The truth is that when we opened our boarding facility many years ago, we never realized how much we would run out of or need to fix and replace so many of the things that keep your horse business going. It was one area of our business that I didn't have a true picture of all the costs and it really hurt us in the beginning when money was extremely tight. I am going to be very honest and tell you that there were a few times when we would run out of toilet paper in the barn bathroom and I didn't have the money to go and buy more. We were broke and I was counting loose change out of a jar to buy a few rolls of toilet paper until the board checks starting coming in. Yes, if you are thinking that is crazy, you are completely right and it is a crazy way to run any kind of business. But it happens more often than you know especially in a young business where money is constantly going out for everything and not enough is coming in.
Once your business is up and running, you are going to have many people at your barn and they are going to be using everything you have to offer. Besides the horses breaking things which will be a common occurrence, you will walk into your barn and there will be many things you find broken throughout the years. You will have boarders that will offer to pay for the things they have broken and then there will be many times where no one says a word and you will never know how it happened. It is just part of owning a business and it can become very stressful very fast if you are tight on money and don't have enough to fix or replace the things that need replacing.
The numbers are staggering!
I was curious and asked my husband how many pitchforks we have gone through in over eleven years. When he told me the number I was shocked to say the least. He has saved every handle from every fork that has been broken and he estimated that we have gone through fifty pitchforks!!! I couldn't believe it. That is a lot of money to say the least. You might think that number sounds high but when you have forty horses and stalls are being cleaned seven days a week, things get broken. Even if you only buy the head for the fork it still comes out to a lot of money. It adds up fast!
One of the common mistakes that new business owners make is that they are not prepared for the things that become broken or just quit working. As a barn owner you will be replacing water hoses often if your employees don't handle them correctly, brooms, saddle racks, cross-ties, wheelbarrow parts and flat tires and that is just the beginning. If you live in a area where the water freezes in the wintertime then you will be replacing the heating elements in your water tanks and automatic waters and it always seems to happen on the coldest day of the year! Depending on the size of your tank, you could be spending a lot for one heating element. Light bulbs will burn out often and they never last as long as the box says! And the list can go on and on.
What you offer at your barn for amenities will be a part of the equation and the more you offer the more you will be fixing and replacing things. It is all part of owning a business and those little things will add up very fast and at times you will wonder where the money is going to come from especially in the early years. I want you to know that I am not writing this blog to scare you but I want you to go into your business with open eyes so you don't have to go through what we went through when we started Vinland Stables. There is nothing worse then to get a text that the barn bathroom is out of toilet paper and you don't have the money to go buy more. It may sound dramatic but it is very real and it happens. It is just that most people won't admit to it and I would have never admitted it to my boarders either. After all you don't want them to worry that you are having financial problems and it looks bad for your business. I wrote today's post to really get you thinking and to be smart about going into business with a strong foundation in place.
Setting up a monthly fund
The smartest thing you can do is to set up a savings account for emergencies. Put some money into it each month and only use it when you need to buy things for your barn that need replacing or repaired. It doesn't need to be a lot of money but if you start with a small amount, you will be surprised how fast it will grow. Then if a broom breaks or a tire goes flat on a wheelbarrow and needs replacing, you will have the money and stress will not be part of the drive to the hardware store. Remember that things always seem to break at the most inconvenient times so be prepared.
How a business gets into trouble
I know that there will a few people that will read this article and not get it. I understand that because I would have been one of them before we started our boarding business. We have been so accustomed as a society to use a charge card when we don't have the money with the thought that we will pay it off when the bill comes in. The truth is that if you are that short on cash because your business is not bringing in enough money to pay your bills then there is a very good chance you will not be able to pay the credit card off when the bill comes in. I know this from first hand experience. It can become a vicious cycle and the stress that you will feel will become overwhelming as the bills start to grow. That is why putting away a little bit of money each month will make a huge difference in how your business operates. Don't make the same mistakes I made during our first couple of years in business. Today I encourage you to take it one day at a time and even if it is only ten dollars a month, stash it away in a savings account and forget about it. You will be pleasantly surprised one day when you need some money to fix something or even buy toilet paper.
If you have a boarding barn where your clientele is mostly women, then don't be surprised if your husband says, "We are out of toilet paper again?" Don't worry, I understand and I hear the same thing in my own home and barn. Poor guy - he is definitely outnumbered with three women in the house and many women in the barn.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,