When I am asked by someone how we have kept our horse boarding business alive even under the worst circumstances in the beginning, my answer is always the same. We learned to run our horse farm as a business and I learned strong barn management skills from many mistakes along the way. I had on the job training every day!
I believe the key to success is not always doing everything right the first time. Successful barns are created from people who make mistakes as they are learning but are willing to change the things that need to be changed and move forward. I believe the reason a barn goes out of business is not because there are too many other barns in the area and not enough horses to go around. I believe competition is good for business. If you set your standards high for the daily care of the horses at your farm and run an honest, consistent barn it will set your business apart and before you know it you will be full with a waiting list.
I believe the reason a barn goes out of business is NOT because there are too many other barns in the area and not enough horses to go around.
One of the worst things a barn can go through is high turn-over. It is bad for business and it is exhausting for the barn owner. We had extremely high turnover during our first couple of years and it made my job so much harder than it needed to be. Horses were leaving and when the new horses came in it was like starting over. Everything from introducing the horse to a herd to a feeding program was part of it. Making sure the new clients understood the barn rules and were finding their way around the barn became something I was doing frequently. Losing a boarder once in a while is normal but we lost many of our boarders during the first three years and it was more work then I could have imagined. High turn-over is bad for a reputation and when you are a new business you have pressure of making sure your reputation grows in a positive way. That is hard to do when people are leaving often and as we all know people talk.
Today I encourage you to start making the changes at your barn that you know are hurting your business. If you are just starting out and thinking of building a new barn or have been in the business a few years but still are having problems, find a person that can mentor you through some of the tough issues you are going through and who will give you honest feedback to how your operation is running. Sometimes all we need is someone from the outside to look at our situation with a fresh pair of eyes.
Remember that good barn management skills are more than just feeding horses and cleaning stalls. It is about learning to communicate with your clients and learning to resolve all the issues that will come up at your barn. It is about learning to educate and not micro-manage. It is about learning to say no when you need to and standing behind your decision. It is about making smart choices about your money and not making decisions based on emotion. It is about running a consistent barn with honesty and integrity.
I believe the horse barns that are the most successful are not the barns that have the greatest amenities like an indoor arena or jump course. You can have the best of everything but if you are not smart on your financials for the business and leading your barn the way it needs to be run then it could really hurt your business. Don't be a statistic. Take it one day at a time and don't be afraid to learn as much as you can and grow with your business. The horses will be the easiest part of your job. Get ready to change your barn, business and life in ways you never imagined.
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. If you have clients then you will have issues. It happens with any business and this book looks into the issues that come with your horse business and the clients that will be part of it. You won't find more honest books out there about running a horse business.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business,