Plan For Success In Your Equine Business

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If you own an equine business, then you need to set a plan for success in today’s new reality. There are many reasons that 2013 has been a turning point for those who own horse farms and stables. After several years of “the great recession,” the economy is gradually making a comeback. However, those years caused a new reality in how people spend their money, a decrease in the number of horses being bred, a reduction in the number of people owning horses, a decline in the number of horse owners who can afford boarding care to the level they had in the past, and higher costs associated with keeping a horse.

There also are the different goals, expectations and problems of the current horse owners entering the market (or re-entering the market) compared to the goals, expectations and problems faced by those who have owned horses for years.

While show season is slowing down and before breeding season heats back up, it’s a good time to look ahead at 2014 and beyond and craft a plan that will help you be successful in your equine business.

The National School Boards Association summarized the process for goal and objective development: “The difference between where we are (current status) and where we want to be (vision and goals) is what we do (target objectives and action plans).”

In other words: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.

Therefore, regardless of your career stage, you need to determine where you are and understand where you want to go, then determine what steps are needed to get to that destination. That combination of “trip and destination” define your success or lack thereof.

So today’s critical question might be: How do YOU define success?

This question was posed by us to author and marketing guru Seth Godin, who responded: “It seems like defining one’s own success is precisely about asking the question. Too often, we’re in too much of a hurry to stop and ask.”

Therefore, the purpose of this article is to give you tools and some good reasons to stop and ask yourself the question: How do I define success?

To help guide us on that path, we turned to life coach Angela Spiers, EdD, BSW, MEd, LSW (EdD (abd) Doctorate Counseling Psychology, Masters of Education Bachelors in Social Work, Licensed Social Worker). Spiers is uniquely qualified not only because she is a life coach, but because she uses horses in her therapy at Stable Meadows near Lexington, Kentucky. She understands the passion people have for horses, as well as the dedication it takes to work with them and the bond that can develop.

Step 1: Where Am I Now?

The American dream suggests that everyone has the opportunity for pros-perity and success. In other words, we’ve been raised to believe that if we want something badly enough and are willing to work hard enough, we will be successful. Unfortunately, these dreams sometimes get derailed, and often we don’t know why, or what to do about it.

Spiers’ approach when working with a new client is to start with where that person is now in his or her life. The next step is to create goals, looking at barriers and issues that prevent people from making the changes they want.

She said that she works with the individual to see where that person is in his or her life and career, then look at why that person wants to make a change. From there, she looks at the person’s strengths and works with him/her or her to set goals.

“This is a different approach from therapy, where you go back and work through problems,” said Spiers. “This is goal- and strength-centered, and we do fundamental work on achieving those goals.”

She said individuals need to realize that people change. “As they age, they often discover there is something else they want to do,” she said. “Your interests change as you evolve and age. The interests I had at 20 are not the same as when I’m 40.”

That means success will look different depending on where you are in your career. Someone who is right out of college and teaching or managing a stable will not have the same goals, problems, or success definitions as a 40-year veteran of farm or stable ownership.

The opportunities and the world also aren’t the same today as they were 40 years ago (or even four years ago).

The newly graduated student who knows she/he is going to be an instructor and trainer, who has experience with horses and who has a choice of farms offering jobs is a rarity today. Even more rare is if that student graduates without a huge student debt load from investing in the education that confers the degree.

The 40-year veteran is likely looking for retirement at some point, with an eye to passing along her clients and business to a reliable professional. However, unless she has planned for that graceful and profitable exit, the result of those decades of hard work might have little or no value in today’s economy.

Spiers said that if her client were the 40-year veteran, she would “look holistically” at the person’s life, including strengths, interests and health.

“I start with a person’s health,” said Spiers. “Especially with nurturing people. They care, and they can’t make a difference in an animal or person’s life if they don’t take care of themselves.”

In discussing goals with an individual, Spiers might discover that the stated “goal” of becoming a bartender in Key West isn’t really what they want after all.

“Maybe what they really want is a shift rather than a full change,” she said. “Is 60 hours a week what you want? Where is self-care (daily time for reflection and yourself)? You are taking care of all of these animals and everyone around you, but where are you taking care of yourself? How are you eating, sleeping, breathing? Do you feel like you are constantly running on empty?”

Spiers defines self-care as being more mindful of your own wellness, giving yourself time to reflect and making that time sacred.

She said if the client were a young 30-something female who is looking to get married or start a family, she would discuss what the impact of those changes would be on her life and career. Or, if the client were the same age, but the debt load was the biggest challenge, she would look at planning some practical steps to remove that burden. Maybe that would involve working in a different place or a different part of the market in order to more quickly reduce the debt.

One of the most important things you need to do is take a very realistic look at where you are now and where you want to be. Think of it as taking inventory of your life. On the professional side, try asking yourself these questions:

• How much income do I have?

• How much are my expenses?

