BRIAN MORRISON: How to Balance Being a Business Partner and an Athlete
- 3 March 2020, 11:22
This week in STABLE TALK, we chat with Senior Eventing Athlete, Brian Morrison to find out how he manages his career as an athlete and his highly successful business, Global Event Horses.
Irish Eventing Olympic-squad member, Brian Morrison hails from Mallow in Co. Cork and runs a professional eventing yard with International Horse Dealer and life-long friend, Christopher Hunt. Brian grew up surrounded by horses and ponies, his mother is an avid amateur rider and coach and his two sisters were actively involved in the sport from a young age. However, it wasn’t until age 14 that Brian really developed a keen interest.
“I wasn’t the keenest on horses or horse riding until I was about 14 or 15 – rugby and soccer were what I enjoyed most when I was younger. My sisters were very involved in ponies though when they were young – I am the youngest in the family so basically, I got the benefit of having all their hand-me-down ponies. It was my last year in ponies when things started to get a little more serious, that was my first time to be involved with an Irish team set-up and from then on I dropped all other sports and just focused on the horses because they take so much time.”
Being part of an Irish Championship team spurred on Brian’s enthusiasm for the sport and at age 17 Brian began working for well-known Irish Breeders, Producers and Coaches, Vinny Duffy and Jean Gill of Ireland Horse Sport and Leisure (IHSL). “I spent ten years working with Vinny Duffy and Jean Gill at IHSL where I learned a lot about how to run a successful equine business, then I decided it was time for me to set up my own,” Brian explains.
“It was good timing as a very good friend of mine Christopher Hunt and I had been in talks about going into business together. I’ve known him since I was two or three, we went to playschool and everything together. Chris had been involved in the sales and production side of the industry and had built up a lot of contacts over the years and I had concentrated more on the competition side and had gained a lot of experience competing at national and international shows – we put together a business plan where we could both best utilise our strengths and experience and the business has really grown from there .”
What many people might not know is that during his time working for Vinny Duffy and Jean Gill at IHSL Brian also successfully completed a degree in Business Information Systems (BIS) at University College Cork (UCC). In 2015 Brian and Christopher set up their professional eventing yard, Global Event Horses, in Mount Corbitt, Co. Cork which boasts an indoor arena, a five-furlong hill gallop, a four-furlong round gallop, extensive cross country schooling, turnout, paddocks, two horse walkers and an equine spa.
MANAGING A BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP
Global Event Horse’s aim is to source, produce and sell high-quality event horses for the national and international market – Brian explains how the business is managed: “We have around 40 horses in work year round and we are very lucky to have so many talented riders working for us, they ride a lot of the younger horses, Chris manages the sourcing and sales side of the business and I can concentrate all my efforts then on achieving results and producing the older competition horses for the top level of the sport and this means also working to try and get owners and sponsors involved in the business in order to hold onto the top level horses like Global Orchid and Global Daenerys for Olympic Games and future Championships. By focusing our time and effort this way, Chris and I operate as efficiently as possible.”
Doing what you love and working with a best friend or family member might sound like the ideal work environment, but it can put unwanted strain on relationships – Brian had this advice: “People always say that partnerships are very difficult but it’s been very successful for us, we know each other all our lives and are both very driven towards the same goals. The main advice I could give is to communicate and be organised, when everyone knows what is going on and what is expected of them it makes life much easier.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING A BRAND
“A successful brand will help you attract more customers and build your reputation in the market, you need to develop a brand that people immediately associate with quality, credibility and especially in our industry results.”
Brands are valuable because they convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience. A recent article in Forbes Magazine stated that: “Your ‘brand’ is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your brand offering—both factual and emotional.”
In a relatively small industry, building a strong brand that differentiates you from your competition is very important, as Brian explains: “A successful brand will help you attract more customers and build your reputation in the market, you need to develop a brand that people immediately associate with quality, credibility and especially in our industry results.
“One way we have built our brand is by having all of our horses carry the ‘Global’ prefix for example Global Milchem JJ, Global Orchid, Global Cassero etc. This has been an invaluable tool in building our brand and making the Global brand synonymous with success. Prospective clients recognise where the horse has come from and it’s very simple for them to find us when they are looking for their next top horse. We sell about 90% of our horses abroad so it’s essential that people know who we are, what we do and where we are. We always try to match the right horse and rider and create successful partnerships, where ever our Global horses go in the world they are still a reflection on us as a brand, word of mouth and referrals are a hugely powerful tool in our industry and we put huge emphasis on keeping our clients happy. We always follow the ethos: You are only as good as the last horse you sold.”
HAVE A UNIQUE SELLING POINT
“At Global Event Horses our main focus is to have a selection of potential young horses, quality amateur-friendly horses and International horses for the top level competition market. Everyone comes to Ireland to buy four-year-olds and young horses and yes we supply these to a lot of top riders around the world but where I feel we stand out is people can come to us and try a large selection of proven international horses for both amateurs and professionals from six-year-olds up to top level horses that are qualified for Olympics and Championships. We produce our horses with the future in mind and every year we aim to have horses at the FEI WBFSH World Breeding Eventing Championships for Young Horses at Le Lion D’Angers, Blenheim Horse Trials’ 4* competition for eight and nine-year-olds and Boekelo. Our aim is to produce, compete and sell horses at the standard needed to be competitive at Championships be it future Olympics, Senior, Young Rider, Junior and Amateur Championships. ”