What happens when you become the barn owner of a boarding facility? You either have the choice to brush off the fears of your clients and not think about it again or you can try your hardest to find out what is the source of the fear and work on a way to build trust. Without trust from your clients your job will be ten times harder and the relationship will always fall short of what if could be. Fear will show itself through strong opinions or actions that go against your barn rules.
First of all I want to be very clear and say that you should never be treated disrespectfully and walked all over by a client. What I want you to understand is that many times a client might be a nice person but because of some past experiences, they are having a difficult time trusting again. Fear will show itself in many ways but one of the most common ways it comes out is in strong opinions from your client. I have learned over the years that when I talk with a new boarder and they are intense and have very strong opinions, most of the time they are reacting to past bad experiences. After they have been at my barn for a couple of months and they start to see that their horse is getting enough to eat and great care, they become a whole new person that becomes so much more relaxed and easy to be around. Fear will also show itself through many actions. Grabbing more hay because they are worried their horse is not getting fed enough is a huge one. Micromanaging the way you do things as the barn manager is another big one. Many times a person that is not very knowledgeable in horse care or behavior will have many fears because they are not familiar with what is normal or not.
Sometimes we miss the opportunity to really get to know the person inside because we never get past the initial personality we see when they first move their horse to our barn. If you take the time to really reassure them along the way, you will form a business relationship with them that is built on trust and respect and they will stay and be a devoted boarder. That to me is what a successful boarding business looks like.
The reality of a difficult boarder
The reality is that once in a while a boarder is just difficult because that is their personality and you can't change that. They will never be happy wherever they go and you will need to decide when enough is enough. You will come to a point in your career when you realize that it is just not worth the stress especially when you feel like you are being watched each and every day. That is when it is time to tell them that your barn is probably not the right barn for them and wish them the best. Remember that this is your home and you are there all day long each and every day of the year. You won't have to option to leave your job and go home every night or for the weekend like most people. This is where you are going to grow as a barn owner and manager and it will get easier the longer you run your business. You will become very good at reading people who come to your barn for tours and you will realize your worth in what you do for the horses in your care.
If you want a barn with low turnover and the most devoted boarders around, take the time to really get to know them. Try to find out what their fears are and give them time to adjust. If you put the extra time and effort into your business relationship with them it will pay off. If you want to set your barn apart and have a clientele that stays and is truly happy then I encourage you to do some of these things. It will transform your barn in so many ways and your business will grow.
"As the barn owner, it is your responsibility to set the tone for your barn and create an atmosphere built on trust and respect."
The barn meeting - it is your responsiblity
One more thought-Your clients will talk with each other and if you feel like your barn is out of control then take the time to have a barn meeting and really open up with your boarders and answer the questions they have. We have had a couple of barn meetings over the years and it has helped tremendously especially during majors changes at our barn. As the barn owner it is your responsibility to set tone for your barn and create an atmosphere built on trust and respect. It might take time but it can happen and when it does you will notice the positive changes in your barn immediately. Then you will know you are on your way to a very successful horse business.
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. Together these books will give you a complete and very real look at horse barn management. You won't find more honest books out there about running a horse business.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,