Today's post is about some of the signs that you are still running your business like a hobby. I believe many of the things we do when we own a hobby farm get us into trouble when we turn it into a business. Here is a list of some of the problem areas that are hard for many people to transition to.
It is amazing to me how many times I hear about problems at a barn and there is no boarding contract in place to protect both the barn owner or the client. It is such a huge risk and so many people don't take it seriously. It doesn't take much to be sued these days and this is a business step that seems to be difficult for many to take. I know it might seem awkward having your friends (that you have known for years) sign a contract or liability form but you need to get over the awkwardness of it and just do it. You are no longer just a casual horse owner and you need to start acting like a professional in all of it. You will be surprised at how your friends will understand once you explain it to them. Today I encourage you to get the proper paperwork in place.
2. Not following through on late fees for board payments when a board check is late.
This was a very difficult area for me to deal with early on in our business. I had a new building with a huge business mortgage attached to it and I was having an extremely hard time getting a few of my boarders to pay the board by the due date. I couldn't even get them to pay by the end of the grace period. The time would come and go and still no board check but they were out most days riding and enjoying themselves and I was sweating it out trying to pay my bills. The day finally came after a year or so when I said enough is enough. The first time I had to add on a late fee was extremely painful for me and I was so worried that my boarders were going to become upset with me. I even worried they might leave. You know it really never came to any of that. Once I started enforcing the late fee and stayed consistent with it from month to month the checks all started coming in on time and now I rarely have a check that is late. I think the last time I had a late check was over a year ago and the person apologized and added on the late fee.
3. Trying to please everyone no matter the cost.
This is something that most new business owners do and I believe women are extremely good at this. We don't want anyone upset with us and we over read everything and worry is part of our nature for many of us. When you are always trying to please everyone no matter the cost to your business, family or life than you are running your business all on emotion. As a business owner you need to run it like a business and that means there are going to be times when you need to say no and be okay with it. The reality is no matter how hard you try you won't be able to please everyone. I believe if you run your business with great care, honesty and integrity then the majority of your clients will we unbelievably happy with how your run your barn. They will understand when you need to say no for the betterment of the entire barn and they will trust and respect your decisions.
4. Barn rules are for everyone including your friends.
If you are running a business than you need barn rules! Most facilities have barn rules in place and that is the easy part. The hard part is enforcing them when you see one of your friends breaking them. If we are all to be honest, I am sure we have turned and looked another way for a moment as we see something going on that clearly should not be, especially when it is someone that we are close to. It puts us in a very difficult place when we need to remind or correct someone about the barn rules and how they need to be followed by everyone. The thing you need to realize is that your clients will watch how you run your barn and if you allow one person to do something that is against policy then they will wonder why you allow some and not everyone. Let me say right now - IT IS BAD FOR BUSINESS AND YOUR REPUTATION! Don't go there. Even if it is uncomfortable at first, you need to keep the rules the same for all and as times goes by it will get easier to remind and correct people when you need to. This was an extremely tough one for me.
5. Be consistent in your barn chores.
It is good for your clients and great for the horses! When you only had three or four horses to take care of you could be extremely flexible with chores because they only took a short time to do. If you now are running a larger facility and you have clients coming to ride then consistency in chores is something that separates a business apart from the rest. Treat your chore time just like any other job. If you decide that you are going to start chores at 6am then start at 6am everyday.
Remember this is your job now and it is so much easier on everyone including the horses when it is ran consistency. It would be no different then you running to your local tack store to buy something and they weren't open and it was an hour past their standard open business hours. I am sure you would be upset. I know I would be especially if I was on my way to a show and needed something that I was out of. Your boarders deserve to have better. If they know they can depend on when feeding and turnout time is then they can make plans around that if they want. It gives them peace of mind knowing that their horse has had plenty to eat before they come out to ride. The same would be true for the evening chores and I believe it is a healthy and professional way to run a barn and business.
There are many things that go into setting up and starting your horse business. The easy part will be the horses, setting up your paddocks and feeding program and all that goes with it. The horses will definitely be the fun part of the job but in order to keep a business sound and healthy, there needs to be some consistency in how you run your barn. You are going to go through many changes as you grow as a business owner and how you do things on day one will most likely not be the case five years down the road.
Today I encourage you to take it one day at a time and learn from each trial that comes in front of you. Remember, you are no longer a casual horse owner and hobby farm owner. Your are an equine professional and with that comes specific obligations and responsibilities to both your clients and yourself. It truly is the greatest job and it can be for you to. My goal is to help you form a strong foundation for your barn and business and help you make your horse business all that it can be.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! If you are just starting out in your planning stages of your horse business or need some help now that you are in it, I would like to encourage you to check out my two books. My first book, "What it really takes to start and run a horse business" is my families journey of starting our horse boarding business and about learning from our mistakes especially during the first couple of years. My second book, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover," is about the relationship between the barn owner/barn manager and client and how to resolve the issues that will come up when you are running a horse business of any kind. These books will take you deep inside the equine business world and will inspire and give you the tools to get through those tough days and situations. You won't find more honest books out there about running a horse business.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,