Principles of a profitable race – MOD008

Show Notes

Welcome to the Merchants of Dirt Podcast Episode #8, 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’ll hear the interview I gave to Carey Green from Podcastification at DC Podfest last month that goes into why I started the Merchants of Dirt Podcast, how it relates to building your first race, and why building races is essential to the survival of the off-road racing industry. And I will introduce you to the principles of a profitable race where you will begin to understand why having standards will help you make better decisions, make you money, and stay in business longer than five minutes.

In This Episode
  • 0:01

    Podcast Intro

  • 0:01


  • 0:01

    Carey Green Interview

  • 0:01

    Coffee’s for Closers

  • 0:01

    Priciples of a Profitable Race

  • 0:01

    Get your FREE 90-Day Roadmap and companion eBook

  • 0:01

    And Now You Know

  • 0:01

    Call to Action

  • 0:01

    Podcast Outro

Carey Green from Podcastification Interview

I met Carey Green from Podcastification a few weeks ago at DC Podfest. Carey is a podcaster from Colorado that gave a fantastic talk about how to create better show notes for your podcast. He also owns a company called Podcast Fast Track ( that does podcast audio editing and show notes production services. Carey interviewed me on his podcast and asked some really great questions that go me thinking about why I started podcasting, what the Merchants of Dirt Podcast is all about, and how ordinary people can get into podcasting with just a microphone and a computer. But is also got me thinking about what it takes to get off-road racing and can just anyone start building races?

Ironically, most sports with a professional level have this problem. All the money, fame, and energy are spent pandering to the professional level races with little emphasis placed on the beginner. Some might say that beginner races are a dime a dozen while professional races — that include championship events — are truly unique productions. Others may say that professional races attract more media interest, which in turn brings in more sponsors and money. Regardless of reasons behind why beginner race promoters tend to go out of business within 3-years of starting, fails to acknowledge a simple truth: without a strong base of beginner race promoters, amateur enthusiasm, and smaller community races to bring more racers into the sport, off-road racing will die.

The NFL does not exist without the NCAA, the NCAA does not exist without high-school football, and high-school football would be hard pressed without organizations like Pop Warner. As for off-road racing’s NFL level events the include World, National, and Regional championships. If there is no Pop Warner or high school level race promoters, there will be even fewer athletes to race in the NCAA and NFL level adventure races for years to come.

The solution is simple: make off-road race promotion accessible to newbies again. There is an opening within the outdoor and off-road racing market to capitalize on the beginner-level, small market racing events. This incredible opportunity focuses on capturing the actual largest customer base — the amateur — by producing more races for smaller groups of athletes. I’m only looking to make a small dent in the universe by teaching this next generation of race promoters how to be successful by removing the obstacles that stand in the way of race promotion education.

Hopefully, I can provide you with the tools you need to start building races. You can become a race promoter. And more importantly, your sport NEEDS you to become one for it to remain successful. My hope is that what you learn here each week will help you become that race promoter we all need you to be.

Coffee’s for Closers

Thanksgiving is over, and now we’re moving into the Christmas holiday season. I’ve already started hearing Christmas music on the radio. Do you want to know what else is memorable? A good cup of coffee! And right now Ricks Roasters Coffee Company has some new coffees in stock — Bourbon Barrel Heritage and Bourbon Barrel Reserve.

Get this! They take the wooden barrels they get from a partnership with A. Smith Bowman Distillery. And if you are unfamiliar with A. Smith Bowman Distillery, they are a local family-owned distillery here in Fredericksburg, Virginia that opened in 1935. The barrels Sean Ricks gets from the Bowman Distillery are barrels that were once used for aging straight bourbon whiskey. They then take a robust dark roasted coffee blend and put them into the barrels for an undisclosed amount of time. How much time? That wouldn’t tell me how long because then they would have to declassify my brain via lead ventilation (i.e. It’s a secret)! But however long it takes, their process works! The result is a smooth and silky coffee that delivers a subtle but rich taste of bourbon. And somewhere in there is just the slightest hint of vanilla. I don’t know how Sean Ricks, the creative genius behind Ricks Roasters thinks this stuff up, but his coffee’s result is an assortment of flavors that will continue to surprise you.

You can find Ricks Roasters in Stafford, Virginia, just North of Fredericksburg, or visit them online at Again — they’re not a sponsor (not yet). I’m just a fan paying it forward!

Priciples of a Profitable Race

It should not come as a surprise to you that I’m a big fan of off-road racing. But not a big fan of seeing race promoters struggle and fail. It’s kind of a big deal to me — and the whole point behind why I started and the Merchants of Dirt Podcast. This is why I want to spend some time talking to you about some of the fundamentals in race promotion
I’ve covered some of these ideas in my earlier episodes that you can find at, but today I want to talk about a very particular fundamental called a Principle

What’s a principle you ask? It’s a fundamental truth that serves as the foundation for a system of behavior. Or in simpler terms — it’s a standard you base decisions on. Remember standards?
These are the rules you guide your life decisions by — Like never working on Sunday’s, or only dating someone that is employed. But in race promotion, the principles you need are the ones the guide you in making decisions on what kind of races you should build. It’s not an easy concept to grasp right away, so let’s begin with an example.

