Staff Contributes to Your Horse Business

During the summer between 4th and 5th grade, the band director said to me, " I know you want to learn how to play the trumpet, but we need trombone players to be part of the band, too, and you have long arms. And at that point, the trombone was assigned to me and my long arms as my instrument for the band.

The trombone, long and gawky, is a handful and armful for any fifth grader. Despite this instrument being a coordination challenge, I learned how to find the correct note position on the unmarked trombone slide, read music and to the disgust of the girls in the clarinet section, adeptly drain the slide with the spit valve. In time, I began to play a few recognizable melodies: "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", "Are You Sleeping?" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep".

Rock and Roll would have to wait.

Eventually, fortified with beginner competency, all of the band instrument players got together to work through an arrangement for our first song as a group. Sitting second chair in the two person trombone section, I was heartbroken when I learned the trombones seldom get to play the melody. We were support for those trumpet blasters and clarinet squawkers. They had all of the fun carrying the melody and we trombonists were slightly above oom pa-pa status. We were thrown an occasional bone with a short melody and counter melody to play for a few bars. The rest of the time we were the support team. We added balance, depth and richness to the arrangement as we did our job.

As I gained experience as a band member, I noticed when the trumpet, clarinet and flute sections played in rehearsal without the rest of the band, their melody sounded hollow; the theme was there, but it lacked substance. Even though they carried the piece with the melody, the support of the trombone, percussion and other sections was essential to make a complete sound. Over time, I developed great pride in the support the trombone section gave to the entire band sound.

And having a complete team with all sections playing is the standard in profitable horse businesses, too. It takes the collective contribution of grooms, hot walkers, assistant trainers, trainers, instructors, bookkeepers and stall muckers to create structure and harmony in a business.

If some sections of your business aren’t playing off the same sheet music, then it’s probably because they aren’t clear on the importance of their contribution. One solution to get all players working together is to have regular staff meetings.

No, I’m not suggesting the long, boring and redundant staff meetings held at some businesses. Instead, here’s what I’m suggesting:

1. Hold staff meetings weekly or every other week.

2. Conduct the meetings without chairs. This allows for communication, but not socializing. Human feet and legs have built in timers.

3. Use meeting time to let employees hear about what they say is important:

·  Appreciation by the boss for work well done.

·  Feeling "in" on things in the future.

·  Job security for good performance of jobs since it takes all jobholders efforts to contribute to the success of the business.

4. Talk about problems and seek and implement solutions.

Teams make businesses more successful, not individual stars. This week, at your staff meeting, let you employees chime in and contribute to the business bravado.

If you don’t have a staff meeting scheduled, schedule one right away. And start a good habit. Let me know how it works out for you.

Horseman’s Vernacular

I’ve been guilty of talking to non-horsemen in jargon and terms they just don’t understand.  I was thinking about how difficult it must be to understand a dressage test without much background.

"Enter collected canter…shoulder in right…half pass right…half piourette right…three flying changes every fourth stride"

That language is probably as clear to a beginner as me trying to understand the bridge column in the newspaper.

" Notice South’s rebid. It is correct to jump to two no-trump…if you take the second trick with your diamond queen (or a deceptive ace) dealer will always get home…instead, duck the trick.."

Adjust your terminology to fit the client’s knowledge level. It makes good business sense.

The bridge column mentions something about declarer cannot establish and cash dummy’s diamond suit.

Well, even I know only a dummy would wear a diamond suit to a card game.

Smells Like Money

I caught the tail end of a story on National Public Radio this morning about a group of convenience stores with gas pumps in CA that are experimenting with wafting the aroma of coffee near the pumps to entice people to come in a buy a cup of joe.  I’m a sucker for the smell of fresh coffee, it would work on me.

Of course the trick will be to keep the smell of gasoline out of my nose at the same time.

Thinking about scented selling in the horse business, my favorite smells are: new leather, sweet aroma of freshly baled hay and a just opened bag of sweet feed.

Embed those scents in your advertisements and you’ll get emotional responses.

Good luck!

One of the most difficult things to do in the world of running your own horse business is letting employees go.

Unless you are Donald Trump, saying You’re Fired! just isn’t easy.  There is a large bag of emotions to deal with in letting employees go that just aren’t working out.  It can take weeks and months to get the job done.

When you get to that point in time when it is apparent that the employee needs to find another job, the proper course of action is:

  1. take a deep breath in,
  2. tell the employee,
  3. breath out a sigh of relief.

I’ve coached many owners through the process.  Everyone has told me it was far easier than expected and the relief for the employer and usually the employee, was overwhelming.

If you’ve been through the process as the boss, wouldn’t you agree?

Basics First

Riding instructors who teach children have two pupils.

No, not in their eyes. 

I mean student and parent are the two pupils.

Student is riding the wave of excitement of learning how to ride and hanging out with horses and horse people.

Non horseman parent is riding the wave of excitement of watching a child learn and grow, perhaps in a vicarious situation.

Riding Instructor is riding the wave of communication in an attempt to keep learning fun and safe simultaneously.

When can she canter?  When can she jump?,  ask the achievement focused parents.

When she has developed balance, muscle strength and knowledge, answers the instructor

Then, will that be next week? asks the parent.

Maybe, replies the smiling instructor.