What airlines know, that you should know, too.

I don’t envy the job of a flight attendant. Waiting, boarding, delays, frustrating people, time constraints, and tight working conditions.

But through it all, they keep smiling. And smiling. And they smile even when their cheeks cramp and their teeth hurt.

Because a smile is the most effective customer relations tool ever used. A smile disarms, warms, encourages, relaxes, leads and lifts.
And that is what passengers need in air travel and that is what your horse business customers need just as much.

Train yourself to smile more often and then train the help to smile with you.

And it doesn’t cost a cent to use.

Success As A Professional Horseman

What makes the difference in being a profitable professional horseman rather than another in the herd of "wannabees"?

  • A huge trust fund
  • Unique horse handling skill
  • A generous sugar daddy
  • questionable ethics
  • luck

Perhaps you chose some or all of the above.

I choose none.

Instead, I’d point out the observation of Vilfredo Pareto; a mathematician who was never in the horse business, as the key to the factor that makes the difference in success.

Vilfredopareto Pareto is the originator of the 80/20 rule, known as the Pareto Principle.

He observed that 80% of the wealth in Italy was controlled by 20 % of the population.  Since then, the 80/20 rule has been applied to many business disciplines.

In an organization, 80% of  sales are made by just 20% of the sales force.

Think about car sales and real estate salespeople you know.  Certain names are known by everyone in town.

If you study your activities for the day, 80% of your time is spent on trivia and 20% is devoted to "the crucially important stuff".

Of the services (lessons, boarding, training, breeding…) and products (horses…) you sell, more than likely 80% of your profit comes from 20% of the total products and services you offer.

So what makes a few professional horsemen profitable and most in the "less than profitable" category?


Choosing to be profitable, choosing to be successful and choosing to be a member of the 20% club is the common thread among successful pros.  Once you make the choice, you will begin the path to profit.

It won’t be easy.

But, success will be closer once you begin to do the things that matter most to your business.

That is, focus on the things that contribute most to profit, not overall sales.

Current Events in the Horse Business

Being in the horse business, you spend most of your day with horses and with your clients. Your horses probably don’t read the paper often and watch very little TV, therefore are of little help as a source of current trade information.

Your clients’ worlds center on two things: themselves and their horses. And that is how it should be.

So how does a professional horseman stay up to date with the current affairs of the horse business? 

By keeping in touch with farriers, veterinarians, feed suppliers, equipment dealers, auctioneers, tack shop owners, other trainers, boarding operations, riding instructors, horse councils, chambers of commerce, colleges and university equine programs, agricultural bankers, leasing companies, equine accountants, equine lawyers, equine insurance specialists, hay and bedding suppliers, tack shops, breed organizations, equine photographers, barn and arena builders, equine property real estate brokers, Pony Club and 4-H Equine program directors and your fellow professional horsemen.

Isolation doesn’t work for nations or business owners. Spend some time this week with your ear wide open. Stay current with what is happening in business in general and in the industry.

Horse Business Websites

Today is the biggest "on-line" shopping day of the year.

Experts in the horse industry report that 96 percent of "small-but-mighty" equine retailers do not have websites (not 96% of retailers overall).

Many boarding, lesson, training businesses have no websites.

Much of the marketing in the horse industry today is still in the horse and buggy mode.

Wouldn’t your marketing efforts get faster results with a Ferrari mindset?


Information about 501 (c) 3 for Horse Businesses

A newsletter reader sent me this question: 

"My question to you is regarding any personal experience or knowledge of any riding facilities that exist/operate as a 501 (c)3 corporation solely.  If so, what is their success rate, failure rate, experiences?  (Loaded question, I know).  I am not asking you specifically how to incorporate a 501 (c) 3, but questions pertaining to what costs incurred in the course of doing business would be tax-exempt?  For example, a riding stable that is a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 under the realm of education, can it raise funds for daily operating expenses related to the upkeep of the horses and stable, or just the costs related to the educational programs? "

Anyone know of a good source of information on this subject?

Purple Horses

I’ve been re-reading Seth Godin’s "Purple Cow". I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a slow learner. Just like a Thanksgiving buffet line,  I need to make a couple passes through to scoop up all of the good stuff.