You’ve decided to put on a race. You’ve named your event, figured out the course, and have a permit for a park that lots of racers enjoy being at. You went down to the big box store and filled your garage with tables, chairs, coolers, cones, pop-tents, and tape. Being a bit tech savvy, you bought a couple of laptops, paid for a website, purchased the latest timing software, and built a free-ish online registration account. Then you stopped by your local insurance agent and picked up a comfortable policy that will cover just about any issue. You’re excited when the box containing the medals arrives, allowing you to go 3-deep in each of your 15-categories. You are now out about $5,000, but ready to sell out your race and recoup all your costs!
At $40/per rider, you should break even after you get about 125 riders to pre-reg. But you’re sure that your event will bring twice that many by race day! Why? Because you’re awesome or course, and so is your race! Once everyone gets a look at your website and registration listing, you are certain the money will start rolling in. Then registration opens, and no one signs up.

You panic and start sending all sorts of Facebook posts out to all your friends. Maybe that will generate some registrations. But when your online registration closes, only 5 people have pre-registered. And only 30 new racers show up on race day. At the end of the day, you make a total of $1,400. That’s bad. But the park gets 15-percent cut off the top. So minus another $210 for the park. Now you’re at $1,190. You have just worked 120-hours over the past 3-months (all on your free time) planning, clearing trail, marking the course, setting up, running the race, doing results, and tearing down; all for what? For the pain of having to eat a $3,810 loss. That’s a loss of over 75-percent of what you put in (not including all of your “free” labor). For most people, this is where they’re dream of being a race promoter ends.

Reality Check
If this is you, then you understand the hard reality or race promotion. Especially if you fronted all the race startup money yourself. Now you’re left holding the empty bag. Some people cause themselves this pain because they live in a fantasy world of the “reality distortion field”. This is a simple concept to illustrate: You are a racer. You go to plenty of races and see all the other racers. You think to yourself, “Wow, they all paid the same registration fee as me, so this race made a ton of money!” This puts an idea in your head about how much money you could make if you promoted a race too. “How hard could it be?”, you say to yourself. The truth? It’s very hard. You’ve been caught in the same field that distorts reality for many novice race promoters. What you don’t see is that a race is a product. When you are experiencing the finished product — the race you are participating in — it’s the end result of a lot of other factors that took place long before you showed up. The time, effort, and assets that go into building a successful race, are all hidden from you on race day. All you see is a race promoter executing their plan, lots of people having fun, and a bucket of cash at the registration table. When caught in the reality distortion field, all you can think of is, “I can do that too!” You only see the small patch of ice on the surface, with no view of the massive iceberg hiding below. How do you escape from this field and know you really want to take on this challenge?

Follow the Path
Ah, finally! This is the right question to ask yourself before going down the race promoters path. Building a race, and building a race right, are two very different things.
Anyone with a few bucks and some planning can build a race. The so-called fictional person at the beginning of this article isn’t wrong. Most of those things do go into building a race.
However, if you plan on making money and creating value building good races, you will need a much different approach. However, before we get into the heavier stuff, we will start at the beginning (which is always the best place to start) by sharing my core race promotion principles with you. These first three principles — the Core Reckoneering Principles — set the stage for how you should approach any race promotion challenge. Even after your events get established and well attended, these principles will remain true to your continued success. Think of them as rules to how you approach every race you build. Let’s go through them:

Principle #1: Start Small
There is not a single race promoter out there that jumped into racing with a large venue, fat budget, or amazing turnout on day one. All of them — and I mean ALL OF THEM — started out somewhere small. From running a local 5K fun run or organizing group riders to volunteering for someone else’s race or coaching after school, all promoters have some exposure to a small event! Your race promoter’s bio needs this sort of event management origin story too. You need to get you hands dirty early on so that you can see how a race works behind the scenes. I recommend volunteering for an established race promoter. But you can always try running your own mini-event using a local club, or a small group of friends, as your test subjects. The point is to not overwhelm yourself with too many race promotion processes without having experienced the basics in a safe, learning environment. The reason for this is obvious. Small allows you to make mistakes you can recover from. When your event only cost $100 to produce, you can take a $100 loss much easier than a $5,000 one. Small is great for learning because when the numbers are easy to manage and you don’t need to worry about things getting out of hand. Leave the need for professional timers or cash purses for when you are ready.

