International thoroughbred broker Greg Harbut makes a fortune horsing around

Greg Harbut (Courtesy)
Greg Harbut (Courtesy)

Lexington, Kentucky native Greg Harbut was drawn to the thoroughbred business at a young age. His experience in the industry began during his teenage years when he gained hands-on experience working with horses at Winstar Farm. After two years at Central Carolina College, Harbut was awarded a place in a full-time, two-year, international management training program for potential thoroughbred industry leaders. Harbut accepted a job with the Stallion Company’s American operation as director of International Client Development. During his five years with the Stallion Company, Harbut was responsible for analyzing and predicting the success of individual racehorses and sires, as well as the overall international commercial thoroughbred market.

In 2011, Harbut branched out on his own and formed his own firm, Harbut Bloodstock Agency. Since its inception, the firm has selected 15 G1 winners in the sale/private market for a global consortium of clients since that time.

What inspires you to show up at work every day?
Honestly, it is in my blood. I wake up every day excited to see what has happened around the world, from Kentucky horse sales to some of the top races in Japan and Dubai. It is a sport that has gathered international attention and adoration. So many people have an interest in it, whether it is simply watching the big races each weekend on TV, or attending the Kentucky Derby. I am thankful everyday to be a part of it and to have a seat at the table when it’s time to discus the business aspects. I also have a deep love and respect for horses that was inspired by my grandfather and great grandfather, who paved the way for African Americans like me in the horse business. Their legacy makes me want to work harder everyday to continue in their footsteps.

How did you determine your career path?
I think my career path chose me. Growing up, I had a lot of different interests that could have led me to various careers, but this drew me in. I knew I loved horses and I always admired my family’s legacy. I grew up hearing amazing stories about my great grandfather, Will Harbut, who was the groom for the greatest racehorse in history, Man o’ War. I also knew of my grandfather, who was the manager and advisor for Harry F. Guggenheim. These types of accomplishments were unheard of for people of color in their time. This drew me to the business, and I felt a passion and responsibility to continue the legacy. What many people do not know about me is that I have worked almost every job on a race track or a farm that you can imagine. I was eager to learn and to be exposed, and I was not above any job that taught me something. Many see me on the business side, and do not know about the years where I was very hands on. This is where I learned about the energy and excitement of the horse business, and I have been on this path ever since.

Describe the future skill sets that are essential to future business leader and innovators.
To be successful in any business, you have to have a few very important qualities. You have to love your business and have a passion for it. Skill and education can only take you so far, but the sparkle in someone’s eye for what they do is the magic key. I think you also have to be willing to go places people have never gone before, do things differently than they have always been done, without fear. This is a true innovator and a change-agent. True leaders are always developing, growing, and adapting.

Define innovation methods you apply to your business and life.
I am a life-long learner, and I think this has helped me in my business and personal life. I am naturally curious and I enjoy learning and challenging myself to think outside of the box. I read about two to three hours everyday to make sure I am on top of the latest updates and news in the horse business. This fuels my creativity. I am also not afraid to make changes and adapt to the future. I am always looking for ways to improve, whether it is becoming more active on social media, or connecting with new clients across the world.

Describe goal setting methods you use and how do you evaluate your success.
I am a strong believer in setting long term goals and short term goals. I wake up everyday, read the news, and set my goals for the day. I also believe in writing my goals down on paper. This helps me to stay on task. I also keep detailed notes on what I am working on, which has served me well. There are many times I have gone back to old notes and been able to put together a lucrative business deal.

Who do you consider your peers in your field? How have they supported you? What best practices have they shared?
I have many peers that I collaborate with on a daily basis. Some are horsemen who have come before me, who challenge me to think differently and guide me when I need advice. I have many peers who have been in the business for 40-plus years who have seen it evolve, and understand the history. I have a lot of respect for their guidance and mentorship. Some of my peers are also people who have trained with me in schools and trainings geared towards the thoroughbred business. I also have peers who are jockeys, trainers, and owners. I have been very lucky to have met a lot of great people along the way who I consider my peers.

Name your favorite role models for success in two different industries.
Maynard Jackson has always been a role model of mine because of all he was able to accomplish in the face of adversity. He graduated from Morehouse College at the age of 18, and he redefined the political scene of Atlanta by becoming the first African American mayor of Atlanta by 35. I am also inspired by Muhammad Ali, not only by his legacy as a boxer, but also by his work as a humanitarian. He continues to inspire me and generations to come.

Names three books that changed how you saw life and you recommend to others.
The Art of War, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The Bible.

Life is forever changing and in order to keep up, you have to reinvent yourself and challenge your mind to grow. You have to be willing to absorb new knowledge and old knowledge, in order to figure out who you want to be. In business, you have to continuously work on your craft, and this involves wanting to keep up with the latest information. I pride myself on reading and being up to date in many fields, so that I can be aware. This is why life-long learning is so important to me, personally and in my business.

Describe the voice of success that you hear in your head.
Success to me is leaving a legacy that my family and future children and grandchildren are proud of. This is what drives me. Every day, I am building towards this goal. I was fortunate enough to have had forefathers who paved the way for me and inspired me. I want to do the same.

Community success based on what you do in the community means what to you?
Community success for me is a world where every child has a chance to be healthy and live their dreams. Over the years, I have been active in many community charities or organizations that focus on children. This means a lot to me, as I have a young niece and nephew.

Technology plays what role in your daily life?
Technology is extremely important in my daily life. I spend a lot of time connecting with people and discussing business ventures by phone, email, and text. As mentioned before, I also spend a lot of time reading the latest news, usually on my phone. I recently joined Twitter and I am loving how quickly you get updated with news, and I enjoy the ability to share and connect with my peers across the world.

Define your personal culture.
I think first and foremost, I am a very spiritual person who puts God first in all things. I believe in in the power of prayer and giving thanks for all that I have been blessed with. I have been very blessed and I allow God to guide my steps. I would also say that positivity is very important to my personal culture. I believe that being positive, and speaking positively, makes all the difference in how life treats you. I am also a very social person, and that defines a big piece of who I am. I enjoy being around my family and friends, and believe that brings out the best in me. I believe in treating people with respect in order to gain respect. I believe in the power of knowledge and I am always looking to grow and improve.

How does music impact and influence you?
Music has gotten me through many challenges in my life, whether it has helped me to better understand myself or a situation. When I am relaxing, I am listening to music. I would say I have a very eclectic taste in music. I am big fan of jazz and blues and can be listening to Nina Simone one minute and Kendrick Lamar the next.

Describe your favorite vacation spot.
My favorite vacation spot would be somewhere remote, like a beach or ski resort, where I can enjoy rest and relaxation. These have been some of my favorite vacations spots in the past. I enjoy the water and listening to the sounds of the ocean, I also enjoy being outside and feeling the sun. I like to go places where I can unwind, disconnect from the world, and recharge.

If you could change one thing about the world , what would it be?
If I could change anything about the world, I would target violence and poverty levels.

If you could change one thing about yourself,what would it be?
If I could change one thing about myself, I would probably try to not be so critical of myself. I can be hard on myself because I expect a lot from myself. Because of this, I can forget to stop and enjoy some of the accomplishments that I have been able to achieve. I believe it is important to work hard, but to also stop and acknowledge a goal that has been achieved.

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