Updated: Mar 27, 2019
This is a post that I hope every barn owner, manager and boarder will read and it comes directly from my heart. I have been a boarder for many years and now a barn owner and manager and I understand both sides of the business very well. It is a very unique business to get into for three main reasons - you are caring for animals which means someone needs to feed them seven days a week. On top of it, a majority of barn owners and managers live on the same property as the business (as I do) so you never really get away from it. And third - It is a very emotional business to get into because your clients will love their horses like their family and if something goes wrong, the emotions will become extremely high and at times may seem out of control. It can also be equally emotional for the barn owner, manager, trainer and employees during these times.
When you decide to make a living at boarding horses you will have many decisions to make regarding your business venture but one of the most important questions to ask yourself is who will you have run your business? Will you manage it as the barn owner or will you hire a manager? This all sounds great in the beginning but often times as you get into the thick of business ownership it can become very difficult to distinguish who is actually in charge and your clients will be the first to notice when things are not right.
Who is in charge here?
Have you ever boarded at a stable and very quickly you start to ask yourself - who is in charge here? If is extremely frustrating for boarders, trainers, managers, and employees when no one is really sure who is running the show and it will leave your clients second guessing their decision to move to your barn. It will also leave them questioning the care of their horse. It happens more often than you know and I believe every new business will go through this a little bit in the beginning. The important thing is that it doesn't stay that way for years on end or the business will not flourish and be healthy the way it was intended to be.
I am guilty of letting others run my barn
When we first opened our boarding facility many years ago I was over the moon excited and of course I wanted to please all my clients. This is a very normal experience that ALL new business owners go through no matter the type of business. As a new barn owner and manager I really didn't have a strong definition of what my role was and how to lead my business. The truth is because I wasn't leading soon others were calling the shots in the barn. The less I was leading the more others were taking over and with that came drama and soon I was losing boarders. This was starting to hurt my business reputation and our income in a huge way. Many years later I have the privilege of talking with barn owners and managers from all over the country who are going through a similar situation and they need a little help and encouragement in this area. The simple truth is - if you don't lead your business then someone else will and it may cost you a lot more than just stress.
The hierarchy of a boarding stable
There is a hierarchy when it comes to business ownership and without it a business will definitely fall apart. Some of you reading this may not agree but if you have taken the risk of starting a horse business then keep reading because this is very important. As a barn owner you are going to have a lot on the line and everything that happens at your stable will affect you whether you want it to or not. If boarders leave because of a trainer that is not being honest then you will have empty stalls that now need to be filled and that will cost you money. If the trainer is making decisions about horses at your barn, it will affect you in many ways. It could be turnout or a feeding program that has been changed but the bottom line is - it will come out of the revenue that the barn owner brings in each month - not the trainers. If you are charging an all inclusive fee for everything then you might not even know you are losing money until later on. If your barn manager has poor organizational skills and things are not getting done daily then clients will soon notice and some of them could leave and it will affect the barn owners pocket book again. If the barn manager has poor communication skills or is making decisions that have not been thought through then you could be in for some turbulence at your stable. If the barn manager or trainer are overriding how you want the stable and all that it entails to run daily then you will have issues and it will all fall back on the barn owner. The buck will always stop with the barn owner as the owner of the business.
In no way do I want to diminish the importance of the roles of the trainer and barn manager but at the end of the day the financial consequences will always fall back on the person who owns the business. That in itself creates a natural hierarchy and as the barn owner you need to embrace your new role and above all else run your barn like a business because that is what it is. Once you start leading and get everyone else on the same page, that is when your stable will start to change in positive ways and for the betterment of the barn and business as a whole. Each trainer that works out of your facility will be an asset but only if they respect how you do things at your stable as far as daily chores, care, turnout, herd management and barn rules. Each manager will make your job so much easier but only if they work within your guidelines of what you want for your barn and stable and the direction you want to go in the future as a boarding stable. You need to have a common vision of what the business can be. Together it can truly be perfect harmony but it means great communication with all parties involved and growing together as you learn.
Let your barn manager do their job
If you have hired a barn manager and they are doing a great job then make sure you are not hurting their value and importance as seen through the boarders. This happens often when a disgruntled client doesn't like the answer the barn manager has given them so they go over their head to the barn owner. As a barn owner, if you are constantly giving in to your clients after your barn manager has made a decision then you will soon be on the road to trouble. If you want your business to run smoothly then you need to back up the decisions your barn manager has made. If you find that you are changing things often that your barn manager has done then it is up to you as the barn owner to sit down with your manager and make sure you are on the same page in all areas. In most cases the clients should not be going over the managers head looking for a different answer. That is a sign that they don't respect the managers decisions. I know there are no absolutes but in a very well-run boarding stable the barn manager should have the final answer to a clients question in most cases and that means the manager and barn owner are on the same page in all parts of the business. When you get to that point then you know your barn is running very well.
As with everything in life there is a natural hierarchy and it will be true for your boarding business as well. It may take a while for you to get used to your new role as a business owner and you might even have some very tough days as your navigate through changes and growth of the business. We have all gone through it and let me be the first to tell you that it does get easier. You have taken a huge risk and started your own business. Today I want you to own it mentally and start learning how to create a great business working relationship with your trainers, barn managers and employees. They are a huge asset to your barn and business and you are equally important to them as well.
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. I want you to be prepared for the crazy and wonderful new career you are going into.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska