This is a subject that I know most women struggle with during many times in their life. This was a huge issue for me when we opened our boarding facility. I had no idea how to manage my professional life with my personal life and having clients at my home seven days a week made things much more complicated.
When I crossed the line
There were a few boarders that I felt close to and we became friends. The more we talked when they were at the barn the more intimate our conversations became until I crossed the line. I did the one thing that you should not do. I started talking about the barn and business and the issues we would have with other clients and our financial woes at the time. Looking back, I know it made some of my past clients uncomfortable at times when I shared personal things with them that I shouldn't have.
To add to my mistakes I would listen to my cleints' complaints they had about each other and I did nothing to stop it. It wasn't just your basic complaining about barn issues, it became gossip and it started to get out of control. I was starting to be put in a position where they wanted me to choose sides. Something as simple as small talk can turn quickly into gossip and at that point the atmosphere of your barn will be threatened.
Finding a balance between your personal life and business life is tough but learning to find a balance between friendship and clients will feel extremely challenging many times throughout your career. Learning what boundaries work well for you and your business will change along the way. The longer you are in business for yourself the more defined your boundaries will become and your clients will start to recognize them as well. Let me tell you it is not easy and there will be times when you feel very lonely, especially when you start to distance yourself from certain situations and conversations that are going on.
Learning to be discreet with what you share with your clients is vitally important and can be challenging for many women. It has taken me many years to grow and learn from my mistakes but I have learned to be careful. Not only is it better for my barn and business but it is better for me.
Until the day...
You can still be friends with your clients and do things with them outside of the barn. But just remember that until the day they move their horse or take them out of your training program, your role as the barn manager or horse trainer will need to come first and the friendship will need to be second. It is a difficult thought to accept but it is a reality when they are still writing you checks for your services each month.
The one thing I want to express more than anything is that throughout your career you are going to experience many different opinions and situations where your clients don't like the choices you make and how you choose to do things. This will have an affect on your relationship with a close client if the decisions affect their horse. If feelings get hurt, the friendship will be tested. Many friendships fall by the wayside because they are not strong enough to handle the owner/cleint/friendship relationship.
There is a bright side
As you grow as a businesswoman and become more confident in how you run your barn, you will continue to establish many wonderful relationships with your clients. You will laugh and cry with them and do things outside the barn with them often. The interesting thing is that once you have established boundaries for your barn and business they will understand what those boundaries are just by how you conduct yourself in all circumstances and conversations. They will quickly realize that there are certain things that shouldn't be talked about when you are around. They will respect you enough not to put you in an uncomfortable situation. You will also learn to do the same for your clients and when that happens, a new kind of relationship will grow and it will be much healthier for all involved and better for your business.
This will probably be one of the most difficult parts of your career to get a firm grasp on. Even after years of running my barn I still have to remind myself when I am caught up in the moment to watch what I say. Don't be too hard on yourself if you blow it. We all have and that is when you own up to it and move forward. It does get much easier. You will never regret having reasonable boundaries established for you and your clients.
Today's post is a short excerpt from my brand new book, "One Horsewoman to Another." Ladies, this book was written for you. Remember, that you give a depth to business ownership that will make your business incredibly special. This book is about trying to do it all and finding a balance in all of it. We are businesswomen, wives, mothers and equine professionals and at times life becomes crazy to say the least. This book will encourage and inspire you and above all else you will start to realize you are not alone. I think you will find that this book is unlike any other equine business book out there.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,