Transitioning from hobby farm to a real horse business is not as easy as it sounds. Most people think that turning your passion and love for horses into a full time legitimate business is not that difficult but I am here to tell you that it can be tough at times. I know this from experience because I had a hobby farm and when we decided to build our barn and indoor arena things changed over night and I was not ready for all the changes. I called myself a new business owner but in reality there were many areas of our business that I was still running like a hobby farm and that led to many problems early on.
Today's post is about some of the signs that you are still running your business like a hobby. I believe many of the things we do when we own a hobby farm get us into trouble when we turn it into a business. Here is a list of a few problem areas that are hard for many people to transition to.
1. Running your horse business without boarding or training contracts or liability forms It is amazing to me how often I hear about problems at a barn and there is no boarding contract in place to protect both the barn owner or the client. It is such a huge risk and so many people don't take it seriously. It doesn't take much to be sued these days and this is a business step that seems to be difficult for many to take. I know it might seem awkward having your friends (that you have known for years) sign a contract or liability form but you need to get over the awkwardness of it and just do it. You are no longer just a casual horse owner and you need to start acting like a professional in all of it. You will be surprised at how your friends will understand once you explain it to them. Today I encourage you to get the proper paperwork in place.
2. Not following through on late fees for board payments when a board check is late This was a very difficult area for me to deal with early on in our business. I had a new building with a huge business mortgage attached to it and I was having an extremely hard time getting a few of my boarders to pay the board by the due date. I couldn't even get them to pay by the end of the grace period. The time would come and go and still no board check but they were out most days riding and enjoying themselves and I was sweating it out trying to pay my bills. The day finally came after a couple of years when I said enough is enough. The first time I had to add on a late fee was extremely painful for me and I was so worried that my boarders were going to become upset with me. I even worried they might leave. You know it really never came to any of that. Once I started enforcing the late fee and stayed consistent with it from month to month the checks all started coming in on time and now I rarely have a check that is late.
This is an area of business that is very hard for many people to take control of and fear is usually a part of it. You need to remember that your horse business is no different than paying your monthly bills for services you have. I have grain delivered once a month to my barn and then I get billed with a due date. If I send out my payment past the due date then my next bill will have a late fee attached. It is as simple as that in business and I am not angry at my grain supplier because they charged a late fee. I understand that they have a business to run as well.
3. Trying to please everyone no matter the cost This is something that most new business owners do and I believe women are extremely good at this. We don't want anyone upset with us and we over read everything and worry is part of our nature for many of us. When you are always trying to please everyone in your barn no matter the cost it will eventually affect your business, family and personal life. As a business owner you need to run it like a business and that means there are going to be times when you need to say no and be okay with it. The reality is no matter how hard you try you won't be able to please everyone. I believe if you run your business with great care, honesty and integrity then the majority of your clients will we unbelievably happy with how you do things. They will understand when you need to say no for the betterment of the entire barn or even your family and they will trust and respect your decisions. The cost of always trying to please your clients can be high and it isn't always about money. It often can lead to burn-out if you are not careful and that will affect you in many other ways. Learning to say no when you need to is a sure sign that you are growing as a business owner.
4. Barn rules are for everyone including your friends If you are running a horse business then you need barn rules! Most facilities have barn rules in place and that is the easy part. The hard part is enforcing them when you see one of your friends breaking them. Let's be honest - I am sure we have all turned and looked the other way for a moment as we see something going on that clearly should not be, especially when it is someone that we are close friends with. It puts us in a very difficult place when we need to remind or correct someone about the barn rules and how they need to be followed by everyone. You need to realize that your clients will watch how you run your barn and if you allow one person to do something that is against policy then they will wonder why you allow some and not everyone. Let me say right now - IT IS BAD FOR BUSINESS AND YOUR REPUTATION! Don't go there. Even if it is uncomfortable at first, you need to keep the rules the same for all your clients and as times goes by it will become easier to remind and correct people when you need to. This was an extremely tough one for me in the beginning.
5. Be consistent in your barn chores Consistency is good for your clients and great for the horses! When you only had two or three horses to take care of you could be extremely flexible with chores because they only took a short time to do. If you now are running a larger stable and you have many clients throughout the day at your place, then consistency in chores is something that separates a well-run professional business from the rest. Treat your chore time just like any other job. If you decide that you are going to start chores at 6am then start at 6am everyday. Remember this is your job now and it is so much easier on everyone including the horses when it is ran consistently. If your clients know they can depend on when feeding and turnout time is then they can make plans around that if they want to and that is a huge plus for many people. There are many things that go into setting up and starting your horse business and I have only touched on one small area of it. The easiest part will always be the horses. The horses will definitely be the fun part of the job but in order to keep a business sound and healthy, there needs to be some consistency in how you run your barn. You are going to go through many changes as you grow as a business owner and how you do things on day one will most likely not be the same two years down the road.
You are going to go through many changes as you grow as a business owner and how you do things on day one will most likely not be the same two years down the road.
Today I encourage you to take it one day at a time and learn from each trial that comes in front of you. Remember you are no longer a casual horse owner with a hobby farm. Your are an equine professional and with that comes specific obligations and responsibilities to both your clients and yourself. It truly is the greatest job and it can be for you to. My goal is to help you form a strong foundation for your barn and business and help you make your horse business all that it can be.