These are follow-up questions to an article I wrote last week about giving a thirty day notice to a client and how it is inevitable that it will happen the longer you are in the business. They are great questions and every barn owner and manager will deal with many different scenarios and why you would finally give a thirty day notice to a boarder. It is not fun at all but it is a very real part of running a boarding barn and hopefully you don't have to make these very difficult decisions often in your horse business.
The reasons that a barn owner or manager gives a thirty day notice will vary so much. The most common reason (or least what most of us think) is because the boarder is not able to pay the board and has become extremely late and is behind by several months. This was really the only reason I thought I would ever need to give a notice when we first opened. Let me be the first to say I was completely wrong on that thought. After all these years it would be pretty safe to say that this will be the least of your worries. After all these years the issue of non-payment for board has been the least of my reasons for asking someone to leave.
No two situations will ever be the same. A lot will depend on the attitude and response of the person you are talking with. The many reasons you would give a thirty day notice will be entirely up to you but here are some real life examples and scenarios.
Not following the rules-If a boarder cannot follow the rules and continues to do their own thing that goes against barn policy than that is a valid reason to ask someone to leave. Each barn will have their own set of rules and those rules need to be followed.
Drama in the barn-If someone creates drama to the point that it has made the barn atmosphere extremely negative and others are giving you notice because of the drama than that is a valid reason.
Dangerous and extremely aggressive horse-This has happened one time in all my years of boarding horses and it was a very difficult situation because the people were brand new horse owner's and their horse put them and everyone else in a very unsafe situation anytime they came near the horse.
Abusive treatment of a horse-I hope this never happens at your barn but if you feel a trainer or client is being overly harsh and even abusive to a horse, you have every right to talk with them about this situation. You also have the right to put in your barn rules what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to the training and treatment of any horse on your property. Remember that it is your barn!
Stealing-Of course there is always one issue that is pretty black and white. Stealing other people's stuff is a no brainier. There is zero tolerance for stealing.
Always try talking with your boarders first
Giving a thirty day notice is not something that should be taken lightly or rushed into. We all make mistakes and if you give someone a thirty day notice because they make one mistake then you will soon find yourself with an empty barn and your business will probably go under.
If I start to feel that there is a serious problem in the barn then I always try to talk with the boarder first. Usually we can work it out and come to an understanding. I have had to talk with boarders about small issues several times but not once did I think of asking them to leave. That would be crazy. You have to use some common sense when looking at the entire situation. If after a few conversations things don't change than you will need to decide if it is time to take it a step further.
I don't use a three strikes your out rule but I have heard of barns that do. I usually don't need to get to that point but again it depends on the seriousness of the issue.
When you seen a problem coming
Some issues with a client will catch you completely off guard and other issues you will see coming just like a storm brewing. Drama is a good one to use for an example because drama happens in almost every barn if allowed and it can completely ruin the barn atmosphere. If you are a barn owner that is very involved in what is happening in your barn then it will be easy to see the signs of drama coming. They always start out small but will grow fast if they are fed by others. I now believe this is something that we as barn owners really need to keep an eye out for and any small spark needs to be put out as soon as possible. Once a boarder realizes you are not going to tolerate barn drama they will either decide to keep quiet or they will give their notice and move on to a barn where they can have some control in this area.
Can you prevent it?
With any negative behavior in a barn it is up to you to keep an eye on it. Can you prevent it? I don't think you can control what people are going to do but you can control what you will allow at your barn. You are the barn owner and you make the rules and you need to be the one to enforce them. The bottom line is if you run a barn that has rules and they are enforced than you will attract a wonderful group of clients that appreciate how you manage your barn. They will be the type of clients that want rules in a barn and understand the importance of rules to keep a barn running smoothly.
What does your boarding contract say?
First of all I want to stress the importance of having an attorney look over your boarding contract. You can have your contract include the reasons that will terminate the business relationship with a client but it is important to have it written correctly for the state you do business in. You have the right to decide what you want in your boarding contract and it is extremely important to have a section that talks about following all barn rules. My contract does include a section about barn rules and that they need to be followed and a section about late or non-payment of board. I also have a section that talks about the arrival of a horse that is deemed dangerous and what my rights are as the barn owner to ask the client to remove the horse as soon as possible.
The scenarios are endless
The truth is that as a barn owner you are going to come across situations that you never dreamed of and when you think you have seen it all someone will top it. Giving a thirty day notice is really never a black or while decision. You will take each situtation as it comes and you will decide from there how you want to handle it.
The one thing I can predict is that the longer you board horses the less tolerable you will become of bad behavior from a client. The more you grow into a business owner and start running your barn with confidence the more you will be able to see the storm clouds brewing and be able to put a stop to the problem before it ever takes off. When you get to this point and you are in control of your business most of your issues will pretty much disappear to the point that giving a thirty day notice will not happen very often.
Also one more important thing to understand is that how you handled a problem at one time will probably change as you gain more experience. Learn from each situation and grow with all of it. Learn what works and doesn't work and your job will become so much easier the longer you do it. Giving a thirty day notice is never easy but it is a real part of boarding horses. I hope those times are few and far between for you.
Thanks for all the great questions!!