Expert Horsemen

This month’s issue of Fast Company magazine has a piece on being an expert featuring K. Anders Ericsson, prof of psych at Florida State.  Ericsson says elite performers engage in "deliberate practice."

He explains deliberate practice by describing  what a successful diagnostician does in medicine.

The diagnostician spends a lot of time checking on patients himself, taking extensive notes about what he is thinking at the time of diagnosis and then checking back on his accuracy.  Unlike his peers, his extra steps to "find out" make him understand how and when he is improving.  Ericsson thinks all elite performers use some technique not widely practiced or well known.

Could this mean great riding instructors debrief students after a lesson to see what and how they learned?  Could this mean expert trainers keep a training log of each horse they work with and what they did each session and how well it worked?  Could this mean that boarding barn managers keep track of why boarders come and why boarders leave and analyze the results?

Yep.

So what do you do in your horse business that improves you expertise? 

Leave me a comment and share with the world.

Horse Industry Wages

What is the "going" rate for employees in the equine industry?  Other than word of mouth, there aren’t any surveys to turn to for research.  As an employer, you want to pay a fair wage, but not break the budget either. 

What’s your rate for:  Stall mucker, instructor, barn manager, groundskeeper, bookkeeper, trainer?

I was talking to Seth Burgess, president of Equimax. They are experts in linking horse industry employees with employers. He has thoughts about creating a wage / salary survey for the industry and creating a report from the responses.

This report would be helpful to professional horsemen already in business and those planning to launch a horse business.

If you like the idea, post your comment here.  I’ll let Seth know.

Organizational Chaos

I did a talk for a local Lions Club the other night. The theme was write it down. Write it down as in take your vision from the discussion to the  written document.  I made a case for all clubs and service groups to act like businesses. Without a clear three year vision, the interests of the group splinter and energy is spent in great quantity with minimal quality in the results.

I suggest that clubs and organizations, including horsemen’s organizations, be prepared to answer two questions:

1. Where are we going?

2. Why are we going there?

Simple questions-difficult to get agreement on the answers.

Without the answers clubs are still busy, but wondering why they are going in circles all of the time.

Are the organizations you belong to driving without a road map?

Working for a Lunatic

Today’s Profitable Horseman Newsletter addresses the process of finding good help in the horse business.  If you’re not subscribed, (it’s free) then you should be. go here and sign up.

Michael Gerber makes a good point about self employment. 

"Without people you don’t own a business, you own a job. And most often it’s the worst job in the world because you are working for a lunatic!"

Roughing It in the Horse Business

We live about 10 miles north of the early winter storm damage "edge" in Buffalo, NY.  Hundreds of thousands of folks have been without power since Friday the 13 th in the storm area when an early winter storm provided enough wet snow to damage almost every tree still in full leaf.  The snow laden branches and power lines were in a tug of war with falling branches usually victorious over the electric lines.

Some horsemen friends have been "roughing it" with no electric power.  That means lugging water in some cases, generator use when available and some less than perfect living conditions.  Life with horses is generally busy enough without the added strain of no utilities.

It has made me work on a contingency plan for weather emergency for our place.  Traditionally, our area never sees a tornado, hurricane or drought.  The reality is, however, we are not disaster proof.

Is your farm prepared for weather emergency?

Horses Get The Day Off, Too.

No horsin around in Buffalo and Western New York State today. Way too much heavy wet now stuck on trees still in full leaf is formula for disaster. Cracking tree limbs and downed power lines everywhere.

No electricity in the barn this morning made for slow chores. The horses barely had enough light to read the morning paper. Of course the lightning flashes were a temporary light solution.

Winter is long enough without beginning on Friday October the 13th.

Cheaper Doesn’t Work in the Horse Business

Closeup100dollar1 Seth Godin makes a good point about being cheap as a marketing strategy here.

He writes, "Cheaper is the last refuge of the person who’s not a very good marketer.

Cheaper is easy and cheaper is fast and cheaper is linear and cheaper is easy to do properly, at least at first.

But cheaper doesn’t spread the word (unless you are much cheaper, but to be much cheaper, you need to be organized from the ground up, like Walmart or JetBlue, to be cheaper).

They are, you’re not."

So you are not Wal*Mart!  You aren’t even selling retail goods.  You are selling service. BLT-Boarding Lessons Training.  And best of all Wal*Mart will never be your competitor.

Which means that your prices don’t have to be the lowest. Never the lowest price, always.

Market you.  That is what your clients will pay for.  Your brand is only available from your business.

Get out of the cheap seats, and find clients who want your brand. 

They are out there. 

You may not have found all of them yet because you haven’t been looking.

Tools for Profit

This horse business is a recreational industry. Clients pay for fun.

Hidden inside this recreational business is a material handling business. If you are feeding and caring for horses as part of your business, you know what I mean.

Hay, grain, water and fresh bedding handled in daily; soiled bedding, manure handled out daily.

Lots of handling.

And handling requires tools and labor.

Labor is expensive and based on time. Tools like carts, pitchforks, wheelbarrows, manure spreaders, tractors and conveyors save time.

Why do so many professional horsemen refuse to invest in tools to make the handling business go faster and more smoothly? I see many professional horsemen trying to save money with a low investment in tools. They pay twice as much as they should in labor because there is no efficiency.

An ample supply of working equipment (wheelbarrows, pitchforks, carts, even hammers!) will keep labor costs down. It’s a false economy to think you are saving expenses by not buying another wheelbarrow just to teach someone a "lesson."

Don’t make me hit you over the head with my extra hammer to make the point.

Get enough tools to get something done!

Horse Selling Secret

"The secret to selling horses, Patrick, is letting go of the emotional strings. As much as we love ’em, we can’t own ’em all, now, can we?"

" All you have to do is find the right person who wants to take over holding the line attached to your horse."