Starting a horse boarding business was definitely one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Not only did we have issues with the complete building project for our barn and indoor riding arena but after the barn was open for business the real problems began with the daily chores, clients, challenging horses and of course the unforgiving weather at times! Signing a business loan and setting up an LLC shows on paper that you are a business owner but the entire process will be much easier than taking ownership of it mentally and believing it. For many new business owners the process can take years until you feel comfortable in your role as an equine professional. At least it did for me. It doesn't matter if you are a barn owner, manager, trainer or a multitude of other jobs in the horse industry. The pressure to look like you know what you are doing and feel confident in the difficult decisions you need to make can sometimes cause you to stop in your tracks and ask yourself if you are good enough to do this job.
One of the things that cripples many people from taking a step forward and becoming the equine professional and business owner they want to be is fear. The truth is...it is scary to start a business and become the boss of it all! Becoming the CEO of your barn and business overnight is something that most people are not prepared for and it will hit you like a huge wave when it happens. Learning to run your barn as a business takes time and you will often second guess yourself as you navigate through the set-up and first couple years of being open for business. Don't let your fears stop you from achieving a successful barn and business.
Many questions triggered by self-doubt
As a barn owner and businesswoman I have asked myself a lot questions over the years and those questions were always started by self-doubt. Do I know enough to take care of other peoples horses? What if I don't know the answer? Will others take me seriously or laugh at me and my dream? What if I make a mistake? Did I say the right thing? What if they don't like the decisions I am making for the daily care of their horses? If I say no, will they leave my barn? Can I financially make it? Why did they leave our barn? Are we good enough? How do I compare to other barn owners and barn managers in our area? And the list will be endless.
These are all very real questions that new barn owners, managers and trainers ask themselves and if you dwell on them too long they can really start to cripple you as a professional. The truth is we all start out the exact same way. We may know horses and how to care for them but when we become business owners and equine professionals we all start out as beginners learning to run our business. You might have a college degree but that degree doesn't give you all the tools you need to run a business. Some things you just need to learn on the job.
Your clients and you
I now believe one of the reasons that so many young business owners and equine professionals have problems early on is because they are not equipped to deal with different people and personalities. Some clients will challenge you and question why you do the things you do and disagree with your decisions. You might have some that will laugh at you or stir up others to question your abilities. You will have some that will find a weak spot in you and start to take over. They will see your lack of confidence and tell you how you should do things at your barn. They will tell you how other barns do things that they believe will make your barn better and all this will start to plant the seeds of self-doubt. All these actions between you and your clients can really test your confidence and I can say this from experience because I have lived all of this. I have experience every type of boarder and even though most of them throughout the years have been wonderful, all it takes is a few opinionated clients to really knock you down and have you second guessing yourself and how you run your barn. Don't go there!
You need to remember that most of your boarders and clients have never owned or ran a barn. If you ever have a client that has run a barn previously, I can promise you that they will most likely be a fantastic boarder because they will understand a lot of what you go through on a daily basis. Dealing with clients on a daily basis is something that colleges may talk about but the real learning happens when you are living it daily.
Learning to run your horse business with confidence takes time and experience. When questions of self-doubt start to pop in your head you need to turn the other way and keep going. You need to remember that the road you are taking in your career is the same road that every person that works in the horse industry has taken before you. They have all been where you are and even if they seem confident now and have a successful horse business they have had their share of extremely difficult days when I am sure they wanted to quit. They have questioned why they are doing what they are doing and have probably even had others ask them when they are going to go out and get a "real job."
Learning to run your horse business with confidence takes time and experience. When questions of self-doubt start to pop in your head you need to turn the other way and keep going. You need to remember that the road you are taking in your career is the same road that every person that works in the horse industry has taken before you. You are not alone!
Every question of self-doubt you ask yourself has already been asked by others and the best thing you can do for yourself is to find a mentor who has been in the business for a long time and is well-respected. Ask them if you can talk with them about some of these deeper issues that we all go through. Finding someone who is willing to be honest about business ownership and will give you honest feedback about your horse business is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your barn. No one will ever know what you are going through as a business owner except another business owner!
I applaud you!
Starting a horse business of any kind is truly a unique experience. After many years of running our facility I finally feel like I have come full circle. I have asked myself every question that I mentioned above not just once but many times over. I have cried when the job became too stressful and had to pick myself back up and start over the next day. In the beginning the bad days out numbered the good days but slowly they started to switch. I grew from within and with that came an inner confidence. If today you are starting your horse business then I applaud you for taking a huge step and living your dream. It is a hard business to get into but with determination and positive people along side you anything is possible. Don't let fear or self-doubt stop you from achieving your dream job.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! I wrote my book One Horsewoman to Another to let other women in the horse industry know they are not alone. This book will encourage and inspire you in so many ways and you will start to grow as you think about and answer some of the questions at the end of each chapter. I hope you check it out.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska