START YOUR HORSE BUSINESS: Q&A
A number of questions continue to come up about from people who want to start their own horse business. We thought it might be a good idea to review some of the more basic questions and learn why some people delay Starting A Horse Business.
Q: WHY ARE PEOPLE AFRAID TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
SYHB: The ultimate stumbling block to starting your own business is Fear of Failure. As statistics show that many new businesses fail, it is reasonable to have apprehension and concern. The question is not so much the “why” are people afraid or concerned, but rather how you handle your Fear of Failure.
First, Fear is healthy and should not be hidden. Go ahead and talk about it. It is there anyway. I am tired of reading about the “fearless entrepreneur”. All people starting a new business have concerns; it would be inappropriate not to have those feelings.
Second, and this may sound like an over simplification, but it is not. Most people fail at their business because they absolutely do not know what they are doing. This occurs on all levels of business. Some fairly sophisticated people may decide to open their own business, buy one of those “1000 Franchises” magazines and pick one that calls for an investment amount that they have on hand. Most reputable companies that offer franchise have training available. The problem is that the people do not love the work and they are not energized by it. If franchise costs hundreds of thousands or under ten thousand, it may not be right for you. Even if it produces a good income, you chances of success dwindle with a loss of energy and enthusiasm over time. People just pick the wrong business.
Just as an aside, it always struck me that the most difficult person to sell a franchise to would be the very person who founded the business. Would the person who founded a particular hamburger chain now buy a franchise from his own company? Or, would he or she take a small percentage of that franchise fee and open their own independent business all over again? I always suspected the latter.
Finally, the initial “business plan” gets blamed and people are told that their plan was incomplete in some way. In fact, the plan was probably good up to a point. Too many people become too grandiose with their plans at first. This is why I support “spinning up” your business. This is a way to start minimally and to keep adding positive cash flow over time. Do not add any more until you get your first efforts adding income. You can do this without risking large amounts of capital in starting the business in terms of legal formation, commercial leases, marketing and advertising, and other costs. “Keep it Simple, Stupid,” just grow it step by step.
Q: THERE IS A LOT OF EMPHASIS PUT ON “NETWORKING“. I ALREADY KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE, BUT HOW DOES THIS HELP ME?
SYHB: It is important that you SIT AT THE TABLE in the Horse Industry: This aspect of the Horse Industry cannot be overemphasized. It is very fortunate for everyone that the Horse Industry is so de-centralized and varied. The opportunity to enter the Horse Business in some aspect is wide open. The critical point is that once you enter it and are “sitting at the table” you then are able to explore many opportunities that will open to you. Networking within the Industry is critical and finding additional opportunities for your business expansion depends upon it.
This is more than just knowing a lot of people. You have to actively contact people and let them know what you are doing and want to do. It is perfectly fine for you to ask for business, referrals, and help. Look at it differently: Suppose a friend of yours opened his or her own furniture upholstering shop and asked you to refer business to them if you could and they hand you a card. You would not be offended by this and would try to help them.
This idea is not new. I had the great pleasure of knowing Murry Kester. Murry had been involved in old Vaudeville and Broadway Shows, as a marketer and producer. He could regale one with stories of many actors, actresses, and old Vaudville performers such as the Marx Brothers. I asked Murry how he knew so many of these people. He replied that he had to and moved in those circles. People were looking for the next play or place to perform and, the wider his circle, the more he was able to find new opportunities. You can read more about Murry. His contacts eventually led him to Lee Iacocca and Iacocca credits him as a mentor who taught him a great deal. Even in his retirement years, Murry told me: “It’s like that Gates boy and all those early computer guys. No one knew what they were doing. There was only a handful of them at first--but they all knew each other and moved in those circles. They gave each other ideas.”
Fortunately, the Horse Industry is so large, you can meet and interact with huge numbers of people.
Q: YOUR IDEA SEEMS TO BE TO START SMALL AND THEN “SPIN UP” THE BUSINESS BY ADDING ADDITIONAL BUSINESSES. HOW CAN I RUN SIX BUSINESSES?
SYHB: Some people feel that they cannot operate several businesses and do not grasp the concept of maintaining and keeping their initial business. The businesses that you develop will work out into a natural flow from one to the other and this will be true because of your own uniqueness in your skills, talents, and abilities. When you decide to start a horse business, you are going to start with something that interests you and that you can do--or learn to do well.