• How much total debt do I have?

• How long will it take me to pay off that debt at the rate I’m paying it off today?

• Am I putting anything away toward retirement?

• Do I have an emergency fund?

• Do I have adequate insurance (health, life, liability, etc.)?

On the personal side, ask yourself:

• Are there health problems I face?

• Am I working where I want to work (geographic location)?

• Am I working the hours I want to work?

• Am I doing the kind of work I want?

• Do I have a social life?

• Do I have hobbies?

• Does my family complain because I’m always working?

• Do my friends complain that I never do anything with them anymore?

Step 2: Where Am I Going?

No matter where you are in your career, you need to stop and determine whether you are moving in the right direction for what you have set as your goals and objectives (and ultimately your success), or whether those goals have changed. If you haven’t yet set goals and objectives (generally as part of an overall strategic plan), now is the time.

Many companies have strategic plans, and individuals should have them, too. They should cover business and personal areas of life. The outline in the sidebar is a simple template to use for professional or personal planning.

It helps to have someone else (a friend or professional) hold you accountable for your goals and action items. Having a weekly or monthly “meeting” in person, online or via phone is a good way to make sure you are paying attention to the details that add up to success.

That is why it is so important to put deadlines and success determinations in your strategic plans. If you know you want to re-organize your lesson schedule for 2014 by the end of November, and you know on Nov. 15 that your “strategic planning partner” is going to be waiting on you at lunch with your strategic plan in hand, you will be more apt to put forth the time and effort to accomplish that goal.

Spiers said, “If someone came in and said, ‘I’ve been doing this for years and don’t know where I want to be,’ we would set goals for what they want to do next. If they don’t achieve it, then I work with them to see what the barriers are.

“If they say are too busy, then our focus might be on self-care,” said Spiers. “Then we would set some incremental steps to achieve that goal and break down the barriers.���

She said making steps manageable is the key to helping people accomplish them and reach a goal.

“Change can be scary for a lot of people,” said Spiers. “We are asking for fundamental change from people who have been in that routine a long time, and that routine is a source of comfort. Or the comfort can be income.

One of things Spiers would look at is fundamental change, which for a farm or stable owner might be working within the industry rather than being on the farm all day working. If that person’s “comfort zone” has been to teach dressage six days a week and manage a working farm, perhaps she would like to only teach and leave running the farm she doesn’t want to do either, and she’d rather do a half-dozen clinics a month.

Or perhaps she would like to switch entirely and become the executive director of her state’s dressage organization.

Spiers recommended career testing, no matter where you are in your life. She also recommended a free website that has tools you can use (ONetOnline.org).

“You have a solid foundation of a career; how do we morph that into something that you like to do?” questioned Spiers. “I then will have clients educate themselves about the outlook of that new career and what it will take to get there.”

Spiers added that some people have physical or mental issues that need to be addressed before they are ready to work with a life coach.

Step 3: What If I Fail?

Sometimes you won’t accomplish the individual tactic or the whole goal. What then?

First, remember that successful people fail often. Don’t scrap a tactic or the whole goal if you fail; step back and determine why you didn’t accomplish it. Were your timelines unrealistic? Did you try to do too much, too soon? Was the money not there to pay for a service needed to accomplish the tactic or goal?

“One of the things about life coaching is to challenge the reasons why something happens,” said Spiers. She said some people actually fear success and have “sabotage thinking.” She said if that is the case, she will align the patient with a therapist who deals with that type of problem before getting back on track with life coaching.

Perhaps you need to re-evaluate the failed tactic or goal and decide whether it still fits into your overall strategic plan. Business or personal goals might have changed, or better opportunities might have arisen that made the specific tactic or goal obsolete.

However, don’t drop a goal or tactic just because it is difficult. You still might be able to accomplish it if you break it down into smaller pieces, or seek outside help to understand the problem better so you can determine the best paths to meet the goal or accomplish the tactic.

Step 4: What If I Succeed?

Many people are thrown off balance more because they succeed than because they fail.

If your goal is to try and totally redo your dressage instruction schedule in order to accommodate more students, and you succeed and add 30 more students a week, do you have the time, facilities and manpower to serve all of those new clients?

If you do, that’s great. If not, then you need to quickly come up with a plan so those new clients are happy with your facility.

There is an old saying that you should always “under-promise and over-deliver.” That is one of the best ways to keep clients happy. The alternative is that you over-promise, fail to meet those expectations, and the clients go away unhappy. Then they tell their 10 closest friends, and those people tell their 10 closest friends, and so on.

If you “under-promise and over-deliver,” the same “sharing of the story” can happen, resulting in new clients calling you for services.

Take-Home Message

Success in life is individual. One person’s successes might be another person’s failures, and vice versa. Ensure that you balance your personal and professional strategic plans and goals in order to be happier with your end “success.”

As Dale Carnegie, a leadership training guru, once said, “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.”

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