When we opened our boarding facility many years ago I was not prepared for all the special requests we would get. Before I knew it I was doing all kinds of extra services at our boarding barn and with forty horses in my care it was adding up very fast. I realized quickly it was taking up much of my time and even at times putting me behind on other chores.
In the beginning I didn't pay too much attention to how other barns handled special services and requests. I finally started looking at how other boarding barns did things when it came to extra services and I needed to decide what I was going to do at our barn. This put me in a terribly awkward position because we were brand new at the time and I didn't start off with extra charges for extra services. I was not prepared for this part of owning a business and I was about to learn a few tough lessons on what it takes to start and run a horse boarding operation.
Some services need a price tag
I found out very fast during the first year of business that putting on and taking off blankets is very time consuming and whether you have five horses or forty horses that need blankets put on, you have just added a ton of extra work and time to your day. This was a service we decided to charge for. I also added to the list a holding fee for the farrier if I needed to be out there because the owner couldn't be. I don't charge for simple medicating in the morning or afternoon but if I need to do any medicating during the day then I charge. Other services we would charge for were a walking fee, hosing fee, bandaging fee and private turnout. When I was done writing up my list for the boarders, it really was not that long.
You are going to always have your standard special requests for services but I guarantee there are going to be requests that will not be on your list of services provided. Even after many years we still get asked to do special things for a boarder and for the care of a horse and that is when I look at each request on an individual basis and charge accordingly. Most importantly sometimes the money is not worth it and that is when I have to let our boarder know that we don't offer that service at our barn. It took me many years to be able to say those little words but once I did, it changed my life and the way I run our business.
Don't run your business on emotion
Looking back I really was running a business purely on emotion the first year or two which is very dangerous. I was always is a state of worry wondering what our new boarders were thinking and how much they would take as far as changes at our barn. You make poor decisions when it is only on emotion. I was learning everyday on the job how to be a business owner and it was tough most of the time. We did have quite a few people leave over the first couple of years because of all the changes we were making and I had to deal with it and move on. I now can understand years why they may have been annoyed or dissapointed at all the changes because that is not what we offered when we first opened. We made promises we couldn't keep. It was painful to watch horses leave but again we were so blessed to have wonderful new horses to fill the stalls.
It may sound harsh but the truth is time is money when you own a business
One of the biggest things I had never realized before was how long everything takes with a large boarding barn and any added chore or service can really make it a long day. Because we didn't have employees at all we needed to do all those extra services and now I know the saying is true, time is money in the business world. To some people it might sound harsh but you also can't be out in the barn twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes it is hard for people to understand that.
Over the years I have modified our "extra charges for service" price sheet a few times. During the early years our list of services we charged for became very long as unexpected situations came up. It is always changing and you have to be willing to change with it. Your fees for services will grow during the early part of your business and then as you get into a solid routine you will most likely find yourself shortening it a bit. I believe this happens to many new business owners. I have learned now it never stays completely the same and change is a good thing as your business grows and evolves.
You can't please everyone and that's okay
One of the most important things you need to remember in business is the fact you can't please everyone. If a boarder doesn't like the charges, be prepared because they might let you know it and it is okay. Let them share how they feel but in the end you need to do what is best for you and your business and if you are exhausted or miss an appointment you might have had because you have been walking a horse for two hours then you should be compensated for it. If you want to do that service for no charge that is completely up to you. Remember that if you offer services for free then you will be asked to do many extra things. If you charge for the services then you will be asked a lot less and make money for the services you do. You have the wonderful choice to design your horse business any way you like. Just don't let it burn you out like it almost did me. It's your business and running it like a business will keep you in control of your time and life.
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. I believe this book is vital to the success of any horse business because working with clients will be the most challenging part of your job. These two books together give you a complete look at horse barn management.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,