Kimberly Janson, CEO and Equestrian, Shares the Common Traits High-Performing Horses and Businesses Share
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In a rich, rare interview, Kimberly Janson of Janson Associates shares life lessons gained from many years invested as a scholar, author, entrepreneur and equestrian. Throughout the course of her career, she discovered many parallels in the training and development it takes to make high performers and leaders out of horses and humans.
Kimberly Janson, CEO and founder of Janson Associates, has invested 25-plus years in earning two master’s degrees and a doctorate in business, working in over 40 countries, and serving in executive positions with H. J. Heinz, Bank of America, Hasbro and Bank of Boston. Her business, Janson Associates, offers a wide range of solutions to help unleash peoples’ talent in themselves and their organizations.
Curious to know how these traits translate into other areas, Mindful Media had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Janson to ask about other aspects of her life. She has many interests, but one she is most passionate about is horses—specifically, show jumping.
She shares her passion with her husband and their two beautiful children, Michael and Hannah. As they followed in their mother’s footsteps, Janson herself coached them as they progressed, and provided them with Olympic-level trainers. They were competing at the highest levels as youths and earning significant winnings, including Michael being named Boston University’s Male Athlete of the Year and Hannah being named Oklahoma State’s Female Athlete of the Year.
Michael, captured below on Caveman Z, is a 27-year-old Grand Prix rider and trainer looking to conquer the horse world, including launching the thriving horse business he and the family are creating at Legacy Farms.
Hannah, now a 24-year-old marketing professional, is looking to conquer the business world as well as contributing in many ways to the family business.
We can’t talk about Legacy Farms or the family without including Dylan Spets. Spets, Michael’s longtime girlfriend of 13 years, is building a successful pony business with Janson. She has earned a doctorate in neuroscience and is a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital where she studies Alzheimer’s disease.
Featured below, Spets is also an accomplished equestrian who competes in show jumping as well as being a pony savant raising a string of sought-after, high-quality winning safe ponies.
Based on decades of experience in working with both horses and businesses, Janson learned there are many parallels that are true in both worlds:
One of the biggest differentiators of success for people is having high learning agility, or the ability to assimilate information quickly and the desire to continue to acquire new ideas. “In the horse world, riders can develop learning agility by watching other successful riders trying new equipment and different exercises,” Janson says. “In the business world, say yes to as many things as you can to help create judgment. Push yourself to have a sharp mind, focus and remain open to new ideas.”
Hard work pays off. It’s easy to be undisciplined, and it is difficult to rally and hold yourself accountable. But, it’s a huge difference maker. Be an early riser—get going in the morning. “In the horse world, do the right things right. Ice your horses after a strenuous ride even if you are tired. Practice specific things to perfect them, and train your brain,” Janson shares. “In the business world, read, practice and be intentional about how you show up. Push yourself to be more. Be vulnerable to learn different ways to be better.”
Wildly successful people have great routines to manage their time. Even if they are less desirable, do important things first. Much can be accomplished between the hours of 4 and 8 a.m. Plan and prioritize. “In the horse world, there is so much to do to have a high-performing operation,” says Janson. “Little details matter. Each day, our horses are fed five times, stalls cleaned four times, and floors swept 30 times to keep the horses clean and healthy. That is all before every horse goes on the treadmill one to two times each day, is groomed, vacuumed, worked, turned out and bathed. To accomplish all of that for 20 horses, efficient processes matter. In the business world, there is a reason why the time management industry is so large—it works! Have specific routines about when you exercise, work, call people and plan. Be vigilant. Have a running list of things you can do at a stop light.
Become good at assessing and diagnosing
Getting to the root cause of something makes a huge difference in solving problems completely. Highly successful people hone their assessing and diagnosing skills. “In the horse world, ask, ‘Why is this horse not jumping correctly,’” Janson says. “You have to check the feed, timing of meds for ulcers, think through training ideas [and] potential problems, and make sure horses are sound and don’t need an injection. Consider the possibility of rider error. Knowing your stuff and diagnosing well will help you win. In the business world, know who is in front of you. What is their style, motivation and the story behind the story? Use your intuition well.”
Surround yourself with top talent
Having the winning team makes a big difference. “In the horse world, having a winning team is essential. Our blacksmith has been with me since I was 10. We have the best vet in the country, have ridden with the world’s best trainers, and find horses who are great athletes in Europe and the U.S. who want to learn and win,” Janson says. “In the business world, it all starts and finishes with top talent. Hire fast, fire faster. This may sound harsh, but don’t be held hostage by talent.”
Set big goals
If you want to achieve big things, you need to do big things. Set big goals. “In the horse world, it always helps when you set goals on what you want to win, where you want to compete and where you want a horse to be at the end of a given year,” says Janson. “Create milestones along the way, and push yourself even when you don’t want to. In the business world, the same applies. Small goals lead to big things. Elevate to force good decision-making to help enable big leaps and bounds towards big achievements. Don’t settle, and don’t think small.”
Clearly, Janson is passionate about both worlds—horses and business. Her new book, Determining Leadership Potential: Powerful Insights to Winning at the Talent Game, is now available for presale. To learn more about this amazing coach who approaches business, family, work and play with so much heart, reach out to her at Janson Associates.
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