By Andrew Neitlich

Are you riding the right horse?

By Andrew Neitlich

In his book The Power of Simplicity, marketing guru Jack Trout challenges you to ride the right horse. Too many people want to build their own horse, when they can be even more successful (and take less risk) riding somebody else’s.

What does this mean in practical terms?

1. Find a great, growing company. In 1987, my college roommate figured out that it made sense to move to Seattle and work for a company called Microsoft. He’s still there. He picked a great horse.


2. Find a smart leader and follow him or her around. I have spent the last couple of years making lots of money and having fun supporting a seasoned investment banker. He’s a good horse.

3. Find a booming industry.

4. Get more educated.

5. Get linked into a connected crowd. (See two blogs ago, about flow).

If you are not riding a good horse, or if your horse breaks a leg, get off it and find another.

I sense from almost a year of your posts that many of you are trying to make it on your own horse, and not succeeding. You might consider benefitting from riding somebody else’s horse. Others complain about your business partners or company; again, get another horse to ride.

  • as ever – great advice! watch out for those wooden horses though – they might end up taking you for a ride :)

  • Jake

    Ahh, but those wooden ones don’t seem to move either.

  • szazs

    Knowing how to pick a good horse is (almost) as important as learning your craft. I know a thousand excellent designers, programmers etc. that are under-paid, under-appreciated and will be left behind if the horse finally leaves the gate; an iffy proposition at best.

  • But I’ve found that the horse thinks you’re taking him for a ride (ie: you are using him for your own personal use) regardless of how many benefits or experience you can bring or demonstrate to him/her.

    Even if he/she did – there’s no guarantee that the horse will show you all the tricks of the trade.

  • Anonymous

    Great blog as always Andrew.

    I have a question, though, and perhaps you could answer it more fully in a future blog:

    What are the keys to writing a sucessfull case study? What important points should a case study cover and should it contain quotes as testimonials from the actual client the case study is focused on?

    Thankyou for your time.

  • Great advice. Also, ask the horse a lot of questions. Learn as much as you can. That is a great way to get more educated on top of regular means of education such as classes books and mags.

  • It’s not just knowing which horse to ride. A great deal of it is knowing who you are as the one riding it, and that’s not something you can get off the shelf. That’s always an original work.

    Not trusting your instincts can often be as fatal as the “not invented here” syndrome.

    I think the trick is understanding it on an external/internal basis. You can certainly use your environment to your advantage – learn everything you can, follow in big footsteps, etc. But on an internal basis, you should always be following your own vision. The big ones always have; just look at folks like Fred Smith of FedEx, or at Walt Disney.

    Learn the rules, bend when appropriate, be wise but try not to be a follower; give others a reason to follow you instead.

  • melancholic

    Excellent advice…

    I am one of the web developers who are underpaid and under appreciated where I work. Of course I wouldn’t be saying this if I wasn’t running the whole development division…. BY MYSELF!

    Having a conversation with one of the directors whom I work for, I got the impression that they think that they are doing me a favour… using terms like “holding the web division for you”.

    I walked away from that and it was crystal, I went in expecting to help them out and get paid well… but painstakingly learnt that the sales team are geared for more design and print jobs.

    I say “PHP and MySql” they blink, then nod. I do that talking to clients instead…

    It seems to me that we are not doing favours for one another…

    Now it’s more like they’re tying me down and I’m costing them more money being a full time employee…

    I’m on a frickin’ pony… I want a frickin’ Stallion…

  • szazs

    melancholic, only you can change being under-appreciated and under-paid. This doesn’t necessairly mean quitting either. If your employers are “holding the web division” then you may not have convinced them of the division’s worth to them. If they feel they are only “holding” assets, you can believe they will let go of those assets the minute they have the opportunity. This may be a good thing for you. How about asking them for help and support spinning your division off. If you’re the one tech-talking to the customers, you may be more successful doing it as your own company, out-sourced from your original company…don’t laugh. Figuring I had nothing to lose, since I was going to lose my job anyway, I approched the directors and proposed spinning my department off the parent company. There was a collective sigh of relief and, what I thought was surprising, an great deal of support and encouragement to make it happen. The best part was their clients became my clients, except I could handle them in a manner I saw fit i.e. better, more responsive, and much more personally involved. Some of these companies have ceased working with the original company but continue to work with me, a little reward all in it’s own…

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