When we opened our barn years ago I wanted it to be perfect. We built a 25,000 square foot building with a 80 x 200 indoor arena and I thought it was as close to perfect as we could get. Soon after the horses and people came and our barn was open and busier than ever. On the outside it looked like we were a total success but on the inside we had many problems.
Soon after I began to learn a hard lesson about business and about people. No matter how hard you try to make things perfect they are not going to be and some of your clients will not be willing to wait for you to correct the problems that arise. We had a great building and our boarders seemed happy at the beginning but soon I started hearing complaints about this and that and we were having many issues that I was not prepared for. What seemed perfect in the beginning clearly changed.
All new businesses will have many things to work out in the early years
Because our business was brand new we still had many things to work out. Our first large purchase of hay turned out to be moldy and the seller would not return my phone calls. The hay was unusable and we had to throw a ton of it out. The weather had turned cold and rainy and our paddocks became complete mud overnight and that was upsetting to everyone. Because we were a multi-discipline barn we had issues with all the different riding styles early on and people learning to share and get along. Herd management was much more difficult than I expected when trying to put together forty horses into small herds and not knowing any of them. These were just a few of the issues that we had right at the start.
Over the years David and I have taken each situation that has been thrown at us and worked through it one issue at a time. Through all those adjustments we lost many boarders during those early years and the stress of filling our stalls was great. I would sit up in my house and wonder why people would leave so fast and what I could do to make our place better. I pressured my husband to build a larger outdoor arena and put up a round pen thinking that would keep people. I thought our barn was perfect but clearly our clients didn’t. I was missing the big picture.
Years later I finally get it!!!
You can create the perfect barn in your mind and offer everything under the sun but that is not what makes a perfect barn. You need to be ready and not take it personally because boarders are going to leave especially if you are a brand new place and are going through changes which will happen with a young business. We had a high turnover in our first three years because we were changing things all the time. I was trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t and that is pretty normal for a new business. Many clients are not willing to ride the changes out and you need to understand this and be okay with it.
You are going to go through many issues especially in the beginning and really there is no way to avoid it. All business owners go through this and some more than others. How you handle all the issues that come up will determine how your clients react. They are going to watch how you fix each problem that happens at your barn and they will decide from there if they want to stick it out until you work out all the kinks that are part of a new business. If I can give any advice it would be to take it one day at a time and one issue at a time and be honest with your boarders. Keep them posted on what is going on and you might be surprised at how they will support you and stick it out as long as they know you are doing something positive to correct the issue. Keep the communication open with them.
What makes a great barn is not the building itself. It is the people who run the barn that will make the difference.
Your facility will bring the boarders in but you will be the reason they stay.
Are horse owners still looking for the perfect barn? Sure they are. We all are but now I realize it is not just about the amenities a barn offers. It is so much more. Our barn is far from perfect but my clients know we try our hardest to keep the horses safe, healthy and happy. When you get to that point in your business when your clients except your barn just the way it is and trust you completely than you have created a near perfect barn atmosphere. They know their horse is safe and they can rest easy and you know that they will understand when there are bumps in the road (which there will be) and they are patient while you fix the problems. It’s not about the barn. It’s about the people who make it a great barn. When you run a barn with honesty and integrity than your barn will bring in clients that want that type of atmosphere and they won’t settle for anything less.
Our barn is not a perfect barn but we sure try and our boarders know this and believe in us. That to me is as close to perfect as you can get.
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,