Lessons on large scale events from the mountain biking Farmer Glen.
Over the last 12 years we have gone from a small agency working on bespoke corporate events to being the implementer’s of the biggest horse racing events in Gauteng. Other than a few years of building and running the Magaliesberg Country Classic Festival, we had little knowledge of what it would take to run large scale events.
We’ve had to learn quickly. We have had help – we contacted Tanya Harding who heads up the 947 Cycle Challenge and 702 Walk the Talk and were blown away at how kindly and clearly she talked us through some of the key elements we needed to consider. We still have on our team the Traction guys who ran the Colour Run events around the country and we have learnt by watching the goings on when hosting our clients at the JP Morgan Challenge, the 702 Walk the Talk and similar events.
However, when it comes to innovative event logistics, Farmer Glen down in Natal has worked a special kind of magic into the Sani2Sea MTB race and the other projects he is involved in. Observing him and his teams’ has been invaluable.
Things learnt from Farmer Glen
Logistics. Practise makes perfect.
Farmers know their shit when it comes to logistics and watching the race grow partly because of the carefully worked out logistics plan at the Sani2Sea has been inspirational. Farmer Glen and his team work at a level that is amongst the highest in the world, in my opinion. From my outside position, watching and observing, he seems to do this by getting great people and teams on board and by trusting them to do their thing well. However, I believe another reason for his success is that he has taken time to build these teams and the event. Practising and doing things over and over generally leads to better results and too often new businesses are hampered by the need for instant or rapid growth and results. We have been running racing events for 8 years. We started Equinity 5 years ago. We have made tons of mistakes but we are now on the cusp of seeing all of that hard work pay off. Our teams get better with every event and I believe this will lead to the success we have been planning.
Almost every rider who goes down to ride the Sani2Sea will at some point be aware of the fact that there are up to 4500 riders who enter and ride the race. They will then work out in their heads that 4500 multiplied by whatever the race fee is, works out to a lot of money. However, watching Farmer Glen invest that money into the community and into the race itself meant that I went from being a sceptic about all the money raised to a firm supporter of the project as a whole. Having arrived each year to see a new facility or upgrade has been something which made me proud to be involved in the race and made any monies spent seem completely reasonable. I have no problem with the project or Farmer Glen making a profit and seeing the reinvestment and financial commitment towards the community has turned me into a firm and passionate supporter of the project as a whole. Saying that, that is not the most NB thing I have observed about the race and the money. To do big stuff and make big change and to create great businesses requires investment and while our Equinity team is full of creative, off-the-wall crazy people, we spend many an hour making sure the business is on track to turn a profit. Without that profit and financial growth we cannot effect the massive change we have dreamed of.
Community. Making a difference is possible.
Living in SA we are often reminded of the huge issues that affect the people of this country. Farmer Glen has shown that it is possible to do something and that something may even lead to big change. He seems to be eternally optimistic about the country and its people and with a typical farmers attitude he has little time for moaning and spends his time doing lots of shit.
Passion. The fuel for the fire.
Glen is a guy who seems genuinely pleased to be alive and to do what he does. Make no mistake, over a few very brief chats, it is rapidly evident that he has to deal with tons of kak. Things go wrong. People do stupid things and the elements often seem to conspire to against him but he exudes an energy that expresses that he is doing what he loves and that seems to motivate and energise those around him.
Team. People need to be appreciated.
At almost every opportunity, and when Farmer Glen speaks publicly, he makes a point to express his thanks to the many people who make the race happen. It shows 2 things; big things are not achieved by individuals and people need to know that they are appreciated. When we first started Equinity we believed that we would be this big entity and that we would take our suppliers into another level. The opposite happened – we made hardly any money and our suppliers saved us. They went above and beyond and delivered way more than we could afford. Without them we would have been dead in the water. Turns out we needed them far more than they needed us!
Authenticity. Stick to your beliefs.
Farmer Glen has had to deal with the ubiquitous issues that revolve around sponsors – how do you keep the integrity of your event in place when your sponsor starts to get demanding and how do you deal with that when you need the money badly? Farmer Glen has been firm over the years that every rider at the Sani gets the same experience as every other rider. We eat the same food. We sleep in the same tents and we use the same showers. When sponsors have tried to set up separate areas and VIP accommodation he has been firm that he would rather lose the money than acquiesce. And he has been proven right – the Sani is an experience that every rider enjoys as an equal (when they are off the bike!). This has been something that we have aimed for at Equinity. We do have different areas and different hospitality packages but all the key areas and elements are exactly the same for everyone. The off-the-wall mind blowing stuff and the Reality Racing experience is for everyone and is to be experienced by everyone in the same way. There seems to be a key human element that relates positively to shared experience and we have made that a key component of every Equinity production – we bring together students, artists, execs, racing people and anyone who shares our desire to experience the extraordinary.