Do you want to see something funny? Want to see a race promoter look really uncomfortable? Ask them about profit. Better yet, ask them if they are making a profit, or if they think that generating a profit is a measure of their success. Heck, ask them if their last race made any money.

It’s funny that any talk about money will cause the average race promoter to break into a fit of “em’s” and “ah’s” that would make a public speaker with a broken teleprompter proud. Why do race promoters have such a hard time with the topic of money?

The short answer? Someone once told them that making a profit was evil.

“They shouldn’t be able to make money promoting races. They charge too much as it is!”

“They should build races for the love of the sport, not to make a profit off the backs of poor racers.”

And there is it. Greedy promoters. Poor racers. The age old argument that racers have no money, and promoters charge too much.

Race promoters are not allowed to be happy about making money on a race. They think if someone sees them happy, a flash mob will form and burn them at the stake, just behind their hand-built, five-place podium.

The terror is real. Promoters actually feel that any talk of money is akin to bragging. They are actually afraid to think about making a profit, and terrified to let racers know they have.

So let’s end these myth right now!

Myth #1 – Profit is not my only barometer to success

Ok. It may not be the only one, but it is the only measurable one that matters.

Racers pay you for a product (e.g. your race). If that product sucked, they would ask for that money back. If they had a bad experience, they would not pay for your product again. If you think about it, having racers show up to race, or show up again and again to race, is their way of telling you that your race was a success. Otherwise, they wouldn’t come if your race sucked. Period.

Sure, there are few out there that do that “but it’s the only race near me” dance. So what. Racers will drive 3-4 hours for a race that doesn’t suck. How many of THOSE did you have show up? If the answer is more than 10 (totally made up number, but you get my point) then you are experiencing a success.

It might feel weird to you to think of the extra money you made (e.g. your profit) as a sure sign of success, but it is. Look at it. Smile while you’re looking at it. This doesn’t mean you’re going to go swimming in your money vault later after you kick a hobo, it just means you have now have a new TOOL to use to grow your race business.

And that sounds like success to me.

Myth #2 – I am betraying my beliefs if I focus only on making money

Hold on one minute. Obviously your beliefs, your mission, and your desire to impact racer’s lives is important! It’s your primary focus and your reason for getting up in the morning and building all this race stuff.

These are all important to your self worth. So don’t stop thinking about that.

Your business has goals, and you need to stay true to those goals. And if making a profit was the only thing you focused on, you might think you were not staying true to your beliefs.

But you also need to admit that you have to make some money to stay in business. You need to feed your family (or yourself), you need to keep that business you believe so strongly in open, and you can’t do any of that if you’re running a charity. Not unless you have a second job. Because the grocery store does not take used bib numbers as currency.

You don’t have to fixated on it like the One Ring of Power (my precious!), but you do need to make it one of your strategic goals.

Let me say that again. You NEED to make making a profit a strategic goal.

Why? Because just about every race promoter that had plenty of races that were fun and successful, but didn’t make a profit, either had a second job, was receiving a retirement check, or is out of business.

If you find yourself believing that making a difference doesn’t always make money, that’s ok. Just understand that if you’re always making a difference, but not making any money doing it, you’re not running a business, you’re enjoying a hobby.

Let that one sink in for a minute…

Myth #3 – Racers are poor, defenseless customers, that are being taken by greedy promoters that charge way to much

This is a common topic on many of the bike racing blogs and forums. Big, bad race promoters are always trying to stick to the little guy with their endless, greedy thirst for ever higher registration fees. They say the greed is so bad that it’s literally “hurting the racing community”.

Really? REALLY? Let’s break this one down by the numbers, shall we.

The typical mountain bike racer has two mountain bikes in their house (one 29-inch hardtail single speed, and one 29-inch full-suspension super bike). Each of those bike’s is between $1,000-$5,000 each. Then comes the helmets, gloves, shoes, pedals, sunglasses, designer water-bottles, and color-coordinated, pro-cut race kit. Bib tops, not shorts, because that’s how they roll.

Add in a Garmin, space watch, Strava app ready iPhone 6 or Samsung S7 smart phone, and even a heart-rate monitor. Chances are their Mom didn’t drop them off at the race. No, they showed up in their own car. A car they paid for with their own 9-to-5 job that provides enough $$$ salary to buy all of the above (and then some) outdoor recreational equipment.

Now this doesn’t include chews, and goos, and special drink powder. It also doesn’t include bike upgrades, new tubeless tires, and those nice race wheels — you know, the one’s with the matching red trim? Yeah! Special order from Germany, baby!

Don’t jump ahead of me, but you can probably see where I am going. Let’s continue!

You take all that gear, combine it with all the times they went riding, drove to other trails, and everything else that goes with preparing for race day, and you can start to see just how much money goes into become an amateur mountain bike racer. And if they’re Pro guys? Or even better — Masters? You don’t have that kind of time. And don’t get me started on sponsors and free bikes.

Then you have your friendly neighborhood race promoter. This guy or gal has just spent the last 3-months dealing with property managers to get all the permits in place, designing a course, setting up the venue, and advertising the heck out of a race that may or may not have a large turnout. They have found all the volunteers, providing refreshments, maybe added music, marked all the bad spots with tape, have emergency medical standing by, purchased a good insurance policy, and thought to get timing squared away.

They haven’t slept in days, they were at the park a day before any racers showed up, set everything up in the dark on race day, and will be their cleaning up long after those racers are gone. All planned and built on their off time, weekends, and holidays in-between going to their 9-to-5 day job too. Geesh… deep breath!

And then it happens.

“$40.00?? For a mountain bike race?? What a rip off! You race promoters are greedy bastards!”

Still think they’re poor? For some odd reason, there are mountain bike racers out their that get a paycheck for doing their job, but do not deem the race promoter worthy enough to deserve theirs too. And if they — God forbid — make money on a race, they are the living embodiment of evil itself!

Enough! It is time to take a stand! Now is not the time to wimp out. Chin out. Back straight.

Say it with me: “Racers are not poor!”

Ahh… didn’t that feel great?

Be proud of what you built and that it makes money. If you create a good product that gives someone equal value for their dollar (e.g. a great experience, changes a life, makes someone more active, creates a cultural event, was just good ol’ fun), do not be ashamed for asking them to pay a fare price for it.

Let the one’s that complain, complain. There is nothing you can do about them anyway.

Like the saying goes, “You can only please 50-percent of the people, 50-percent of the time.” So focus on the racers that appreciate your work. Ignore those that just want to complain. They’re not broke, at least not where money is concerned.

As a race promoter, you should be happy about making money on a race. It will keep your racing business alive, it will help you make a living for yourself, your family, and maybe one day a staff of employees.

You can stay true to your beliefs while also making money. If you think about it, staying in business is the only way for you to impact as many lives as possible. If you go out of business, you will lose that platform.

So make sure that making a profit is just as important to your business, as the reason why you build races in the first place.

Posted by Kyle Bondo

Kyle started Reckoneer with the simple mission of helping those who want to become race directors and learn the mechanics of outdoor recreation engineering. Kyle demystifies outdoor racing with over 20 years of endurance and outdoor industry business knowledge. Combined with his top-rated podcast Merchants of Dirt, dozens of articles, lessons, and infographics, Kyle has made Reckoneer the premier educator in outdoor event management. Build better races today!