Monthly Archives: July 2007

Pitchfork Profits

North America’s obesity problem has many people searching for solutions.  Most involve eating less (close to impossible)  and working out on exercise machines ( boring, boring, boring).

Friends ask me, "How do you stay so fit?" 

"It’s the horses."

"You mean riding them?"

"Heck No, I mean caring for them!"

Finally, it occurred to me.  Professional horsemen can use stall cleaning and mucking to their advantage to not only save time, but to create profit!

Replace all of those fad work out programs with your own farm based "Schitzercise" program.  Nothing builds shoulders, tones triceps and produces admirable abs like operating a pitchfork every day.

I think it’s a great idea that city folks would be willing to pay you for the opportunity to try.

My friends are doubtful; they think the whole thing stinks…

In a discussion this morning with a professional horsewoman about an industry issue, this gem of wisdom was used.  The professional, wanting to acknowledge the need for communication between parties on both sides of the issue, quoted grandma.

Grandma says, " Remember, no matter how flat the pancake, there are always two sides."

Country wisdom at its best!

It’s Only 10%

I’ve never been one to make sweeping changes in a sudden burst of enthusiasm.  But don’t misunderstand, when change has a reasonable chance for success and improvement, count me in.

I’ve been thinking about how to get a little more done each day without snorting, rearing and get white-eyed around the people close to me. 

You probably know change artists who start acting like a completely different person when they decide to do things differently.

The business and home climate is filled with vast amounts of weeping and gnashing of teeth as others deal with the melodrama played out by the drastic, all or nothing, change advocate.

Not my style, so I’ve been thinking about one of my favorite fractions: 10 %.

Ten percent is a decent return on investment, a fair commission rate, an OK employee turnover rate, a good discount rate, an acceptable no-show rate, a fair vacancy rate and just an all around reliable percentage.

Now I’ve thinking about getting more done for about ten percent of my "freewheeling thinking" time today and came up with a 10 percent theory for increasing productivity.

What if I:

  • keyboarded 10 % faster
  • answered the phone 10% faster
  • ended conversations 10% faster
  • made decisions 10% quicker
  • gave instructions 10% faster
  • angered 10% slower
  • spoke with 10% fewer words
  • started work 10% earlier and quit 10% sooner
  • increased my network of associates by 10% each month
  • reduced expenses by 10%
  • increase sales by 10% each quarter
  • gave 10% more compliments
  • gave 10% less criticism
  • smiled 10% more each day
  • ate 10% less fat
  • drank 10% more water

It sure sounds more doable than the alternatives for making changes.  And you know the results have to be 10% better.

Learn From Feedback From Your Event

The subject of collecting feedback and debriefing came up recently with me. It got me thinking about how valuable feedback can be collected easily to make any type of event run better the next time. I recalled being a conference attendee at an intensive all day session of training, coaching, commentary and intellectual sparring.

The clock struck 5:00 P.M.- quitting time (we’d had enough). Time for some socializing and a cold drink.

That was what I and about five hundred others thought as we sat in a huge conference room in Las Vegas several years ago.

But the seminar leader, Thomas Leonard, said it’s not play time quite yet. Let’s have some feedback about the day. We need to hear about your experience. He asked the audience questions like these:

What was good, what was bad?

What is the one thing that you learned today of the greatest value to you?

How can we make our next meeting even better?

Leonard knew the importance of asking for feedback and the timing of feedback capture.

You see, if you don’t ask for feedback on performance you’ll never get it. Not because people don’t want to give you feedback, but because their personal avalanche of time commitments overwhelms them the minute they leave the room.

So, not only asking is important, but the timing of your request to capture the information is just as important. At the close of an event (clinic, demonstration, horse show, riding lesson), you still have a "captured" audience. They are tired, but still in a fresh frame of reference with what was presented. If a week or even a day or two goes by before feedback is gathered, the participants will only retain a fraction of the experience.

The military brass and law enforcement leaders know the power and benefit of conducting a debriefing session after their own "events". You can gather information and feedback the same way in your business, too.

It’s not hard; here is how you do it. After an event, ask your staff and volunteers questions like:

·         What did we do well today?

·         What did we do that wasn’t effective or was badly executed?

·         Who do we applaud and thank for a job well done?

·         Who should be met with privately for suggestions and help to improve?

·         What have we learned from this event today?

·         What are things we should change before the next time we have this event?

·         Who would like a larger role in carrying out the event next time?

Or ask the audience or participants of your event questions like these:

·         What did you learn during this activity?

·         Were you satisfied with what we presented?

·         What new things did you learn about this topic?

·         Where do you need more practice?

·         What things would you suggest for us to consider to make this event better?

Try a feedback session after your next event; you’ll be impressed with the information you gather and the ease of acquiring it.

Bootstrapping in the Horse Business

Building a business takes help and that usually means an investment (cash outlay) in people in the form of wages, salary or contract. 

But, not always.  If you take the time to ask around, you may find that people will help you for reasons other than cash.  In the cash driven mindset of the entrepreneur, often overlooked is the fact that some people will help you just because they like you and want you to succeed.

As you work on growing your business, there may be help with:

  • marketing-from a student or grad who wants experience
  • barn work-from a city slicker who wants to have the experience of working around horses and on a farm
  • mowing-from a retiree who gets joy out of being productive and having something to do and somewhere to go
  • tack cleaning-from a neat-nik who can’t stand neglected leather and bits that don’t shine.
  • organizing files -from a riding student’s mother who can’t sit still
  • equipment painting-from anyone who hates rusty steel
  • jump building-from a hobbyist carpenter who will build anything if you supply the materials
  • runner/delivery/pickup-from someone who loves to travel for gas money only
  • what else?

If you are working 12-14 hours every day trying to do everything, it won’t work.  It’s OK to ask for help and remember the number one thing people want from the work they do is to be appreciated.

Let volunteers know their effort is appreciated and that may be all the pay they require.

Sometimes, you can help someone else by allowing them to help you. 

To Do or Not to Do?

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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:

  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.

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:

  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. . . .

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

  • 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?

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



Horse Flies and Horse Flight

My wife and I were visiting one of our horseman friends the other day when our friend said, "…and you know, a horse fly (green head)  has a top speed of seven miles per hour.  So as long as you and your horse are moving at eight miles per hour, they’ll never keep up with you."

"Aw, come on" , I said.

"No it’s the truth, I just read it in one of my horse magazines."

So I’m wondering, if my slow moving quarter horse has a top jog speed of 4 mph, do I have to always ride into a head wind of over 4 mph to keep the flies from biting us?

Or do we just always move at a nice lope?

Probably the best way to deal with green head horse flies is to treat them just like the people you are not fond of being around; be wherever they aren’t.