How so you ask? Well, let me explain. The biggest name in cable news was nothing more than an employee. That’s how. If you are an employee you can be fired. Any time. Any day. For any reason. Period. You will likely have no recourse. And no, unemployment compensation is not a tool, card or a weapon. You need real cards to play in this game. Face cards preferably and at least one ace.
In Bill O’Reilly’s case, however, he had lots of cards, maybe four aces. Maybe even a royal flush to lay down. He has vast financial clout, brand name recognition and multiple sources of income. O’Reilly is a widely recognized news personality, speaker and author. While his reputation is certainly tarnished, he’ll land on his feet. He’ll be ok. He might even recover to new highs, time will tell, he has options.
I have zero idea if Bill O’Reilly is guilty of what has been alleged. I wasn’t there. I have no opinion because I have no first hand insight by which to develop an informed opinion. I spend a lot of time in Aspen Colorado. In the past I’ve had a few occasions to hang out with Lance Armstrong and some other friends. At that time, I had no opinion about the charges of his past cycling doping charges. Again, I wasn’t there. He was always nice to me.
Unlike with Lance, there are no legal charges or suits against O’Reilly, only settlements. There’s always two sides to every story. Big corporations settle allegations all the time. It’s a business decision. It’s way cheaper. Everyone moves on.
But lets face it, Bill was FIRED. Dismissed. Let go. Terminated. I am certain there were serious exit negotiations. I absolutely guarantee there is a mega-severance package and terms. The bottom line, Bill O’Reilly was an employee. This multiple best selling author ultimately had no say in how to write the final chapter in his most important book.
So trainers, listen up, this is critical to your success and future. Whether you like it or not owners are your best friend. Without them you have fewer horses. (<< this is a key sentence) Owners remember the flip side of this coin, you need trainers too, but you hire the trainers and pay the bills. Owners are the bosses. Trainers, you are employees. But trainers, you need to limit your exposure to this equation. Insulate yourself from simply that of an employee. You need to not only be a lynchpin to your owners, you need to be a limited partner and find more independence. You “need to not need them”. I say this respectfully. Let me explain further..
Trainers, get some skin in the game. Yes, yes, yes, I know, you work hard and do have your owner’s best interests at heart. I know you get up early, work seven days a week, lose money, can’t find help, can’t get races to fill, endure shitty backstretch conditions, have a hard time explaining why the jockey you need is NOT the jockey the owner wants…..I get it. This is not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is you can not allow yourself to be a victim of the circumstances.
The greatest compliment ever paid to me in the racing game was when Hall of Fame trainer John Nerud hired me to train a 3rd rate string of castoff Tartan Farms horses. Being hired changed my life in one way. But when he ask me this question, he changed my life in another even more significant way, he ask: “How many horses do you own?” I replied, “I don’t own any.” He straightened his back, raised his eyebrows and responded, “How the hell can you expect an owner to give you horses to train if you don’t know what it’s like to pay a training bill?” This was not only a reality check, it was my wake up call. One of many. From that moment on I figured out a way to own at least a part of one horse in my barn or percentages of several horses and often times I owned 2 or 3 horses outright. I dealt myself cards.
This is called leveling the playing field and leverage. Once you put this dynamic in place the owner/trainer relationship changes – for the good. You are seen as an equal. You gain instantaneous credibility. And here’s the kicker, if an owner fires you, you’re not just an employee. You may have a few empty stalls today but you’re still in the game tomorrow. You can replace that owner. You can sell a horse you own, you can drop one down, steal a purse and if you don’t lose him, repeat. If you do lose him, ok, you raised cash. You have “cards to play” and you control the next chapter in your book.
I’m not saying this is just easy as pie. It’s not. And no you cannot make this happen tomorrow. HOWEVER, you can start figuring out how to get into this position. If you’re a horse trainer, your currency is your horsemanship. Horses are your cash. Acquire an assortment of owners, but not just anyone who comes along. Start picking up a percentage of a horse or two here and there. Own at least one or two completely on your own. You’re an insider for crying out loud! Buy a horse! This new found position will allow you to interview a new owner, not the other way around. Make them feel as though you’re partners fighting for the same success. The needle on their respect meter just cracked the glass. Freedom and standing is a good thing. When you emit this, owners will want you even more.
To be clear, we all answer to someone. CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies answer to the Board of Directors, The Board answers to the shareholders. The mega-wealthy usually create wealth in such a way they have to answer to the public or you woulda never heard of them. If the music stops and the lights go out, be sure to have an answer.
Even though Bill O’Reilly was an employee, he had some high value cards to play. Trainers, deal yourself some cards. If you don’t nobody will. Do not allow yourself to be blindsided or vulnerable. The racetrack is not the corporate world. You will have no severance and little ability to retreat effectively or exit gracefully. Another person in the horse racing world, much more unsung than John Nerud but who none the less had a great impact on me in many ways once told me: “Clint, there is no pressure like financial pressure.” Truer words never spoken.
Personally, I’ve never been a very good employee. But I’ve always been a GREAT partner. Maybe I’ll expand more on this someday…
On one final note. This was a very strange and somewhat sad day. As I write this on April 19th, I’ve learned that trainer Lynn Whiting, jockeys Jimmy Long and Jane Driggers Proctor and owner/breeder Vern Heath all died today. I trained with Lynn in Kentucky. I rode with Jimmy in Chicago. I never met Jane but everyone I knew in the Pacific Northwest spoke highly of her. I trained a number of horses for Vern Heath, we had success. He was a good guy. He treated me like a partner. RIP all.