I can do to make them better? I would certainly like to hear about other race promotion pains you might have. If there is a topic you would like me to cover, please join my Facebook group: Merchants of Dirt Race Promoters Group. But if you don’t want to ask the group, I am @MerchantsofDirt on Twitter, or you can contact me through my blog at

Action #3 — Review
If you liked this episode, I would love if you would go to the Merchants of Dirt podcast page on iTunes and gives me a quick review and a 5-star rating.


Thank You for Listening!