After we built our barn and were open for boarding I became a businesswoman overnight. With that came the chores and taking care of the horses and also the promotion and advertising of our place. Now that our sole income was coming from our horse boarding and we had a huge business mortgage to pay I started to feel the pressure to make sure we were full and that we had the best amenities that we could offer. I started comparing our facility to others and what they offered. I quickly became insecure in what our barn offered and I started feeling like everyone else's place was far better than ours. The pressure to build more was mounting up inside of me and I started putting that pressure on my husband.
The perfect barn via the website
The other thing I would do often when we were a very young and growing was to look at other barn websites and see what they offer for services. It was amazing to me what barns offered as part of the board and each place had their own way of advertising to make their business stand out. I read one website that offered in their board, "Inspection of every horse when they are being walked outside in the morning and walked back in at dinner time." It was smart marketing and then I realized that I do the same thing here at our barn daily. I just didn't advertise it the way this other place did. I would become so intimidated in those early years and feel like we could never keep up. I was missing the big picture and I had a lot to learn about what made a business successful.
I finally get it!
Years later I finally get it! It doesn't matter how big your place is or what you offer for amenities. If you run an honest place where the care of the horse is first and you do the things you say you are going to do then the right clients will find you and they will stay. There are people out there that are looking for a smaller place and prefer a quieter atmosphere. They don't need a jump course or five outdoor arenas. They are content to spend time riding and enjoying their horse and your place will be perfect for them. There are also people who love a larger facility with lots of activity and many options for riding and if you own a large barn then you will find your clientele also.
The one thing I have learned over the years is that there are plenty of people who own horses and your place no matter the size will be perfect for many of them. They just need to find you. If you are small then advertise all the advantages of a nice quiet place and the individual care that goes with a smaller barn. Smaller barns have so many great advantages but many times the barn owner doesn't realize it because they are stuck. They can't get past what they don't have. Comparing your barn to others is a fast way to cripple your self-confidence and even your business if you allow it. We make our worst decisions when we are trying to keep up with everyone else.
Comparing your barn to others is a fast way to cripple your self-confidence and even your business if you allow it. We make our worst decisions when we are trying to keep up with everyone else.
Remember that there is always going to be a fancier barn with more amenities no matter what size your place is. There is always going to be a place that seems perfect on the outside but the size of the building is not what makes a barn great or successful. It is the people inside and the people running the barn that make the difference and set the barn apart. When it comes down to it, all anyone really wants is a place where their horse will be taken care of and they don't have to worry. You could have the nicest barn in your area with all the amenities imaginable but if the care is terrible and horses seem stressed then all those other things don't matter at all.
There are many different types of riders and disciplines and you will find the right boarders for your place. Our place is very big and we have a busy barn. There are many people who love the busyness of our facility. We have also had people come to our barn and leave a few months later because our place was too big and too busy for them. They didn't like to ride with too many other people in the arena. I totally respect that and even though I was disappointed that they left, I was happy that they found the right place for their needs.
I encourage you today to start thinking about all the wonderful things your place offers and stop comparing your place to other barns. Take what you have and go with it. If you can add things on later, that is great. Just don't do what I did early on when I put pressure on myself and everyone around me to have it all at once. I am so glad those days are long behind me. I am so much happier now and you will be too.
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 one, "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. You won't find more complete or honest books about running a horse business.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,