You could look at many kinds of examples to see how this works, but consider this: If your first inclination is to do something using your artistic talents, you may find yourself looking to creating your own oil or acrylic paintings. However, those with artistic leanings and abilities, will find other art related opportunities available to them. This type of Individual tends to have talents in graphic design and photography. Other artistic crafts and abilities such as metallurgy, jewelry design, stained glass work, and ceramic work are frequently within this talent group. How these talents and abilities are melded into business ventures is up to each individual, but these ’spin ups” will be natural add-ons and expansions.
Similarly, the skills and talents that we normally find in a person who wants to become a farrier and shoe horses usually does not have the skill set that we identify with artistic people. The “spin-ups” for that business may lay more in the opportunities available with Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, various kinds of Blacksmithing and Forge Work, and operating Farrier Trade Schools. Even this business may expand into Tack Sales as a natural outgrowth of being at barns and knowing who is buying and selling horses.
Wherever your set of talents lie, there will be growth opportunities within the Horse Industry. You can pick virtually any field or interest.
Q: HOW CAN JUST OPENING A BUSINESS AND WORKING HARD MAKE IT A SUCCESS? DON’T PEOPLE WORK HARD AND STILL FAIL?
SYHB: They “say” they do. You have to be attuned to the “happenstance of business.“ If you are in business, opportunities come and go. It is your job to see the opportunities. There are endless stories about how people have grown their businesses. A huge number of these stories involve opportunities that occurred by chance. This happens in every business and these are your “door openings.” You do have to jump when the opportunity is there.
Let me give you an Example: A wedding planner is asked to help a friend plan a “cowboy chic” wedding to be held in a barn. The wedding planner accepts the work, decorates the barn, posts pictures on their business page, and soon other couples come in for their own similar wedding. The barn owner may even get in on renting his or her barn.
Businesses happen and grow through all these kinds of opportunities every day. To even have the opportunity, you need a seat at the table. Don’t worry. The horse business is wide open and there is always room for another chair. .
Q: WHAT IF NO OTHER OPPORTUNITIES KNOCK FOR ME?
SYHB: This answer to this is difficult for some people to grasp or wrap their hearts and minds around, although that is exactly what it takes. The concept has been explained in many different ways over the years and is put into practice very day by all kinds of businesses. Norman Vincent Peale called it the “Power of Positive Thinking” in his best-selling book. New Age writers speak of chakras and centers of energy. People have used many types of parallels to religion and belief systems and referred to it as the Tao of business. Thomas Aquinas said it was “Faith” and Kevin Costner told us that “…if you build it they will come” in Field of Dreams. Our parents may have told us that we had to believe in ourselves and believe that we can succeed. ALL of these statements are efforts to reveal to you that good business opportunities will come your way based upon your own energies and efforts and assuming your positive attitude.
Example: This is a true story that is beyond my ability to explain fully. John was a lawyer who had few new clients. He had hit a period when the phone did not ring and no one walked in his door. I ran into John as he was headed to the golf course just after lunch. He explained (complained really) that business was down and he had been playing more golf. I asked if he had any cases to work on and he said a couple but nothing was due for about two months and the cases were fairly boring. I suggested to John that he not play golf the next day, but rather dig out those files and spend all day working on them. R-check his strategy and his research--but work on those files. He finally agreed and called me about 6pm the next day. John was excited about a new case that came in late in the afternoon.
The point of the story is that somehow, and I cannot explain how, your customers “know” who is working and who is not working. If you do nothing, nothing happens. If you do something, something happens. Activity breeds Activity.
Q: IF ALL THIS IS TRUE, THEN WHY DO SMALL BUSINESSES FAIL? I DO NOT WANT MY BUSINESS TO FAIL. ASSUMING I DO SOMETHING IN WHICH I AM VERY INTERESTED AND IT IS SOMETHING I CAN DO ON A REASONABLE SCALE, WHAT ACCOUNTS FOR THOSE FAILURES?
SYHB: There are really only a handful of reasons that these businesses fail.
First: A very small percentage fail as the result of a catastrophe. Fires, tornados, hurricanes, and catastrophic illness or injury will account for some. This is a minimal percentage and very difficult to track effectively. The tornado may be as likely to hit your home as your business. However, these risks exist whether or not you are in business. It may be that a tornado hits your home and leaves your business in tact. These things are beyond our ability to calculate as a definitive factor, but they do occur.