Here is a good scoop from "Purple Cow": 

"The old saying is right: " A camel is a horse designed by a committee."  If the goal of marketing is to create a Purple Cow, and the nature of the Cow is to be extreme in some attribute, it’s inevitable that compromise can only diminish your chances of success.

Compromise is about sanding down the rough edges to gain buy-in from other constituencies.  Vanilla is a compromise ice cream flavor, while habanero pecan is not…The safe compromise for a kid’s birthday party is the vanilla. But vanilla is boring."

Vanilla (boring)  is everywhere in the equine industry. 

  • Discounted, economy centered boarding operations are boring.
  • Endless up-down lessons for youth riders are boring.
  • 12 year old chestnut geldings are boring.
  • Round pen work is boring.
  • "Once around the farm" trail rides are boring.
  • Coffee and Doughnuts every Sunday morning are boring
  • Timid, out of condition riding companions are boring.

Seth’s point is , " In almost every market, the boring slot is filled."

Doug’s spin is:  Nobody’s paying a premium to be bored.  Boredom is the commodity that sets the bottom of the pricing scale. If you subscribe to the safety of boredom, you also subscribe to the bottom of the scale of profit potential.  Good horses are broke; good horse businesses aren’t.

How do you eliminate boredom?

  • Charge a premium for boarding-fewer boarders, more service, less crowded facility with clients who are willing to pay more for more.
  • Video lessons, edit, voice over comments of the good and bad points and give the client 8 minutes on DVD to review themselves or show others.  Hey, wanna see me and my horse?
  • A catered Sunday morning farm breakfast, the works.  A self indulgence in high fat, high calories and high flavor.
  • A visit from a fitness trainer to educate and promote personal fitness for equestrians.  No more huff and puff and wear the horse down.

You get the idea.  Brave, different, not boring. 

Vanilla is for the timid.

Don’t Look Back.

Dustless Horse Riding

I’ve been doing some research on dust control for indoor riding arenas.  We use a "Dougbuilt" gravity fed water wagon to wet down our sand based arena footing.  30 minutes to fill 250 gal.,  8 minutes to apply.  Start to finish time: about an hour which includes tractor hook up and general nuisance time.

Investigation for dust control:       

  • automatic watering system (expensive)  can freeze
  • Calcium Chloride  (less expensive than Mag Chloride)
  • Magnesium Chloride flakes (healthier for horses and more expensive)

What do you use?

How’s it working?

Horseman’s Memory System

I’ve got a suspicion that you’ve got more good ideas than you have time to experiment with them.  Some ideas are lost in twenty four hours.  They go back to the idea pond for someone else to fish them out at a later date.


I get a lot of good ideas during the day.  Many return to the idea pond because they need to do that.  They have insufficient capacity to sustain themselves.  They need to grow some more.

It’s those really good ideas that go back to the idea pond without being tested because they are forgotten that drive me crazy.  Great ideas that slip away every day.

I write them down now.  On an index card or in a spiral wire bound notebook to save them.  It really works.  Try it yourself if you have too many other things to remember already.

I’m glad I wrote this idea down last week for blog fodder today. 

Thanks for remembering.

Let Your Customers Dump Their Buckets

A conversation with clients yesterday included the topic of customer feedback. Discussion followed to lead to that question that many business owners are reluctant to ask. You know that question of  “ so, how are we doing?” doesn’t get asked often enough of clients.

One reason is that we are all busy and the assumption of no complaints means good news and no further investigation is required.

The second reason is that you fear the client may dump his or her mental bucket of troubles and complaints with you and your business.

Being nearby a dumping bucket can be a little messy as the splashes are often big. But once the bucket is empty, the end result is worth it.

The client feels better, you learn something and you get a chance to fix a problem that may have gotten out of hand at a later date.

Buckets need to get dumped and refreshed on a regular basis.  Its good for horse health and good for horse business health.

Plan Your Equine Business for 2007

I just got my paper based planner refills for ’07. I’ve been using a paper based planner for over 25 years.

Every year.

Paper based planner advantages: always boot, no batteries required and others can look at it and understand it. Simple as simple can be.

The other important part of my planning system is a full year, 24" X 30" wall calendar. It’s essential for planning 2007. When you view the entire year at once, the perspective allows you to understand how important it is to value the unrenewable resource of time.

Invest a few bucks in paper.

It’s time to think about time.