You’ve heard the saying before, probably from the moment you were old enough to understand the concept of a work-life balance: “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” On the contrary, for those who fervently live and breathe for what they do, work goes well beyond 9-5.
Passion is the nonstop, circulating drive to do and be better, the bottomless energy drink that pushes you to achieve more and to give more. It’s the extra mile you’re willing to go, not because you have to, but because to do so would inch you closer to achieving that goal.
Passion also comes with a price tag. For some, it can cause imposter syndrome, which can leave you feeling inadequate and undeserving. Passion can also lead to work-life imbalances and the feeling that you’ve never done quite enough.
Those themes were discussed at the inaugural Equestrian Businesswomen Summit, brainchild of Jennifer Wood, CEO of Jennifer Wood Media and co-founder of Jump Media.
Over the course of four panels (Balance, Jobs, Social Media and Building A Successful Equestrian Business) and three guest speakers (Tracey Noonan, Béatrice de Lavalette and Alexa Anthony), the Summit, held Jan. 9, in West Palm Beach, Florida, dissected how to leverage life, business and the pursuit of defining, and refining, success.
• Know Your Brand
In the panel, Building a Successful Equestrian Business, Noel Asmar, CEO of Asmar Equestrian, addressed what she finds to be a common thread between successful entrepreneurs.
“Stay authentic. Don’t be sidelined by all the noise,” Asmar said. “Great entrepreneurs are very in tuned to their sixth sense, and when we lose track of that, because everybody else is telling us what to do, and we think that they know our business better than we do, we start to look like everybody else.”
In order to keep a brand, there needs to be a clear-cut identification on what the brand is and what it offers. Staying authentic to the message is key, though Asmar notes that it’s easy to stray in the beginning.
“I am the brand of whatever I want my brand to be,” said veterinarian Dr. Torri Maxwell, who works at Dechra Veterinary Products. “I own it; I make it; I shape it, and I walk in those shoes. So, I’m good for my word; I’m good for my time. You have to understand who your brand is, because you own that, and that’s what you are selling. You’re selling it to the people that work for you; you’re selling it to the people that consume the goods that you have.”
• Look After Your Image
You don’t go to work in your pajamas (unless you work from home), and you don’t send out a resume laced with spelling errors. Why? Because you want to present yourself in the best way possible. And as Lisa Lourie, owner of Spy Coast Farm, said on the Building a Successful Equestrian Business panel, “It’s hard to build your brand, but it’s real easy to destroy it.”
“All you have in your life is your name and your reputation,” said Donna Barton Brothers, an NBC Sports on-track reporter. “They are the things that only you can control. You can control whether or not your word means something, and you can control your reputation by the way you represent yourself. You have to remember that everywhere you go, there you are. So, one of my favorite sayings in the world is, ‘How you do anything is how you will do everything.’ ”
It’s also important to remember that brand representation can mean different things. For Brothers, that meant dressing on par with the most successful person in her industry. For Bethany Lee, owner of My Equestrian Style and speaker on the Social Media panel, that means paying attention to product detail.
“Being a photographer, content and quality images are so important with social media,” said Lee. “You can have a picture of you riding a horse, or you with [a] product, and if the lighting is bad, if it’s grainy, if it’s not good color quality, people are much less willing to take a look at that, versus if it’s a product with a beautiful white background, nice bright lighting, and it’s clearly a high resolution image.”
• Seek Out Your Tribe
There is no shame in admitting that you can’t do it all. At the summit, the women who shared their success stories reiterated that they did not reach this point alone. From having mentors, good friends and dedicated employees, it’s important to surround yourself with people who not only inspire you but who also make you a better and more productive worker.
“If you can really start to take a hard look at yourself and say, ‘This is my sweet spot,’ then the best thing I can tell you to do is pay a lot of attention to the stuff you don’t know how to do,” said Lisa Roskens, board chairman of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation. “The most important thing you can know is what you don’t know how to do, and then don’t try to do it, go find the best people who can.”
Also important to remember: You’re only as good as the people around you.
“That’s how success comes, with the right people,” said Olympic dressage rider Ashley Holzer. “The wrong people are toxic and need to leave immediately.”
• Advocate For Yourself
When the time comes where you find yourself working beyond your limits, reach out for help. Speak up, show up and be open to receiving critiques you may not know you need.
“Learning not to be afraid to ask was sort of the biggest challenge for me,” said Nicole Lakin, founder of BarnManager. “You have to show people that you’re passionate about what you’re asking for help with, that you’re willing to give anything that they ask of you and respect their time and respect what they’re giving you. But you also have to believe that you’re worthy of their time and what they’re going to give you, or why would they want to be there with you?”
• Find Time To Take Care Of Yourself
Lisa Davis Engel learned the hard way that “time is not your friend.” Engel was juggling being a single mother of four with multiple jobs, but she took a step back to reevaluate after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer at 46. (She’s now in remission.)
“I realized that with everything going on, if I didn’t take time for myself and make some serious healthy life choices, I wasn’t going to have any problem anymore about trying to juggle time because I’d be gone,” said Engel, a writer for Sidelines and president of the multifaceted marketing company A Wynning Advantage.
“So, all of a sudden, I got up a little bit earlier and rather than hitting my emails right away, I worked out; I went to the gym. Instead of just saying I’m going to crash diet in order to fit into that suit, I actually started eating better, and when I went to the grocery store, pick healthier food choices.”