Every professional off-road race needs a certain amount of equipment.

When you promote races that take place in remote locations, the equipment you select needs to meet a few requirements before it becomes part of your venue kit.

For starters, any equipment you buy has to meet the following criteria:

  • Need – Do you really need it, or can you do without it for now?
  • Use – Does it solve the problem you need it to solve?
  • Cost – Is it the best product for the price?

Think About What You Need

There are certain items that every race needs.

Then there is the stuff you just want.

Every race promoter should have a computer.

But that computer does not need to be a $3,000 Macbook Pro.

Each one of your product purchase choices should be governed by some strict guidelines that you should set for yourself.

I have come up with three — what I call the Principles of a Profitable Race.

Please feel free to use my principles and adapt them for your own purposes.

Once you have established what your principles will be, you will have to follow them.

To have principles but not the discipline to use them make them useless.

Furthermore, you need to apply them to your business when it comes to calculating what you need versus what you only want to buy.

I have a detailed process for working through the problem of need versus what you want in my article The 5 steps to getting your event under control .

This Need Control Process will help you work through the difficulty associated with getting your race bogged down to cost overages.

Think About How You Will Use It

Once you have a list of products in mind that meet those initial criteria, you then need to make a final decision based on:

  • Rugged – Can it take a hit and remain usable for at least a season?
  • Mobile – Is it compact and light enough to be transported in the vehicles I have?
  • Best of Show – It is the best product to meet the need?

These are the rules you should go through when selecting any equipment for your race.

If a product does not meet any of these three requirements, then you should be hesitant to put it on your needs list.

What are some examples of these choices?

Tables are a need for any race promoter.

However, they are not all created equal.

There are flimsy card tables that come apart when just a little bit of water gets on them.

That would make them not very rugged.

There are steel reinforced tables that schools use in cafeterias.

These tables can survive a nuclear blast making them virtually indestructible.

Yet, they will not fit in any car or SUV you might have to transport them.

Plus, they weigh about 1,000-pounds each and take four people to lift.

That makes them difficult to relocate and the opposite of mobile.

Then there are the plastic folding tables in the middle of this category.

They are light enough for one person to carry.

Check the mobile box.

They are made of thick plastic that can take a beating and have aluminum legs that can hold up roughly 300-pounds.

Check the rugged box.

And most big box stores carry them in an assortment of colors and sizes.

Check the “Best of Show” box.

Now do that with all the other items on your needs list.

Chairs, cargo boxes, pop-up tents, sound equipment, generators, computers — everything you have decided was a need.

The end result should be a list of possible candidates for each need.

Think About What It Will Cost

Now for the fun part for all of us on a limited budget.

It’s time to buy!

This is your chance to save money now by purchasing only the best choice for the things you need.

Right now, your races are going to be the cheapest they will every be to build.

Mainly because what you can’t or won’t buy, you can borrow.

Many clubs and organizations have already gone through the trouble of buying equipment for big events.

Fortunately for you, most of those clubs and organizations only use that equipment 2-3 times a year.

This presents you with an opportunity to become resourceful and start working your network for tables, chairs, pop-up tents, and all sorts of equipment you don’t need to buy.

At least not buy yet.

At some point, you will need to replace all the borrowed equipment with equipment of your own.

But for now, try to work out any deals you can muster with those who have idle equipment sitting in storage.

Maybe even offer to clean up the equipment, dust out the storage room, or even cut their grass.

Whatever it takes to fill out your equipment need without having to make any big purchases right now.

Time To Upgrade

When you have a few races under your belt, it’s time to start thinking about what equipment you can start replacing with better versions.

Your borrowed equipment list should be the first things you replace.

Don’t go on a spending spree unless it involves removing borrowed equipment from your inventory.

When all the borrowed equipment has been replaced, then it is time to start working on replacing your owned equipment.

This is where you can start employing two additions to your purchase criteria:

  • Aesthetics – Does it work with your brand?
  • Quality – Does the more expensive version offer you better results?

When you start thinking about new equipment, and you have the capital to invest in it, you get your first chance to tap into your Want List.

This includes buying equipment that all looks the same.

When you’re an up-and-coming race promoter, chances are there are no two tables, chairs, or tents that look alike.

In fact, I would not be surprised if everything was different colors too.

The capability to start replacing your worn out and borrow equipment gives you a new opportunity to make things start to all look the same.

This could even mean buying everything that is one brand, one color, or one size.

It also gives you a chance to take your gear up a level.

This might be the time to replace the old computer with that $3,000 Macbook Pro.

Or it could be the time to get rid of all those white tables that get dirty by just looking at them funny, and buying those slick black tables that have your logo on them.

This could even be the time you get all your staff and volunteers to wear polo shirts that have your company name on them.

Whatever your plan is, always remember to replace your need equipment first.

The End Result

As your company starts to mature, your style and brand will mature as well.

You should make sure that style and brand are represented in the purchased you make.

Don’t have a new coffee machine at your race if your water coolers all leak.

Don’t buy all Chinese-made gear from Wal-Mart if your brand is Buy American and your main sponsor is REI.

The key is to have principles that you use to dictate your buying decisions.

Uses those principles to decide on what is a need versus a buy.

Replace your needs first.

And always think before you buy.

And now you know.

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!