Sell the sight, sound, touch and smell

Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, is credited as saying, " In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope."

Now Mr. Revson may have never sold a horse or riding lessons or trained a champion show horse, but he did know why people buy his product and most other products.  Most purchases are made for emotional reasons and justified later by logic.  No one needs to spend $50,000 or more for a reining horse, jumper or park horse, they buy because they want one.

The horse and most products outside of food, clothing and shelter, fill an emotional need. 

Because…that’s the way humans are.  Emotional and sensory.

Sell the sensory and emotional experience of owning a horse, riding lessons, or advanced training for the client’s horse. 

Professional horsemen are in the business of selling hope much like Revlon does. Not every user of Revlon products will be a beauty pageant winner and not every student will be an Olympic team member.

But, what all horsemen want, me included, is a chance to feel like an Olympian on the perfect horse.


Horse Business Organization

Imagine your day starts with the following thoughts on your mind: Jeanie, the new boarder, doesn’t get along with others and needs to change her thinking if she wants to remain at the farm. Your busiest instructor was hurt yesterday and won’t be able to teach for a week. The feed quality of your local mill has been slipping; moldy feed has been a problem on and off for the past twelve weeks. Your estimated income tax deposit is due in two days. Your business marketing plan includes a display ad in a local publication and the deadline for the copy is tomorrow.

Sound like it could be a normal day in your life as a professional horseman?

You already know that in the horse business and all other businesses, getting things done each day is critical for business growth and success.

And you already know that organizing your daily schedule to accomplish all of these tasks is a struggle.

Experience tells me that the methods of organizing the tasks for the day vary greatly from:

All of the systems have advantages and disadvantages, so what is the best method?

A one page to-do list completed daily.

If you are using one already, congratulations, pat yourself on the back, stop reading this and move on to tackle another item on the list

If you’re a little foggy about the purpose of a to do list, here are some tips:

As you construct the daily to do list, ask yourself these questions:

Your daily to do list is more than a reminder; it also serves as a contract with yourself to get things done every day.

  • Is this item the best use of my time?
  • Is there someone I can delegate this task to?
  • Do I really have to do this or what will happen if I just toss it?
  1. It should be created every day adding and removing tasks.
  2. The list may be hand written or printed on a single sheet in a daily planner or on an index card or on a folded 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper.
  3. Daily action items are for current actions,not for reminders about planning future activity. The current actions have a sense of urgency like concrete that has to be poured and leveled today.
  4. Items are broken down into the simplest activity. Like: make phone call, complete report, lead staff meeting. . . .
  1. no written plan- rely on semi-reliable memory systems
  2. a scrap piece of paper
  3. a one page to do list
  4. a detailed computer program listing all tasks at hand and charting the progress toward completion.

Horse Business Plans

I have been doing client work this week with business plans for their equine businesses.  It seems that the consensus is that the hardest thing about writing a business plan is getting started.  And starting a project that you know very little about is always a challenge. 

It’s frustrating, intimidating, self worth lowering, mind taxing work.  You might as well work on a cold fusion process, a plan for eliminating world hunger and a self cleaning horse stall while you are at it. 

The easy way to write a business plan for your horse business is to work with someone in business who has already written one, read three books about writing a business plan to self educate or you can contact me.

The most important choice is to choose to get started.

Horse Business Pace

I was riding Rascal, our ever steady quarter horse, at a lazy, daydreaming walk the other day and lost touch with his slowing pace – until we were passed by a turtle.

This happens often in warm weather since Rascal is thermostatically controlled. By that, I mean when the outside temperature rises above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, Rascal slows his pace to a ratio of his comfort level divided by the temperature squared.

Sensing my agitation, he must think, "No sweat, Doug, we’ll still get where we’re going, it’ll just take a little longer."

And from a horse’s perspective, what’s wrong with that? To a horse, time is an interval between feeding, naps and occasional work. To a business owner, time is an interval in which results happen that will reward the owner based on the value created by those results.

Put simply, the time available to complete a task is limited and pace does matter.

