Part II of my interview with Race178 President and Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Race Director, Eric Lerude.
Starting any business will have its own unique set of challenges. There are many factors that need to be put in place in order to enhance the possibilities for success. One of the most difficult is when there is a requirement for a high volume of customers on day one. That is what Eric Lerude set out to do when he created the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey (RTO), a 178 mile relay race around Reno and Lake Tahoe.
Eric formed Race178 as the overarching business that would put on the RTO and other events. You can read about how the first race came to be by clicking over to part I of my interview. The RTO was born from a desire to showcase the beauty of the Reno-Tahoe area though an experience focused on a healthy lifestyle. Thousands of dollars are infused into the local economy with teams coming from all over the country, and even some from abroad, for the two-day event. In addition, donations are made each year to local charities, including the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation and the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway.
About to enter its 11th year, the RTO will have the self-imposed cap of 250 teams, over 3000 runners, traversing the course. However, not all of the events that Race178 has put on have continued with such success. As Eric puts it, “Life is a journey and you won’t have a straight dotted line to success. Your path has some left and right turns, which can be good things.” By looking at the graph, there have been several races that have come and gone. The Arizona and Southern Odyssey’s were not able to attract a consistent following and were discontinued. Several other races, including a few abroad, were investigated, but there were clear indications that success would be unlikely. With each race and investigation, new lessons were learned and wise business decisions were made in order to prevent overextending Race178.
The success for the first RTO in 2005 was not just something that happened. A tremendous amount of effort was placed on getting the original 36 teams. Eric attended trade shows, went to running stores and applied for grants to help the race become a reality. “You have to put yourself out there and take some chances along the way. Only when you have started going down the path can you see the next opportunity.” Case in point, Eric told me the story of how attending one of those trade shows is where he met his future partner in the American Odyssey, held in Washington D.C.
There were several other valuable lessons Eric shared with me, which are below.
- Trial and error was a big part of starting out.
- Learn from the good ones and the bad ones.
- You have to be authentic and like what you are doing.
- It is all about customer service. Being able to genuinely connect with customers.
- Grow your business in a measured way.
- Deliver on what you know you can deliver.
- Always under promise and over deliver.
- Start simple and add the bells and whistles later.
- Personally respond to emails.
- If there are issues, try to be in the customer solutions business.
- Deliver on the product and have customers make sales for you through social media.
- We haven’t spent much on advertising because word-of-mouth has grown RTO organically.
In today’s world, running events are part of a very competitive industry, with a large amount of 5ks, mud runs, color runs and countless others. Despite this, Eric’s Race178 has created a model that has allowed for great success; focusing on the customer and providing a quality product. Race178 now oversees the two Odyssey runs mentioned above, plus the Leprechaun Run, Reno 10 Miler, Journal Jog and Run with the Girls 5K. Eric has distinguished himself in the running community and the future is wide open for other events that may become part of the fold.
Visit their website to learn more about each event Race178 puts on. And, make sure you put next year’s RTO on your calendar to sign up before it fills up.
Image Credit – Graph created by author