When we were a young and new boarding facility I never gave much thought to what I would do if a boarder wrote me a bad check. I just didn't think it would happen to me, after all their horse was living at my farm and if they wanted to see their horse they would also see me. Another big lesson was around the corner for me.
When someone asks me how I handle money and bounced checks, I tell them I now handle it just like any other business. If you go into any business and write a check that is not good, you will be charged a NSF (Insufficient Funds) fee. The same should be true of your horse business. You are going to get charged a fee from the bank if they need to re-deposit a bad check so you need to pass this charge on to your clients. I would advise you to consult with your attorney to find out what the legal limit is to charge for returned checks and then have it in your boarding or business contract. Remember, it's not personal it is business.
The emotional side
As the barn owner you can not afford to get involved in the emotional side of why a person is writing bad checks. It is not good for your business and it will pull you down at the same time. Remember - One time is an accident and we all have been there. Two times is NOT an accident and you need to talk with your client and be honest about the situation. You cannot afford to take care of people's horses for free and if it means they need to find a less expensive place to keep their horse then so be it.
I hear stories of barn owners that have horses at their farm and haven't been paid board for three months! That is crazy and at that rate you will go out of business. The chances of you recouping your board after three months becomes less and less as more and more time passes by. Don't let it go that far! The longer time goes by with an unpaid board bill, the more overwhelmed your client will become as the fees and bills add up. If it becomes too high, many times the client will just ignore it because it is too stressful to deal with it. They might even just walk away from the horse and then you are left with a horse to feed and the owner has dropped off the face of the earth. It happens more than you think.
As the barn owner, it is your responsibility NOT to let it get that far out of hand. It will not only be stressful on your client but it will even be more stressful on you especially when it is time for you to pay your bills.
If you are struggling with a client that has bounced a check and they still haven't paid their bill, I encourage you to talk with them and set the perimeters of what you expect. You will need to let them know that there is a time frame to get paid and from there the horse will need to be moved if it continues. It is not fun at all and will be one of the most difficult things you ever do as a barn owner. Above all else talk to your client with respect. Keep the communication open as best as possible but keep it professional at all times.
In a changing world where many people have thrown rules and responsibility out the window, you have the control at your barn to set high expectations for how your business is run and you don't need to settle for less. Your clients will respect a well-run business and you will find that you have less situations where you have boarders that don't pay or continually write bad checks when you set the guidelines and stick to them. It may involve making very tough decisions when a client can't pay the board but at the end of the day you need to do what is best for your business.
Remember that as you deal with each new issue that arises at your barn you will grow with each experience both good and bad and become the business owner you need to be to run your horse business with confidence. It will get easier. I promise!
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. These books will take you deep inside the business world and will inspire and give you the tools to get through those tough days and situations. You won't find more honest books out there about running a horse business.
I wish you the very best in your horse business,