Finding clients is a priority for barns. Whether it’s boarders, training horses, lesson riders or a combination, stables have to “sell” themselves to sustain and grow business. Bringing on additional boarders is one way to expand.
Boarding facilities operate on slim profit margins. By the time costs are considered for hay, grain, bedding, and labor for feeding, cleaning stalls, doing turnout, etc., the board fees typically do not leave a lot left over for profit. Depending on the size of the facility, there might be opportunities to negotiate savings on bulk bedding or grain to increase overall profit margins.
Labor costs are also significant. A small barn with a couple of horses might not need extra labor. When a facility reaches 10 or 20 boarders, the question becomes how much labor you will need to hire to get the job done.
There is a magic number (it varies, but often occurs around 10 horses) that a facility can handle with a minimum staffing level. Often people think adding two to three new boarders will increase profits, when it actually increases the need for labor and might not pay for itself.
Savvy stable owners have done their homework to determine if they can handle new boarders, then are diligent about promoting their business. Word of mouth advertising is still the best referral. Keep your existing clients happy, and they will recommend you to family and friends.
“Provide great service for your current boarders and encourage referrals,” said Kimberly LaComba, PhD, an assistant professor of equine business management at the University of Findlay.
Referrals are the best starting point, but those should be part of a larger marketing plan. The marketing options are limitless and can be chosen based on your barn and what works for you in your area and with your clientele.
“There are a variety of ways to market, including but not limited to, social media platforms, horse show sponsorships, volunteering on behalf of your business in the community, and many more,” she said.