Is 2020 the year you’re looking to grow your equine business? Is expanding your existing lesson program the way you hope to achieve business growth?
Increasing the number of lessons given each week—either by adding more time slots or making group lessons larger—is possible to generate additional revenue. However, depending upon the number of horses and staff available, it might not be as simple as opening up new times for riders to fill.
Barbara Lindberg, the equine business management director of Cazenovia College, said there are several questions to ask before expanding your lesson program. She encouraged stable owners and managers to ask themselves:
- Is there a market for more lessons?
- Do you have enough horses, staff and hours in the day to expand the lesson program?
- Will a greater number of lessons require investment of more staff, horses or time?
- Can you afford those changes?
“When looking at expansion, be realistic about how many more lessons there is a market for and how many more your barn/horses can handle,” she said.
Once you’ve thought through the logistics you must develop a plan, emphasized Kimberly LaComba, PhD, an assistant professor of equine business management at the University of Findlay. Outlining a sample schedule for the trainer and the horses is a good place to start. Include details such as how you can follow through on expanding a lesson program so that they are taught in a safe manner and meet customer expectations. Stables that provide horses also need to consider how increasing lessons affects each horse’s workload. Client-owned horses provide more flexibility for scheduling than lesson horses that are expected to work a set number of times each day or week.
“It’s worth the time to put in the work on a written business plan and goals,” LaComba added. “Ask some of your current clients and potential clients about your ideas for your business. This is helpful so that you can gauge interest to see if what you are considering will be beneficial or not.”
Gathering this information could be in the form of, for example, a simple three-question survey that you email to them using a free platform such as surveymonkey.com. Or it might simply be having a conversation.
If your research is telling you that your plan isn’t something the current or potential clients are looking for, or you don’t have the resources to support the expansion, then table the idea for now. But kudos to you for having a growth mindset. Keep moving forward even if it means modifying your original expectations or goals.
Once you’ve done your homework, be decisive. Either toss that idea for this year or dedicate your time and resources to make it happen. If you’ve decided not to expand, but have had conversations about potential changes with staff and clients, update them on your decision.
“Go for it, or not,” LaComba said. “Ultimately, as a leader and business owner, we can’t predict it all and will need to use the knowledge gained to make an informed decision.”