Let me first start off by saying that I truly believe most boarders will try their hardest to be great clients. I don't believe most people go to a barn with the intention of making trouble or making others feel uncomfortable. Sometimes it is something that happens slowly and is very suttle and hard to see coming. What can make it more difficult is when you need to finally talk with a good boarder that has no boundaries. That is when your job as the barn owner or manager becomes extremely tough.
Well into the second year of our boarding business and I was definitely learning a lot about running a barn and myself. I was going to learn a hard lesson about boundaries and this time it was coming from a few boarders that had no boundaries.
I wanted to make myself as available to my clients as possible and with many of them I didn't have any issues. I started to get phone calls late into the evening and sometimes as late as eleven o'clock at night. Most of the calls were not emergencies at all and because David and I got up so early to do chores it was becoming very hard on both of us. Some of my clients were becoming too comfortable with me (because I allowed it) and I even had a couple different people that would just walk into my home without knocking. I had clients that were using my equipment without asking first and even though they took good care of it, David felt things started getting out of control. I had one person ride their horse right up to my dining room window while my family was eating dinner and that did not go well with my husband. We were starting to lose our privacy and family time and I had no idea at the time how to fix it. It just happened and no one could have prepared me for it.
Looking back to those early years I was so scared to say anything to these people that crossed the boundary line because I didn't want to hurt them. They were good people but didn't understand that my family needed our own time with our own space. This is extremely hard for anyone that lives on the same property as the business because many of your clients will just assume you are available anytime you are on the property.
Learning to set boundaries for your boarders
Learning to create boundaries for my boarders took a few years to establish with trials and errors along the way. Because I had no boundaries with my clients in the beginning it was extremely hard to reverse it without hurting their feelings. I had given them free reign without realizing it and it went too far. The worse part about the whole situation was as I started to grow and a business woman and set boundaries it offended some people so much they ended up leaving. They took it personally and I learned a tremendous amount about running a business just from those situations.
When I talk to new barn owners now I always try to get them to understand that in the beginning everything is always great. You have a lot of energy and you are so thrilled to have a barn full of happy boarders that you will do anything for them including losing yourself and time with family in the process. You won't see it coming but it just happens and when it does you will start to wonder how it ever got to that point. It is not healthy at all for you, your family or your barn. It will eventually affect how you run your barn and burnout is a huge side affect of it.
Over the years I have learned to run a barn like a business and part of that is being professional. I now believe when you run your barn in a professional manner in all areas, most of your clients will naturally understand where the boundary line is and it is something that you won't have to deal with much. As for the saying, "There is one in every crowd," you will always have a client or two that don't understand boundaries and it will be your job to make it clear. If done in a nice and professional manner most of the times they will understand and get it. The more you do it the easier and more natural it will become. It is no different than any other business that you go into and your boarders will start to see that and respect it.
I am so blessed to have wonderful boarders after all these years that truly understand boundaries and that my family needs our privacy and family time. They also know that if there is an emergency I will be there as fast as I can. It is all part of it and once you hit the sweet spot where you and your clients respect each others space, time and everything else that goes into the relationship between the barn owner/manager/client, then you truly are on your way to healthy horse business.
If you are new to my blog then welcome! If you would like to start making healthy changes in your horse business but not sure where to start, please check out my newest book, The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover." It is the most honest book about barn management out there and it will help you make positive changes in your barn, business and life.
I wish you the very best in your horse business,