And that is true in your horse business. Think about all of the routine processes and systems that happen every day in your business: Feeding, watering, stall cleaning, bedding, turn outs, grooming, blanketing, bathing, and cooling out. Your pace and your employees’ pace determine the amount of time it takes to complete the routine work. This time is subtracted first from the total hours available in the work day.

Time available for instruction, training, sales and business development is determined after the time taken for routine functions is deducted. These tasks produce the revenue of the business and unfortunately, they are at the mercy of you and your staff’s efficiency at completing routine work.

So how do you improve timeliness on the horse farm? When Rascal chooses the pace of a turtle, I use a reminder system. It’s very simple. I just put a crop in my hand and he is reminded that he should move more quickly than a snail’s pace. He doesn’t need to be touched by the crop; it’s a signal for my expectations.

In spite of what may cross your mind, I don’t recommend using a crop on your employees, but here are tips on picking up the pace for each work day:

  • Establish benchmark times for starting and completing stall cleaning and bedding. As an example start at 7:00 A.M. and finish by 10:30 A.M.
  • Calculate an average time for mucking and bedding a stall. As an example: seven minutes.
  • Post feeding times and stick to the schedule.
  • Prepare a daily horse turnout schedule with regular time slots to eliminate confusion and keep the process moving
  • Post the lesson schedule for the day for both employees and students to see to help reduce delays and encourage punctuality
  • List the daily training schedule by horse and time slot to avoid casual interruptions.

While rushing through work only encourages poor results, defined expectations encourage a productive pace and feeling of accomplishment for all.

Do your employees clearly know your expectations?

Have you set expectations of yourself that encourage you to pick up the pace?

Horse Talk

My friend Len, a professional, but not a professional horseman writes,


Why are there so many quotes about horses?  "one trick pony", "Horse sense", "You can lead a horse to water…", "don’t put the cart before the horse", etc.

Is it that a lot of common management problems were solved in the days of horse-drawn power and transportation.  Could a horse farm be a microcosm of the business world? 


We pepper our language every day with equine terms and so does everyone else:
Runaway, bridled, chomping at the bit, hit the trail, whoa there, wild horses couldn’t drag me there, take the reins, saddle up (marines) feeling your oats, put on the feed bag, harnessing the idea, horsepower, out of the starting gate, bit in his teeth, horse laugh, hoofing it, boss hoss, mustang, eat like a horse, dog and pony show, pony up, pull like a team, hobbled, locking the barn door after the horse is stolen, spur him on, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, beating a dead horse…
Can you think of more?

More Than A Horse Show

We’re well into the 2007 horse show season and excitement is high, days are full and the tension meter spikes to the red line limits from time to time. Your world and your clients’ worlds are extremely focused. Tempers flare and erupt like volcanoes, criticism and needling sarcasm slips out. And token excuses are offered for the inexcusable.

Whether you are competing, coaching or viewing, remember, as a professional horseman, you are being watched.

You are on stage, live, with no script.

And your audience of prospects, clients and colleagues are consciously and subconsciously watching the action, drama and comedy offered inside and outside the show ring. Hundreds of sets of eyes connected to brains micro processing thousands of snapshots per day for thousands of judgments to be made.

Intentionally or unintentionally, you make thousands of judgments each day. Except those of you who protest and say, "I’m not judgmental." (Perhaps you evaluate?)

You may have a stream of judgments that runs like this:

"He yells at his clients, her coat sleeves are too short, that horse looks off on his left front, the announcer is corny, she dyes her hair the wrong color, that horse should be mine, look at that saddle, maybe I should switch, he got second and he’s pouting, what a good sport she is, the judge picks the same horses I do, it’s a wonder she doesn’t fall off, that fruit salad looks perfect" and on and on.

Thousands of thoughts and analysis all day. What’s the point for the professional horseman?

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

If your performance at a horse show or public event was videotaped for you to see, how would you judge yourself on the replay?

Would you hire you?

Rags to Riches-Wow! She can run.

Saturday’s Belmont Stakes was pure excitement.  A small field provided huge entertainment.  Culin’s duel with Rags to Riches to the finish line was the suspense everyone loves in a Thoroughbred horse race.

