Why the Horse Business is Different and What to Do About It

Because I am an equestrian business consultant, people often ask me for help with their business plans. Those who are new to the horse business generally want me to give them a pre-fabricated plan that has worked for someone else so that they can take this "magic plan" and create a successful horse business.

But people who've been in the business a while don't want or expect magic; rather, they want real-life solutions to make their business more financially successful.

Whichever group you fall into, there are at least two major aspects of the horse business that are essential to understand before you decide upon your approach and commit your plan to writing. First, how the horse business is different from mainstream business and, second, what you should do to succeed.

Why the Horse Business is Different:
1. Most equestrian businesses are "sport-businesses" so that in order to be successful the owner must continually do well in both the sport and the business. Even if owners are not active competitors themselves, they must still produce successful horses and/or clients.

This dual success requirement can set a horse business against itself with one side cannibalizing the other…unless there is a plan in place that enables the two sides of the business to complement, rather than compete against, each other.

2. Most professional equestrians don't plan on selling their business. That is, unlike many mainstream business owners, who build their business to a certain level of financial success--and then sell it. Few equestrians build their business in order to sell it, or are motivated solely by the financial rewards of business ownership. Even if running the business becomes pleasurable, most equestrian professionals enjoy the horse part more. They are doing what they love to do and have built their lives around their passion.

So, since equestrian business careers tend to last a lifetime, the business needs to be designed to change and grow with the owner's level of expertise and to adapt to the different stages of the owner's life and career.

3. Operating a business in equestrian sport is a high risk endeavor both physically and financially. Not only can an injury to the owner, the horses, or clients hugely affect an equestrian's career, but also an injury can put an equestrian out of business entirely. Equestrian professionals must take extra care to protect their assets and leverage their expertise in order to create and maintain financial security.

What to Do About It:
Since businesses owned by equestrians have needs different from mainstream businesses, traditional business plan templates don't work very well for equestrians. For success, a different type of business plan is necessary.

Equestrians need business plans that help them unify their equestrian and business goals, protect their assets, capitalize on their current level of expertise, and keep them poised and ready to expand and adapt as their expertise grows and their career develops. Rather than creating a traditional business plan that acts as a map to reach a final destination, it is far better for horse professionals to develop a business plan that is designed to create an ongoing, developmental cycle of success.

Creating this type of business plan involves learning how to assess, manage, communicate, and re-invest in your expertise on an ongoing basis. Before you write the actual business plan itself, it is essential to understand some basic "truths" about your business.

First: Recognize that your expertise is the reason your business exists. Your expertise is essentially the heart of your business and it is your most important asset. Your business plan is your strategy for capitalizing on your expertise. Each time you increase your expertise you strengthen your business foundation and can explore expansion.

Second: Understand that your financial success depends on more than just your expertise. It depends on your ability to successfully communicate the value of your expertise to the right people. In other words, it is not enough to be the best rider in your area. Nor is it enough to communicate just your expertise itself to your clients. You must get good at communicating the BENEFITS of your expertise in order to grow a successful business and to be paid what you are worth! In order to successfully communicate your benefits, you must continually develop and implement solid marketing strategies. Note: Marketing your business is not the same as advertising it. Marketing is everything you do to promote your business, whereas advertising is simply one form of marketing.

Third: Your financial security depends on your ability to protect and manage your business resources. This means you must manage your assets wisely. Assets include your expertise, finances, clients, help, facility, horses, and more, depending upon who you are and what you know and do. And you must protect your assets with proper safety protocol, boarding agreements, liability releases, bills of sale, insurance, and care.

Fourth: Learn to view your business as a living thing. Your profit margins and marketing responses help you keep your finger on the pulse of your business. A healthy business is not immutable. It continually adapts to changes in the industry, the economy, your capacities and needs, and the capacities and needs of your clients. No business is stagnant: it is either growing or decaying. Yours must continue to grow in order to stay healthy.

Elisabeth McMillan is an equine business consultant and the owner/editor of EquestrianProfessional.com, a website that provides business education and career support to horse professionals. She is also a sought after public speaker for equestrian organizations and events through out the U.S. For more information please visit www.EquestrianProfessional.com or you may email her directly at lizzy@equestrianprofessional.com

About the Author

Elisabeth McMillan

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