I know I have written about business owner burn out before but I strongly believe this topic is so important because it affects so many people in the horse industry. Every single person that gets into the horse business to begin with all have one thing in common. The love of horses and the dream of making a living working with these amazing animals. How do you avoid burn out in your horse business and why do so many go through it?
Learning to say "No"
Another huge reason that people burn out in their horse business is because they have not learned to say "No" when needed. Yes it is a service orientated business but there comes a time when you need to say no and it's going to be fine. Most of the time your clients won't leave and they will be okay with your decision. I know this directly from personal experience. When we opened our barn I wanted to make sure my boarders were completely happy and I bent over backwards to do what ever I could to make things perfect. I said yes to everything and in many ways it created more work for my husband David. Every time I said yes, my husband wanted me to say no and it caused issues for us in the beginning. He was looking at every yes I gave from a work standpoint and I was looking at every yes from an emotional standpoint. It started to put a huge amount of added stress of us and our marriage. One of the quickest ways to burn yourself out is to say yes when you really should have said no. I want to encourage you not to go there. A true sign that your growing as a business person is the ability to say no when needed and not feel guilty about it.
One of the quickest ways to burn yourself out is to say yes when you really should have said no.
Learning to set boundaries
Learning to set healthy boundaries between you and your boarders is something that I believe all of us mess up with in the beginning. I sure did. The boundaries become lost in the relationships and then when something happens to the horse or a change in policy has been made, then there are hurt feelings and usually the closest of clients are the ones that get hurt the most or take it the most personal. Sometimes they can't understand why you did this to them because of your relationship. It becomes very personal to some even if it had nothing to do with them to begin with. The view becomes skewed and confusion becomes part of it. It can be hard to recover from this kind of situation when the barn owner/client relationship has been compromised. I also believe women struggle with this problem more because we love having close relationships and sometimes we don't see what could go wrong when there are changes in the business or issues with a clients horse.
I have talked with a few barn owners who were hurt because of something one of their good friends (who happens to be a boarder) did and now trying to talk about it is even more difficult because of the close relationship. Talk about uncomfortable but it happens more often than you would believe. This type of issue is hard on your business and can cost you income when the relationship turns sour. Learning to find a balance between friendships and boundaries takes time and experience. How you view things are going to change the longer you run your barn.
Stop and take a breath
The first few years of running your horse business will be the most challenging but if you are starting to feel burned out and are regretting the business all together than I want to you stop and take a breath. It means it is time for you to re-evaluate how you are doing things at your barn. There were many times in our early years where we started to wonder if we had made a huge mistake with building our barn and opening our boarding business. David and I couldn't see any relief in sight and the work was never ending. Now looking back I made the job so much harder because of my poor business skills and not really knowing what I was doing as a barn owner and business woman. I didn't have anyone to turn to back then and there weren't any books that talked about the real issues I was dealing with in barn management.
Things are so much different today. I love my job and I have become the business person I needed to be to run a healthy barn and business. Do I still make mistakes? You bet! But I learn from each one and move forward. My clients trust my decisions and how we run the barn and we have healthy boundaries. I don't think I would have made it this far unless I stopped and took a long hard look at what was going on. Only then did I start to see that things needed to change and it had to start with me. I had to stop blaming everyone else, especially my boarders. I had to take responsibility and control of my barn and business.
Today I want you to remember why you started your horse business to begin with. If you are having a difficult time remembering the good things about it than I encourage you to stop and take a good look at all you have accomplished and why you got into this business to begin with. Then find someone who you can talk with about your frustrations and who will help find positive solutions. If I can give one word of advice, look for a person that is not in your circle of horse people. It is always better to keep it professional and talk with someone that doesn't know any of the same people you know. Someone outside your area is always best. Only then can you be totally honest and it will not affect anyone.
Remember that dealing with the horses will be the easiest part of your day. It is the client part of your job that usually burns people out. Above all else, remember that most boarders are great people. If they know what you expect as a barn owner than the issues will for the most part take care of themselves. If you are not leading your barn and how is it should run, than there is no way your boarders are going to know what is going on. It needs to start with you first and the rest will fall in place.
Burn out is a very real thing in this business. I encourage you to check out my newest book, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover." This book is the most honest book you will find out running a horse business as the barn owner or manager and how everything you do will have some affect on your clients. This book will talk about every issues that comes up when it comes to boarders and their horses and how to find positive solutions for each problem. I believe it will change your barn, business and life in ways you never imagined.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,