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"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid Basics...So is Good Business!"

Business & Association Development, Marketing, Professional Workshops forthe Horse Industry


by Lisa Derby Oden

The show season is over and resulting banquets are at hand. The holidays
have also come and in the blink of an eye will be gone. The next two months
frequently offer shortened ride time if any. What a great time of year this
is to review your business and establish your 2002 operating goals. After
all, your horse gets a routine health check-up every spring. Consider this
an annual health check-up for your business. And just as your horse exhibits
certain symptoms when it isn't quite right, so will your business. Keeping
as close an eye on your business as you do on your horse allows you to get a
head start on "treatment", often preventing a small problem from turning
into a crisis.
1) Review 2001. What were your goals? Did you accomplish what you wanted
to? What went well for you? What took you by surprise? What could use
improvement? Did you meet new people? Did you learn new skills? What was
your biggest obstacle? Have you overcome this obstacle, or does it still
require a solution? Did you lose any clients? If so, why? Did you gain new
clients? How? Did you lose employees? If so, why? Did you hire new
employees? How are they working out? All this information provides you with
a baseline.
2) Set your 2002 goals. Is there something that you've been meaning to do,
or always wanted to do that you keep putting off? Or maybe you've got a
great idea, but haven't moved beyond the idea stage. Perhaps the coming year
is just the time to tackle this project. Often a project is large enough
that it is the sheer size of it that deters us from getting started. Break
the project into all the steps needed to fulfill it. By breaking the project
down to smaller components it becomes a manageable size.
3) Make your goals quantifiable. Create a reasonable timetable for each
step. If you are unsure, talk to others who have done a similar project
about what steps they took, how long each took, and all the associated
costs. Identify where you will get the money from to accomplish your goal.
If you can identify alternate sources, then you are more likely to succeed.
4) Thank your clients. Without them you wouldn't exist. You will find that
if you take them for granted they will disappear and reappear with your
competition. There are many ways to let your clients know that you
appreciate them. If you are a stable, have a customer appreciation day. Have
food and entertainment available at no cost to them. If you provide other
services to horse owners, such as massage, training, or instruction you may
want to offer a referral discount. Or your thanks can be given in a public
forum through an advertisement. And it is wonderful if you can remember them
with a card or other surprise at the holidays and on their birthday. Genuine
interest goes a long way.
5) Talk with your clients about their 2002 goals. This helps maintain a
clients motivation, as well as gives you a good feel for what you can expect
during the year. This also helps keep communication channels open so that
confusion and conflict can be resolved in a timely fashion.
6) Thank your employees. It can be difficult to find the appropriate match
for employees for your business. When you have good help, be sure to let
them know it. Ideas for employee recognition and motivation will be
discussed in a future issue.
7) Talk with your employees about their 2002 goals. Find out if they were
satisfied with their 2001 employment. If you have an open relationship with
your employees this will not be difficult. You will also discover areas that
your employee would like to grow into or contribute to. They will excel at
what they do if they are part of setting their goals. If you have a closed
relationship, be prepared to hear what they think you want to hear.
8) Review your crisis management plan. If you run a stable, when was the
last time you talked to your fire department about what would happen in case
of an emergency? Do you have easy access to your stable, and to the needed
water? Do you and your employees have several evacuation routes? It's a good
idea to have a barn fire drill. You may want to investigate into smoke and
fire alarms and sprinkler systems. At the very least, do you have fire
extinguishers in your barn? Is the phone number for the local fire
department kept posted next to the phone if you are not in a 911 area. Do
you have clear directions to your stable posted next to the phone? Other
than fire, are you and your employees aware of what to do if a person is
injured? Is anyone on the property CPR and First Aid certified? Do you and
your employees know what to do in case of equine emergency? Who gets called
first, the owner or the vet? These issues are important areas for you and
your organization to be trained in.
9) Look around you. How has the horse industry at large changed? Have you
kept up with these changes? What courses, instruction, networking, and
mentoring can you find to help you stay abreast of the industry? How has
your immediate market area changed? Have you gained business because someone
has shut down? Will you lose business if someone else fills in where they
left off? Is there any new competition entering the market? It's is not
always possible to foresee all that will happen, but being in touch with
these issues certainly makes a big difference in your ability to keep your
piece of the pie.
As you can see, your annual check-up follows a pattern of reflect, plan,
take action. With these steps you will be aware of what is likely to happen
and be able to adapt to change as needed. Growing your business is a
continuous process, just as monitoring your horse's health, training, and
well-being is.

(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Oden is author of "Growing Your Horse Business" and "Bang For Your Buck: Making $ense of Marketing For Your Horse Business."  She is the 1999 AHC Van Ness Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry. She can be reached at: (603)878-1694; email at; or visit her
website at

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