Principle #2: Stay Simple
You need to quit overthinking everything and just keep it simple. You don’t need food tables at your first race, you don’t need to go 5-deep on awards, and you don’t need 15 categories.
Just make it a simple race. Stick to the areas of the park that everyone enjoys. Downgrade expectations with simple prizes that you can get at the dollar store, or bulk at the big box store.
Your racers will appreciate the award, especially if it’s quirky enough to become a tradition later on (stuffed things are perfect for this). When you get rid of all the distractions, and just create a good backyard race, you begin to build your reputation as a race promoter that can deliver. Additionally, staying simple provides you with an easy-to-manage event that you can keep control of throughout the day. Complexity only complicates your efforts and takes your focus away from what you should be caring about: your customers! Worry about their enjoyment, not your next trick. Staying simple comes complete with the fringe benefit of keeping costs down. If you don’t have a need for including a petting zoo, radio frequency identification capable timing system, or 100 free pizzas, then the savings is all yours.

Principle #3: Show Value
The cost of entry into your race should be equal to the amount of value you are delivering to your customer. If you are putting together a small, simple, backyard race, with the expectation of 30-40 racers showing up, don’t charge them $50/per person. But don’t charge them $5/per person either. You need to carefully understand that although your race holds some level of value for your customer, your time and effort in building that race needs to be considered too. Most racers will pay more than you think, providing that you give them a worthwhile experience in return. This means that you have to give them your best effort based on the kind of race you’ve created.

What does this mean?
Be nice and connect with them by smiling and talking with your racers, even if you don’t want to. Take an active interest in who they are, why they came to your event, and how they did during the race. Be active in their experience by getting to know them as people, not just bib numbers or dollar signs. Part of the job of race promotion is acting as the host by making sure everyone is having a good time. How will you know this if you are distracted or overwhelmed by costs? You will be surprised how important your active interest is to a racers overall experience — especially in a small race. Some racers find the personal touch of the race promoter to be the number one thing that brings them back to you. You show value by learning about the experience you provide your racers. You cannot be a race promoter if you don’t like talking to people, so get out there enjoy what you are building.

Get your FREE 90-Day Roadmap and companion eBook

Speaking of enjoying what you are building, would you like to get a Head Start building better races?
What if you didn’t have to figure out all out all the steps it takes to build just the race part of the business?
What if you could follow a simple map — a roadmap — that showed you what each of the steps… and in what order to take them?
Wouldn’t that free you up for other things?
Couldn’t you then go work on the things you really like to do: like course design?
Or getting out there and selling your race to actual racers?

I’m almost finished writing a short eBook that will help you identify the steps, structure, and timelines you need to create your own off-road racing roadmap. But with it comes a premade, easy-to-follow roadmap that you can use right-out-of-the-box. This eBook — together with the roadmap — will show you the exact path you need to use to build a race in 90 days. 90 days?
Yes, 90 days! This is the minimum amount of time you need to get a small race off the ground. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but if you follow this roadmap, you too can build a race in just twelve short weeks. And it is entirely FREE, just for you and your fellow serious race promoters. Build a race in 90 days with my starter roadmap, and when you’re done, you can use it to build races again, and again, and again.

Are you already ready start building better races? If you are, go to SLASH roadmap and sign up with your email address.

What does that give you? If you sign up this month (Novermber 2016), I will send you my 90-Day Roadmap PDF absolutely free. AND If you request the 90-Day Roadmap this month — the month of November — I will include the 90-Day Roadmap supplemental eBook to you for free too. I still have a few weeks of work to do on this — but by signing up, you get it when it is released — for FREE. That’s a $39 value — just for providing me with your email address.

This offer ends on December 1st, 2016, so go to SLASH roadmap — and sign up today to get your Free roadmap and eBook.

And now you know

Finishing Thoughts
I have been there time and time again, struggling with each of these principles in my own way. One of my first races was way too big, and it devoured me both physically and financially. My next race was much smaller and easier to manage but became overly complex in its execution. Once I figured out how to start small and stay simple, showing value became a natural part of running the race. Have you tried to build something that was too big to manage, or too complex to control? Do you find it difficult to engage with your racers? Reach out to me or comment below. And, as always, if you like what you read here, let me know!

Coming up in next weeks Merchants of Dirt Podcast:
Speaking of big things to manage, money management is always something race promoters struggle with. Do you know how much does the average racing endeavor cost? On the next Merchants of Dirt podcast, I’ll be talking about putting the fun back in race budget fundamentals by teaching you how a race budget works and how to get your race expenses under control.

Call to Action

Thank you so much for listening to Merchants of Dirt Podcast. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to me @MerchantsofDirt on Twitter.

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

Action #1 — Subscribe to the Merchants of Dirt Podcast
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Action #2 — Give me some feedback
Thank you for helping build the Merchants of Dirt community and by telling all your friends. If there is a topic you would like me to cover, please join my Facebook group: Merchants of Dirt Race Promoters Group.

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Thank You for Listening

Now go build better races!

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