Seasonality is one of many challenges for stable owners. Traditionally, fall is a transitional season moving barns from a hurried pace into a slower one. But that’s not the case for every facility.
“Our busiest time of year is fall,” said Bud Lyon, a Tioga, Texas, reining horse and ranch riding horse trainer. “Sometimes we’re hauling clients to shows with only a few days in between.”
Fall leads up to the largest events of the year for Lyon and his clients—the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity and Derby and the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Championship Show.
For others, fall is the beginning of a slowdown.
The key to successfully navigating the highs and lows of a cyclical business is knowing your “peak” and “off” seasons and having a plan for the slower months to keep your facility's finances in the black.
Know Your Business Cycle
Lyon knows that the pace of his business dramatically changes in December. Then it might be dead quiet at the barn into early February. The days are shorter. The rainy, windy, cold season make it a challenge to motivate clients.
“We actually welcome that downtime because we’ve just come back from a whole month of showing in Oklahoma City,” he said.
Because Lyon is in-tune with his business cycle, he’s able to plan throughout the year for that time to be slower. Instead of rushing to fill the days, he uses the time to reassess what worked and what didn’t the prior year.
Connect with Clients
Boarders might need time away from the barn to decompress after an intense summer show schedule. Or, the shorter days and cooler weather might make it difficult to fit in a trip to the barn. While clients are taking a break, stay in touch. A text message, a closed Facebook group, an email newsletter or a phone call helps keep customers connected even if they’re not riding or visiting the barn regularly.
“I use our downtime to focus on the fundamentals with clients and get them to nail down their goals for the coming year,” Lyon said.
Find Other Sources of Income
When your business plan accounts for income fluctuations throughout the year and you’re diligent about saving, you might be able to rely on financial reserves.
Even with a rainy-day fund, additional income in the slower season can be helpful to many equine facilities. Seasonally renting stalls and leasing an arena to trainers, polo teams and other equine organizations without a winter facility might be a feasible option for your business.
Think outside the box and get creative about ways to offset a seasonal decline in revenue.