Essential Elements to a Successful Boarding Facility
Horse boarding is an entertainment business and and people are paying the bills. How you handle people can make the difference between having a waiting list of great potential boarders and having empty stalls.
‣Keep it Professional. It may seem like this is so obvious it doesn't need saying, but I've seen it often enough that I believe it bears mentioning. If you're having trouble with a boarder keep it to yourself. Every time I hear a horse boarding stable manager bad mouth another boarder I immediately wonder what she's saying about me, because I know that my turn to be the subject of her disapproval will come. Badmouthing your customers does not foster the warm and welcoming atmosphere that successful entertainment businesses need to thrive. I get it, everyone needs to vent. Vent to someone not boarding at your stables on whom you can rely to keep what you have said confidential. Your best friend is a boarder?--Too bad. Find someone else to field your frustration.
‣Curb Your Temper. Have a temper? Lose it somewhere else. Losing it at the barn just says you're not a professional, ruins the fun atmosphere you're trying to create and accomplishes nothing. I was the unwitting recipient of one horse boarding stable owner's pent up frustration, which had nothing to do with me, by the way. I started looking for a new place that afternoon.
‣Don't Make Me the Cop. This is my entertainment time. Every horse boarding facility has rules, and for good reason. Horseback riding can be an unsafe sport if certain rules aren't followed, whereas other rules ensure that everyone enjoys the experience. Please don't make me, the boarder, enforce the rules. If someone is stealing my supplies or equipment, get on it. If someone hogs the turnouts, make it stop. If the rules aren't worth enforcing don't have them in the first place. Provide a private method for boarders to bring problems to your attention. Address concerns right away. Remember this is your boarder's entertainment time. Every minute spent not having fun is entertainment time, and money, wasted.
‣Make Rules Apply to Everyone. Nothing is worse than going to a horse boarding stable where you feel like a second-class citizen because you are expected to follow the rules, but Inconsiderate Irene doesn't have to because she has a special relationship with the owner.
‣Find a Gentle Way to Suppress Whining. You know the whiners. They are the "never happy with anything except when expressing my unhappiness" type. They can suck the fun out of any event--FOR EVERYONE. Talk to them privately. You don't want to squash communication, you just want to channel it to you. Remember, this is your job, not your entertainment, so you're being paid to field the negative, not your boarders. Many whiners don't even realize they're bringing down the party. Tell the whiner you're interested in her opinion, privately, and would appreciate hearing from her directly. Explain how hard you try to make your barn a happy place for everyone, and enlist her efforts in doing so by pointing out how words count and can darken, or brighten, any atmosphere. Make sure you don't disappoint her when she does come to you. It doesn't mean you have to rebuild your stables in the shape of theTaj Majal to satisfy her, but if she feels like you're just brushing her off she may feel like other boarders are the only ones listening. Sometimes whining is based on a genuine problem that can be easily solved. If so, fix it. Remember, for everyone person who is willing to complain, there are others, who are also bothered by the problem but won't step up to voice their opinions.
‣Don't Make Me the Mechanic. Many stables are run on a shoestring, but management should expect to repair facilities with an eye to safety. Some managers know that they have boarders under the thumb, in that they know boarders will do repair work rather than leave their horses in an unsafe or unpleasant situation. Don't think your reputation doesn't suffer from this. I've boarded at barns where I spent hours repairing stalls, that my horses didn't dismantle. Remember, this is my entertainment. I bought horses to ride, not so I could repair someone else's barn. Keeping your facilities in good safe condition adds to the value of the property and your business. If you're simply shorthanded perhaps you could offer your boarders a break in fees in return for help with maintenance. If you require boarders to clean up after themselves provide tools where they're needed. Every minute spent hunting down the manure fork is entertainment time wasted.
‣Communicate.Communicate.Communicate. Good communication is one of the most important aspects to any human relationship. It fosters a feeling of community and professionalism. How do you feel when all your other friends know of an outing and somehow the communication didn't get to you? There are many options to enhance communication at your horse boarding facility. Bulletin boards, both virtual and tangible, work well. Email, text message, tweet, whatever, just get the information out. I boarded at a horse boarding stables that kept small white boards on every stall door. If anyone noticed any minor problem with the horse, or someone wanted to schedule a trail ride with the owner, it was written down right there on the board. Offer your boarders a way to share contact information with other boarders.
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