Wow, I have to stop and really think about this question for a bit. There is so much good I can remember but if I am to be truly honest there was so much bad in the beginning also. Lets start with the not so good stuff first because I always like to end with something positive.
I was learning everyday how to be a business woman but with that came mistakes and pain along the path. I knew how to take care of the horses but I had no clue how to deal with clients and business issues.
I guess the biggest surprise was the clients and all the special requests. We are in a business that offers a service to people and it can come with many demands and requests. I was not strong enough as a business person to stand my ground on special requests and I did many extra services that I really didn't want to do and I never got paid for them. It was no ones fault but my own and I burned myself out very quickly. I now believe that learning to say no when you need to is a sign of a strong and mature business person. I love to say yes to my clients requests but I have learned to say no and not feel guilty about it.
Learning to say no is a sign of a strong and mature business owner and
it is vital to a healthy horse business.
It is very true when they say time is money and that will apply to your horse business. It is amazing how long you can be in the barn just taking care of all that needs to be done and if you don't put a cap on it or charge for your time, you will soon find out you have no personal or family life. It can be hard on a marriage and you need to protect what is most important. Remember that your family needs to come first and you need to find a healthy balance between running your barn and making time for your family. It took me a long time to learn this.
The good surprise
There are many good things that came out of starting a horse boarding business but for me the biggest surprise was that I did it! My husband and I started a business and we found an inner strength that I didn't know even existed. We didn't quit when things were awful and we grew each and every day through all the trials and errors we had. For me, I grew as a business person and I love the fact that I am still learning every day about horses and people and how we are all connected. I learned that I could handle any situation that was thrown at me and if I didn't like the way I handled it, I would do better the next time it happens. I learned that to create a positive atmosphere at your barn you need to be a good listener and a positive leader. That means making decisions for what is best for the barn and the horses in your care even when it is not a popular decision by some.
For me there are so many good surprises but the best surprise after all these years is that I still love my job and going out to the barn each and every day. I love the horses just as much today as when we first opened. I am definitely where I am supposed to be and that is a great feeling.
If you would like to read about our journey of starting our horse business and what it took to keep it going through our early years, please check out my book, "What it really takes to start and run a horse business." It is the most honest book you will find about starting a horse boarding business. It also includes my boarding contract, barn rules and real life horse barn management.
Thank you for the great question!