USE NETWORKING TO START YOUR HORSE BUSINESS
It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of Networking in starting your horse business. It will serve as a core tool in the operation and formation of your business. What you are collecting here is a complete and up-to-date list of EVERY PERSON and EVERY BUSINESS or GROUP with which you have any association. This will be the core tool you will use to use as a Resource, in Marketing, and in Operating your horse business.
Networking is an outgrowth of the old adage that is not always what you know, it is who you know. But, don’t miss the point here. It is not just that you are Networking with people, you are truly networking the talents, skills, and abilities that these people have in order to connect them to the horse business you want to start. Nor does Networking mean that you go out of your way to meet strangers (although you may). You begin by Networking the skills, talents and abilities of the people you already know, including your family.
Networking within the horse industry is a very important asset. It is important that to understand why this is so. Some industries are highly concentrated on a national or international basis; a very small percentage of companies, usually very large, are responsible for an enormous percentage of the business. The horse industry is the reverse of this pattern; it is made up of many, many thousands of small businesses. This permits far easier entry into the business but requires a far greater Networking Bank to connect within the horse industry.
Since the horse industry is not dominated or controlled by a very small number of businesses, you need to find a way to connect to a greater multitude customers and related businesses. Your flow of information about your Customers’ needs, the plans of other businesses, trends and market movements, growth patterns, opportunities, and other information will come to you through a large number of sources. Networking permits you to sit at the virtual table of the horse industry and be in the loop and connected to the industry. It is the source of news and discussions that leads to opportunities and is a definite strength.
Work on things that will increase your Networking ability. Joining and participating in Groups and Civic Organizations is a traditional manner in which this is done. Volunteerism is another way to connect with people in the horse industry. Within your community there will be many opportunities for Volunteerism and ways in which you can to the horse industry. It is important that this effort be something you want to do for yourself and not something you are doing in a manipulative manner for personal gain. Your honest efforts will produce honest results. Nor are you required to engage in public activities only. Many people possess vast networks of friends from the quiet and almost
anonymous help and favors they have provided to others over the years. Network in a manner that is suited to your personality, but start and continue this process.
YOUR NETWORKING DATABASE
As you grow your Network in the horse industry, you need to have a way to collect and access this information. The information will serve as a Database of Resources and will also become the foundation of your Customer Relations Management (CRM) tool and your primary resource for Marketing and Advertising. The wider and more complete that you are able to make this Database, the better you will be served. You will refer to this Database many times and in many ways to start and conduct your business. You can keep this in loose leaf and/or digital form, but you must have ready access to it when you need it.
WHAT INFORMATION TO COLLECT
Name, Address, Telephone Numbers, E-Mail Addresses, Fax Numbers, Social Media Information (e.g., Facebook), Skills, Abilities, Associations to Which They Belong, Work and Employment Information, Family Connections, College Information, Children, Pets, and any other information you can note. The more, the better.
HOW TO COLLECT THIS INFORMATION
Family: Start here and reconnect with everyone including distant cousins. This is a great loss among many families as we become dispersed and disconnected. You should do this whether or not you are in the horse business. Do NOT limit this Family List; include everyone. Do include your aunt even if all you can think of is that she makes great brownies. (Think "Grand Opening" and you might just learn that she used to ride.) You will use this list soon and be surprised by the results.
Friends: Obviously, you want to include all your friends. Make notes about any and all familial relationships. You will continue adding information here soon.
Close Family Friends: These people may well fall into the Friends category, however many will be closer friends of your parents. Use address books that your parents or grandparents have to see if there are people you have forgotten.
Co-Workers: Add any co-workers you have not previously entered elsewhere. Be sure to add information about former co-workers. Use resources at work to be sure you collect as much information as you can about finding and re-contacting former co-workers.
Business Associates: Keep records on any and all businesses and professionals with whom you have contact. Include people with whom you have regular contact (e.g., your hairstylist) as well as other small business owners.
Competitors: Enter contact information for all your competitors. You will likely find that you will have some shared interests and you need to be an available resource for referral of overflow customers should that arise.
People You Need To Know: Add this category to your list also. You will hear of people who could help, have knowledge you may need, or can help in other ways. When you hear a name or someone suggests you speak with someone, make a note of this. Even if you don’t know them, seek an introduction or meeting through a friend or associate. Make a point to meet them at a business function or gathering.
Groups and Associations: Include local horse associations and groups that you will want to inform of your future horse business.
Media: Include local publications, newspapers, and other bulletin boards offering free postings for future announcements and press releases. Find out who the contact person would be for future contact, advertising, press releases, or other information. Include websites for radio and television stations as they often operate free bulletin boards.
Competitor’s Clientele: If you learn that someone is a customer of a competitor, collect the information that you can. Obviously, your personal ethics will (and should) keep you from attempting to “steal” clients. This is a bad practice and will backfire upon you--the horse community is close-knit as you will learn. However, casual conversation and letting people know what you do is normal. If they want a card, they will ask for it. As long as their current product or service provider serves them well, you will likely not hear from them. But, things change.
Associates: Wherever you regularly go for business or pleasure, there will be some people you usually see there. They are co-workers or friends of the person you know. Truthfully, some of them you may not want to know any better. There may be some here and there that you may include in your contacts depending upon your comfort level.
CUSTOMERS: You should add all the above to your database of Contacts even before you open for business. And, it should go without saying that you need all the information you can gather about your customers. They will be the core of growing your business and your marketing. It will be vital that you stay in touch with them.
HOW TO USE THIS INFORMATION
Conducting Your Business: day-in and day-out, you will find that you need to contact someone and will need this information.
Marketing: Your regular mail and e-mail marketing will center around these contacts.
Resources: Suppose at some point, you need information on electrical wiring or an Internet issue. Do you really want to start by calling a stranger or do you already know someone who can help you? Use the resources you have available. Do not expect free help--you may get it--but do not expect it. If you were going to pay for the service anyway, pay within your circle if you can. These people will reciprocate. If you do have to go outside your current resources and deal with a new person or business, convert them to a resource within your Contacts.
TEST YOUR CONTACTS DATABASE:
First Planning Announcement: If you want to test the usefulness of your Networking Contacts, generate some initial activity, and see if there is enthusiasm for the business you want to start, create a basic contact list and send out an e-mail. You might supplement this by posting the announcement through your Social Media, such as Facebook. Let your Friends, Relatives, Co-Workers, or other groups (skip Competitors for now by the way) know that you are exploring your options about starting your own horse business. Ask for encouragement, help, and ideas. Ask if they know someone who would be a good resource for planning your horse business. Keep your message simple but interesting. Let these people know you will keep them posted on your progress--and do this. This can help you in untold ways. Many ideas and suggestions may come to you by surprise. You may have never known that a relative once rode horses. More importantly, you will generate talk and discussion of your ideas that can lead to resources and contacts. There is a multiplier effect to this: If each of your contacts tells three people, you are already beginning to spread news of your plans.
After you have sent out this First Planning Announcement, see how many replies, statements of encouragement, suggestions, and offers of help you receive. Follow up on all these replies and review the responses for ideas that are hidden jewels or diamonds in the rough. Follow through on all suggested contacts.
This Contact Database of will be used to provide more Formal Announcements, Grand Opening Announcements, Newsletters and Mailings, and Customer Relations Management. This is an important part of your over all plan to start a horse business that you can begin immediately and turn into a major resource.