After spending the last year talking with so wonderful people about their barns and the issues they are having, I really believe there is a need in the horse industry for help, education and encouragement for new and struggling business owners. I have met many people who are new into the horse business world and they are going through many of the same problems that I went through during the early years of our business. The transformation from being a person that loves horses and wants to be around them all the time to a business owner that now carries the responsibility of everyone else's horses can be overwhelming and stressful at times.
Learning to find a balance and gain confidence in a difficult industry is something that we all could use support in no matter how long you have been in the business. Just as important, as we grow and become seasoned equine professionals we need to continue to support each other for this is vital in helping the industry stay strong and healthy.
My thoughts about barn management have changed
When my husband and I decided to start our own business years ago and open a horse boarding facility, my idea of barn management was much different then it is now. When I would hear the words "barn management" I really only thought of the daily chores that would need to be done and the care of the horses. I didn't realize there was so much more to the entire business and lifestyle. As the years went forward with our business my eyes were opened to what barn management is really all about. I was learning new things on a daily basis about communication with my boarders and how to deal with the requests and unhappy clients. I have put a short list together of what new business owners experience when they venture into the world of horses for a career.
Some of the issues many new business owners go through are:
Trying to gain potential boarders and clients
Financial loss during the early years of business ownership
You will experience and make many changes in the early years - especially with yourself as you grow and become more confident as a business owner and manager.
The ever changing weather (It will affect you and your boarders more than you think)
Trainers at your barn (Trainers can be an asset or ruin your barn and business!) Find the right trainers to work out of your barn
Unrealistic expectations from clients
Getting paid on time - You will learn a lot about business with this alone
Having a multi-discipline barn ( I never knew it could become so complicated)
Barn amenities and trying to please everyone will be a huge challenge and learning to say NO will be important.
When things get broken who pays?
Herd management and the client (Many times the boarder will not understand what is going on in the herd)
When a client's horse is hard to handle or even dangerous! Get ready because it happens
Challenges of outdoor board (we thought this part of the job would be easy but it has its own unique challenges)
Boundaries between the barn owner and clients
It's a working farm (the chores still need to get done even if it mean using noisy equipment)
Asking a boarder to leave (probably one of the hardest parts of the job)
Not ready for all the special requests (I never knew there would be so many special requests when we opened our doors)
Plus too many more to mentioned in this short blog post
If you are struggling with any of these subjects then you are not alone. Barn management is so much more than the physical chores that need to be done every day. It is also very emotional for your clients and it will be for you at times as well. That was something I did not realize and was definitely not prepared for. It doesn't matter if you have five horses or fifty. You will experience some of the same issues at any size stable.
Horse barn management is so much more than feeding horses and cleaning stalls. That is the easy part!
Running your own barn will have its good days and bad days but the good days should out number the bad days. I was on Facebook the other day and someone wrote "It's not worth it anymore" and they were talking about boarding horses. They were struggling with the clients and many problems and really didn't know how to make it run better. I can truly say I have never felt that way but I have been very close! I had some extremely bad days dealing with the struggles of managing a farm and the clients.
Learning to become a business owner takes time and it doesn't happen automatically the day you open your barn for business. It is a process that takes time and even a little pain and heartache along the way. It truly is a wonderful job but until you accept your new position as business owner and/or manager and all that goes with it and run it like a business, you will have the same struggles I went through in our early years. I look at my job so much differently now and I enjoy it so much more. I still clean stalls five days a week and feed horses and I still love talking with our boarders. I am just more equipped now to handle situations as they come up with clients and I have learned not to take it so personal anymore. If you are struggling at your barn and you have forgotten why you started your business to begin with then when all your boarders are gone and the barn is closed for the evening, take a walk down your barn aisle and listen to the horses munching quietly on hay. You will find it there.
My passion is to help you make your horse business all that it can be! It can be so much easier with a solid foundation in place.
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! I wrote my newest book to give you an in-depth look into the business of boarding horses and all that it entails. This post today is one small example of what my new book addresses. If you are boarding horses or are planning on it, please check out, "A Step By Step Guide To Starting And Running A Successful Horse Boarding Business." It is a very comprehensive book on boarding horses and covers every part of it from building your barn or stable to solid barn management. I wrote this book because I realized there is an information gap when it comes to this subject and my goal is to help others so they don't make all the mistakes I made when we first opened our boarding facility. You will find this book to be a great resource for your horse boarding business.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska