Helping you be successful in your barn and business!
I have always considered myself an easy going person, that was until we started our horse boarding business! Now if I have your attention then you have probably said the same thing to yourself a time or two. Running a boarding barn for years now has changed me in many ways but with each passing year I believe it has changed me for the best even if a few previous clients would disagree.
When we first opened our boarding facility years ago I wasn't sure how to set up my board prices for stall and outside board. I am going to honest and tell you that I guesstimated on pretty much all of it in the beginning and my compass was the surrounding boarding barns in the area. NOT A GOOD WAY TO START A BUSINESS! After many years of boarding horses on my property and going through all four seasons, I realize now that I missed a lot of important services that David and I do behind the scenes every day that should have been reflected in my board rate when we first opened.
I now have the privilege of talking with many other barn owners and this is a very common mistake that most new business owners make in the beginning. Then they find themselves scrambling to find extra money to pay their monthly bills and raising the board rate becomes a part of the scenario but it can be bad for business especially if you are brand new. I want to talk a little bit today about some of the things that are often overlooked when setting your board rates.
I am going to come right out and say it-the boarding stable (no matter the size) is greatly undervalued as an important part of the equine industry. I never realized this until the last couple of years when I have had the privilege of talking to many barn owners and managers from all over the country. The sad truth is many barn owners and managers are beaten down and wore out while every other equine professional uses their facility and benefits from the facility. Each equine professional brings something great to your barn but you need to realize that you also bring something great to your barn! Many boarders also unfortunately don't see the value and worth of a well-run boarding stable and what goes on behind the scenes every day. I am not saying that equine professionals and boarders have been the cause for this burnout in boarding stables. I am saying that for too long barn owners and managers have allowed themselves to get to this point of burnout and they don't see their worth in what they do seven days a week for the horses they care for. There are many reasons for this and it comes from many different sources.
I want to address the importance of the boarding stable and how it affects and even promotes other equine businesses to be successful. No matter the size boarding stables are vital to the equine industry and without them the rest of the industry would wither and be in a very poor financial condition. Now if that sounds like a bold statement then keep reading because I have a lot to say about this subject.
What do you do when your clients don't have boundaries and you are losing your privacy? If you are boarding horses and you live on the same property then you might be in for an awakening when it comes to boundaries and your clients. Running a boarding business will come with its own unique challenges.
Let me first start off by saying that I truly believe most boarders will 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 subtle and hard to recognize. What can make it more difficult is when you need to finally talk with a person that has no boundaries. That is when your job as the barn owner or manager becomes extremely tough.
I believe boundaries come in many different forms and it could be the barn owner crossing the line just as easily as the client. As our new boarding business was underway and full of life, I was beginning to learn so much about running my barn and much of it had to do with the relationship with my boarders. I had never given it any thought before to the different kinds of people who would become my clients. Some were extremely social and wanted to be involved with everything and everyone and others really just wanted to come out to see their horse and ride quietly by themselves. I wish I could say I was smarter back then but I wasn't. Looking back I crossed the boundary line many times before I finally got it.
This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart because I had no clue in the beginning how not having boundaries in my business could actually hurt my business. I now realize that many people that open a horse boarding facility or any kind of equine business have not learned the importance of boundaries. It took me years to really figure it out and I am still learning at times. It is definitely a journey we take as we grow as business owners.
When we first opened Vinland Stables years ago I was so excited about every part of it. I instantly loved taking care of all the horses but I also enjoyed getting to know all my new boarders. We have a multi-discipline barn and with that came many different breeds and my boarders were every age from young kids to retired people. Things seemed great at first.
This morning the clouds opened up and the rain came down on our farm. In a very short time we had almost three inches of rain and I was again relieved that the drainage ditch, culverts and the large number of drain tiles we put in many years ago did what they were supposed to do. Our paddocks were temporarily flooded but our barn and indoor arena was very dry and the horses were cozy in their stalls. If you have a barn or stable and have dealt with huge rainstorms then you know exactly what I am talking about. It is a relief when all your hard work has paid off during the times of severe weather and heavy rains.
This is something I must admit I never gave any thought to before we built our boarding barn years ago. I should have because I have personally experienced the stress of having to move my horse and evacuate during flooding rains back in the 1970's in the San Fernando Valley in California. It is something you never forget.
Charging a late fee is something that many boarding barns put in their contract but it is something that many barn owners have a difficult time enforcing. It is not fun at all to have to call or email your clients and remind them that the board is late. It can be very stressful to charge a late fee for one reason...We worry that our clients are going to become very upset with us and even worse they might leave our barn. If you are a barn owner then you know exactly what I am talking about. It is a very real fear that many barn owners have felt at one time or another.
I had boarders early on in my business that were constantly late and it didn't seem to bother them. My board was due on the first of the month with a grace period of five days. It would at times be the tenth of the month before I was paid by some clients. They would come and ride and I would see them daily and they didn't have a care in the world but I was sweating to pay my bills on time. I would walk up to my house and become upset and stressed but the only one that was upset was me. I started to realize that the problem was with me and how I was running this part of my business. I was allowing my boarders to pay late and I needed to start looking at my job as a real job with a real paycheck.
Thinking about starting a horse boarding business? Have you asked yourself the big question...Am I crazy? If you haven't asked yourself that question then you probably haven't told many people about your dream.
I can remember very early on when David and I decided to build our barn and indoor arena. I had talked to a couple of people about starting a horse boarding operation and I remember one friend of mine asking me if we had lost our minds! She smiled when she blurted out those words and I laughed. I didn't get what she was trying to tell me at that time. It wasn't until a couple of years later that I finally understood what she was saying to me.
Once your barn is established and you have a clear understanding of how you want to run it, your job will become so much easier. You will know what works and doesn't work for your barn and the trials and mistakes will become fewer. But as in life there are always a few bumps in the road to keep us on our toes. When clients come to your barn with their horses many of them will be thrilled to be there. Some of them will come from poorly run facilities where the care was not good. Others will come because your barn offers the perfect atmosphere and amenities for them. Even if you are extremely detailed in how you do things at your barn and the boarder is in total agreement, you will have a few clients that will change over time as they grow as equestrians. What they wanted for their horse may have been fine in the beginning but sometimes that changes and it will catch you off guard. At least it did for me at first.