by Lisa Derby Oden
Nanette’s note: Lisa’s a gal I’ve come to respect a great deal as a person, a resource and a savvy business mind. She’s evented extensively (so gets the horse passion), has run her own riding stable and is now focused on a successful and busy business designed to help other equine enthusiasts thrive. She’s a woman of character – and one who speaks softly but says volumes. Having someone with such integrity in your corner as you strive to establish or expand your horse-related business can mean the difference between learning the hard way and finding your stride early. I appreciate her taking the time to offer some tips below.
Horse Sense – look before you leap
The American Dream….that means different things to different people. Home ownership is often at the top of the list, and for many being their own boss and owning their own business is right there at the top too. Those of us that own horses often dream of running our own horse business. Just imagine…surrounded by horses, lifelong learning in a realm we’re passionate about, becoming a pillar in our community. These are definitely among the benefits of running your own horse business. It’s important to remember that any career choice that you make will have its pro’s and con’s, and it’s really smart to be just as comfortable about the con’s that you’ve chosen as the pro’s. Yet many people venture into running their own business without doing so, and this is where the American dream can become an American nightmare.
Thinking about starting a horse business can result in a confusing tangle of questions and uncertainty about where to start. People often jump to opening their doors in their excitement of “just do it” rather than sorting it all out and tackling the research and strategic thinking. They soon discover that what they skipped over in early planning reappears as a stumbling block. It often has grown to become a bigger issue requiring more attention, and potentially more money, than if it had been given due consideration earlier.
There are generally two paths that start-up businesses take. As mentioned, one is the person that jumps right in and opens their door with little, if any, planning. The other is the person that plans and plans and plans and never takes action. A hybrid approach works best – lack of planning is a key reason that businesses fail, so planning is your friend. On the other hand, getting your business off paper and into action by conducting a market test allows you to see if you really can sell what you have to offer. My observation of the horse industry is that there are more “doers” than “planners.” After all, we’re a hands-on bunch! Think of planning like riding without stirrups – at first you feel unsure but the more you do it, the better you get, and the stronger and more secure you become.
Horse business startup ideas to help you win
So let’s untangle those questions and consider a step-by-step process that will get your horse business started on good footing. There are 5 fundamental steps to take when starting a horse business:
1) Make sure running your own business is right for you, financially and characteristically. Understanding your financial expectations and needs begins to set the stage for determining feasibility. Knowing yourself, your energy level, skills and skill gaps, creativity, resourcefulness and ability to self-motivate advances you another step.
2) Find out what the requirements are for running a business in your town and your state. Investigate what responsibilities you have federally as well.
3) Evaluate the market and identify your target market. The better you know your target market, the better you’ll be at reaching them and giving them what they want. Can you do a market test that helps you further refine your offering and market knowledge?
4) Calculate financial feasibility. Figure out what it will cost you to run your business, what the cash flow looks like over the course of a year and when you’ll reach break-even. Lots of people don’t realize it can take a few years and sometimes many years to reach break-even.
5) Set short- and long-term goals. People often start with goal setting. I firmly believe it should be done AFTER the steps above have been taken because the steps offer up information critical to setting goals that are grounded in reality.
The 5 fundamental steps help you to minimize mistakes that can cost you valuable time and money. No one can know it all, but we can all increase what we do know and decrease what we don’t know. This improves the ability to succeed in business because you’ll be making INFORMED decisions. Yes, entrepreneurs are risk-takers, but they succeed because they are CALCULATED risk-takers.
If you’d like to work step-by-step in a systematic process to get your horse business venture off the ground, take a look at this upcoming teleseminar series: 5 Fundamental Steps To Starting A Horse Business. It includes Q&A, worksheets that will be reviewed and provided feedback when completed during the series, calculators to plug your individual numbers into for customized results, downloadable recordings and a student workshop center with additional resources. Join me, drop those stirrups, and get ready for a great ride!
Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and leadership consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Ms. Oden is author of “Growing Your Horse Business” and “Bang for Your Buck: Making $ense of Marketing for Your Horse Business.” She can be reached at: (603) 878-1694 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (603) 878-1694 end_of_the_skype_highlighting; email at [email protected]; or visit her website at www.blueribbonconsulting.com .