Second: Greed is a major cause of business failures. Greed comes in many forms, but basically results from you adopting the view that the business is all about you and not about your customers. Businesses need to remain responsive to the customers needs and desires by being consumer-centric and not ego-centric. I don’t mean that trying to improve your financial status by making more money is negative or the thing I am talking about. The “Greed” that I mean is the active short-changing of people by cutting corners in the product or service that you are offering--doing less than is required or reasonably expected. Anyone can have a difficult customer who si never pleased or satisfied. What you have to watch for is just doing poor work and still expecting people to reward you. One of the best ways to combat this is to continue to engage in community service, continue with volunteer work, and keep your mind and heart in balance with your fellow man.
Third: Refusing to change and alter your business plan is another reason businesses fail. Many businesses make a business plan, open their doors, and then file their business plan away--never to see it again. Your business “plan” is neither static nor fixed. You should regularly review it and revise it as you meet new challenges and conditions. Constantly know where you are, where your business stands, and know what is working and what is not. If the marketing aspect of your plan is not working as you had projected, then re-work it and revise it. We all know that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Yet, we will see businesses say that did have a “plan” and it failed them although it was never revised. Plan your work and work your plan, making changes when they are required.
Fourth: There is a major legal change that affects your business. Losing a patent could be difficult to overcome. On a more down-to-earth level, a law may affect the structure or operation of your business. This is just something with which you need to deal. Remember, the legal change will affect all your competitors in the same industry. Those who cannot find a way to deal with new laws and regulations will be weeded out. However, do not believe that the entire Industry will be shut down--some will figure out ways to go forward. You may need help figuring this out; if you do, admit that and get it. This is more a question of working your brain and wits than just giving up.
Fifth: Finally, there is disruption in your personal life, particularly a divorce or ending a relationship. You could include drug or alcohol abuse here also. These events will disrupt your life even if you are not in business and the answer to these kinds of issues are different with each individual. The mental toll on a person in the midst of these issues usually drains their energy and other aspects of their life suffer--including their work performance. Turmoil of some kind in one’s personal life will rarely completely leave. These are just facts of life and we all deal with these issues.
How you deal with these issues is what is critical for these are dangerous times for all small businesses. However, this is a risk you will take in your life whether or not you own a business. Where some people make an additional mistake is trying to plan a business in the midst of this upheaval or depending upon a partner who is themselves involved in trying personal times. Be as sure as you can be about your personal relationships and yourself as well as others is about all you can do. Some people can take these life-changing events to rid themselves of negative influences and get on with their lives and personal plans for the future and that attitude is the direction in which you need to look..
Q: ALL IN ALL, AND CONSIDERING ALL THESE THINGS, WHAT IS THE SIMPLEST WAY TO START A BUSINESS?
SYHB: The simplest approach is to begin slowly and surely, even if this means on a part-time basis. If you have current employment, plan to keep that at first. See if there is anyway to expand your current work into the Horse Industry--even in a minor way. If not, work on your plan and begin with the simplest aspect of the plan. Divide everything you would like to do in your intended business, whether a product or service, down into individual tasks and jobs. From there, find the simplest task and see if you can create a part-time business from that.
In an example we mentioned, suppose you want to use your artistic talents. Your products will take time to develop and likely not support an immediate income sufficient to support you. If you were going to sell your paintings, you may intend also to frame those paintings appropriately. Can you use this single step, “picture framing”, as a basis to begin a part-time business? Likely, you can do this and most all businesses and services can be broken down into a series of steps.
If your plans are going to require more knowledge, start on that now. You already know you need more knowledge, so start getting it now. If a tack store is your goal, meet and talk with owners of such businesses--perhaps out of town. You may even be able to work part-time for someone else; in fact, you should if you have never done this work yourself before.
Money always helps your planning. Do something to bring in some extra money. Clean something, move something, or sell something. Begin somewhere and actually do something to earn some money.
Get your head right. Get the clutter out of your own life so you can devote time to this venture. Organize yourself. Clean your house or apartment and create a place where you can work. Get your bills together. Finally do those nagging things you have put off. You will find that your mind will become more active and you will have even more ideas while you get these chores and tasks out of the way. All these little undone things will come back to haunt you. They have to be done anyway and putting them off just means they will interrupt you later. Get yourself actually prepared to begin a business.
Don’t be discouraged. It all will happen. An old lawyer, Mr. Rhea Haskell, once told me: “All you have to do is hang out your shingle and hang on.”
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