Time to Plan

It’s time to start adding up income and expenses from this summer to see where you are financially for the year to date. If you aren’t on top of 2006 financially, it’s time to get there.

There are still four months left in 2006 and it’s time to get your business plan current.

Horses and accents

Horsenetwork65x49  Seth Godin mentions a story in his blog today about cows having local "accents" in their "moos". Click here for the blog and moo link.  Horses probably have their own barn accents, too.  Why wouldn’t they if there are enough in the herd in the barn or in the pasture?  Mimicking the social group is common animal behavior.

In a related vein, I believe horses are accent and language sensitive to human handlers and riders.  I’m convinced horses raised in Germany and exported to North America are very tuned in to German speaking handlers. 

I’m not sure what any of this has to do with making more money in your horse business, but it is another reminder that the general public is far removed from the ways of domestic farm animal life.

You, as a professional horseman, have to be constantly aware that horse sense is as uncommon as common sense.

Late Summer Noisemakers

Lately, the crickets are so loud in the evening, you almost need ear protection. How can critters so small, make so much noise?

I guess they are a lot like people who make a lot of noise for no good reason; they do it just because they can.

Unlike crickets, they are annoying.

When those kinds of noisemakers show up at your horse business, you should wear ear protection and tell them to quiet down,

it’s not cricket.

Hit The Books

It’s nearing back to school time for most of North America and daylight hours are slowly diminishing.  With less daylight hours, taking advantage of time for some self schooling in your horse business is a good assignment to give to yourself.

One of my favorite books for small business owners is Michael E. Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited.  Don’t let the title mislead you.  It’s all about the "myths" of running your own small business.

Emyth_revisited_1    I highly recommend it for your business library.  Easy to follow and will get you thinking about better systems for your horse business.

Horse and People Trainer

Empty_class_room_2 Ran into one of my horse trainer friends yesterday and caught up with his business progress.  He had some stories about working with problem horses and their owners.  He can help the horses with trailer loading, handling and good etiquette, but often has a problem getting the owners and handlers to learn along with the horse.  That’s a familiar problem with all horse trainers.  The horses get it, often the people don’t.

The horse trainer is equally challenged with the people training business.  Behavior changes come slowly for the owner.  Seems to me that horse trainers ought to spend some time studying human learning techniques and how to change behaviors.

It’s a triple win when the horse trainer is savvy with working with people, too.  The owner, the horse trainer and the horse all win when patterns are changed.

If you aren’t up to speed with working with human training techniques, get educated.  Rope halters don’t work well on humans.

Please Adjust Your Set

The horse industry lags behind other recreation industries when it comes to providing customers with better products and services.

One of the reasons is tradition. We do things the way we do them because that’s the way we’ve always done them.

Sometimes, tradition is a good thing. When it comes to maintaining and preserving sound and proven horsemanship practices, sticking with tradition is the right choice.

I’m not convinced, however, that the way professional horsemen deliver the horse services and products they sell should be anchored with tradition.

I had a conversation yesterday with a horse owner who boards two horses and rides three times a week. Her life is complicated. The horses are her outlet for recreation. The time she squeezes in to ride and be at the barn is carved out of opportunity time for hundreds of other things willing to make her feel guilty at any time.

But she loves her horses, her recreation time, her few hours of self indulgence at the barn. That connection time with the horses is an experience that is a highlight and high value.

As you give lessons, train or provide board and care as part of your business, remember that the horse is not your customer. A complex person is.

Is your business philosophy and approach to your customers still traditional black and white?

Maybe it’s time to add color to your programs. Find out what your customers want that your not providing and deliver it.  Who needs:

  • a cell phone that is a camera?
  • a professional personal shopper?
  • a banana coconut frappuccino?

More people than we’d ever guess. 

Ask, create, offer.

Eliminate Delay In Your Horse Business

"I need to mull it over."

"Let me think about it, I’m swamped."

"I’ll get back to you on that."

What are you waiting for?

Delay has seldom helped me and most often, hurt me.

It has taken me decades to understand that swift action is a good thing.

Being conservative, playing it safe and contemplation are great attributes if you are a professional bomb defuser, however if you are in business, delay is deadly.

Answer your e-mails quickly. Respond to telephone messages.
Make decisions now based on knowledge and business intuition.

Create systems to make your day move faster and smoother.

Pick up the pace and take care of it now.

Let someone else hitch up the buggy to their horse business; you can’t afford to wait in an electronic economy, can you?

Almost Famous Horseman

A wise self promoting business owner once told me to put my picture on my advertising messages.  Not because he wanted me to be an ego-maniac, but because people like to do business with people they know, like and trust.  Walking_chicken

One of the best ways for people to get to know you is to be able to recognize you.  Your photo is one of the easiest ways for folks to recognize you.  I had the local printer make some trade show display boards for me earlier this year with  a new process.  I was deighted with the way the boards turned out and so was the printer.  He uses my Profitable Horseman display board as a sample on the wall in his store.

I walked into a local insurance agency at the same time as another man today.  He looked at me as we went through the door, and said, " Emerson, Right?"  "Right you are", I answered.

He said, "I see your picture on the wall everytime I go in the printers store".  Granted, he’s not likely going to be a client, but he knows at least 200 people who know 200 people each and so on.

Photos work.  Don’t be chicken, get your pic on your promotional material!

Understand First, Then Be Understood

I was talking with a riding instructor yesterday about the challenge of making sure the student understands the points of the lesson.  Often, she said, students nod their heads yes, when they have no idea what you are talking about.  It’s like being up front at the chalkboard in the classroom trying to do math equations with X and Y.  You just want to sit down and end the confusion.

Conversations with students are not unlike conversations with employees, children and spouses.  You will tend to keep presenting information in the same way instead of stopping to ask what part don’t you understand? 

Communicating the information in another way will solve the problelm quicker than repeating the same thing over and over and louder and louder.

If the other party doesn’t get it and you don’t change your words, you don’t get it either.

Stop playing your own home movies over and over and start being creative and communicate with the goal of helping the listener understand in the best way possible for him or her.

The assumption of understanding is made in haste frequently with practices you are familiar with doing.  When you teach, give instructions or introduce something old to you and new to someone else, take a few more seconds, minutes to make sure the other party understands.

Horse Business Success

Being successful in your horse business is all about that perfect mix of a support team, the right tools, your training and conditioning, willingness to accept risk, focus and a little luck.

If you don’t have the mix just right yet, you can.

It’s a matter of trusting yourself to put it all together.

Saddle up and do it.