Old time Texas Quarter Horse breeder Ott Adams is credited for once saying about pedigrees, " You can breed it out of ’em faster than you can breed it in." 

Genetics, the tricky subject it is, often fools the saavy horse breeder.  Not the case with Rags to Riches though, this horse is born from a line of performers and she showed off her DNA with pride at the Belmont.

This filly generates the kind of PR the TB racing industry needs.  Wow-She can run!

Bale Bonding

I returned from a short two day business trip to savor the sweet aroma of an early first cutting of hay wafting from the barn loft.  There is no better smell to horsemen (maybe horses, too) than freshly baled hay. 

The bonus for me was the fact that the load of hay was mowed away without me having to touch a single bale! 

A first and a trend worth developing.

Professional Horsemen Caught In The Thinking Trap

History does repeat itself since, yet again, I had almost run out of checks for my checking account. Not feeling compelled to search the Internet for half an hour to find $1.98 in savings elsewhere, I called 1- 800-ChecksNow!

Judy the checklady had a pleasant telephone voice and did her best to up sell me to purchase designer checks with pretty scenes on them including my special message, but I resisted and insisted on boring old blue, the same color I have been using since Jimmy Carter was in office. She laughed at my description of boring old blue and gave up on trying to get me in the first class seating section of the check club.

I have been thinking about the long period of time when checks only came in plain, boring pastel colors; no panoramic views, themed messages or puppies and kittens on them.

Functional and boring was the only choice until a very brave person at the check printing company said to the boss, "I think if we offer a wide variety of printed designs on checks, our customers will pay a premium to have them." The boss, also a user of blue checks, questioned, "You think that our customers will pay more money for a check that is only seen by them twice and once by the clerk at the utility company? I wouldn’t pay extra for that. . . but, let’s see if they want to. . ." The check printing company has lived happily ever after because the boss chose not to do his customers’ thinking for them.

Acquaintances, friends and clients are often describing to me situations in which they use language that sounds like this:

  • I know she will never go for that price because she paid $_____ last time and why would she ever use the extra features in our model?
  • I just know that if I say _________ to him he will say ______ and that will mean ______ which will result in _______.
  • It must be important to him because he keeps it in perfect condition and a new one would cost $____ and why would he ever consider my offer?

Untested "truths" for professional horsemen:

  • I can’t raise boarding rates. I’m already more than the folks just down the road.
  • My clients would never be able to afford prepaying for a group of 6 lessons for a small discount.
  • If I ask Meddlesome Mary to leave the barn, I’ll lose five other clients at the same time.
  • No one would pay money for a horse driving clinic.
  • I can’t afford a bookkeeper when I can do it for free for myself.
  • He’ll never pay me a commission for finding a buyer for his horse.

You will probably agree with me that we get stuck on the road to profit in our own self-made thinking traps as a result of doing the other person’s thinking for him. Have you ever had a five-minute imaginary two way conversation with another person in your head? Role-playing works, but not if you are the only participant.

The result is why ask, I already know the answer.

Quit doing other people’s thinking for them!

State your case and test what you think you know. You’ll never know until you allow the other party to participate in your imaginary conversation.

Ask, close mouth, listen and move on down the road to greater profit.

Masterminding for Progress

A week ago I spent 3 action packed days with my 11 member mastermind group in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montreal. Two members live in the U.K. the balance live in Canada or the States. We get together twice a year for three days sharing the common expenses of a hotel meeting room and administrative costs.


Everyone pays their own way and we splurge on a comfortable meeting place because environment matters. It’s a serious investment of time and money and a serious group attending. Our serious sides are tempered during our meetings with laughter and as we get together for dinner each night even more laughter with occasional moments of silliness.

We’ve evolved into a tight group. What happens in mastermind stays in mastermind. Because of that, it’s an open forum. Wide open as in closet skeletons sometimes rattle, blood pressure elevates and tears leak. And that’s all good because we’re self employed and we push ourselves. All of us have 101 good reasons not to attend a mastermind group meeting including time, money and lack of support for our businesses. We have one good reason to attend.


Hang out with the best in your field and watch your business grow.