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 even be stressful to charge a late fee because 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.
When a pattern needs to be broken
Since a pattern of paying late had been created, I was going to need to change this area of my business and the habits that had been created and allowed. I started with a letter explaining to my boarders that this was my job and this was how we pay our bills and live. I wanted them to see that what I did for a living was no different than what they did when they went to work everyday. Then I explained in the letter that effective immediately I would be charging a late fee with no exceptions. I gave it to each one of my boarders and waited to see what would happen.
The first month rolled around and the invoices went out. Soon I was getting paid by almost everyone but I still had a couple of people that were late with the board payment. I started to sweat because now I was going to have to take the next step and enforce the late fee. The first time I charged the late fee was the most difficult and making the call to my client was excruciating but I did it. The second call was also difficult but the late fees were added and things started to change for me at that moment.
The second month rolled around and again I had a couple of boarders that were late with the board payment. Again I called them both up and told them to include the late fee charge on their check. They did and that was it. After that, I started getting paid on time by everyone. The fear I had inside that people would be angry with me never happened and I never lost a boarder over the late fee charge. Were they happy about the new changes I was enforcing? Probably not but that was okay.
Many years later, I will still every once in a while have a person that is a day late on the board and I will text them and have them add the late fee on. It is kept very simple and direct and I don't make a big deal out of it but I do enforce it. My clients now understand it is not personal, it is business.
The fear in our mind
The fear that you will have clients that will leave if you charge a late fee is something that we create in our minds and it is not reality. The truth is, if a boarder leaves because they were upset over a late fee for a bill they didn't pay on-time then they had other issues to begin with and you need to let them go. You deserve better for the hard work you do seven days a week to take care of their horse and if they leave then it will open up a spot for a wonderful new client to come to your barn.
I guarantee that once you start getting paid on-time each month it is going to change how you feel inside about what you do for your clients and their horses. You will start to feel better about yourself and the services you offer at your barn but most importantly you will start to feel respected. It is all connected and even something as simple as getting paid when the board is due can have a huge affect on you in more ways than one. Take a step of boldness and leadership and charge the late fee if needed and you will quickly realize that this issue will take care of itself and will become non-existent. It is because you have set a standard for which you want to be treated and it will change your business and life in ways you can't imagine.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! If you are just staring out in your planning stages of your horse business or need some help now that you are in it, I encourage you to check out my two books. My first one, "What it really takes to start and run a horse business." is my families journey of staring 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, manager and client and how to resolve the issues that will come up when you are running your business. You won't find more complete and honest barn management books out there and together they compliment each other and give a complete look at running a horse business.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,