As the results of the most recent presidential election were broadcast, the conversations started predicting who would be the members of the newly elected president’s cabinet and other positions of power and influence. What criteria for evaluation were being used? Who would be on the team? Although the filling of such lofty positions don’t seem to correlate to anything we need to do within the equine business world and the running of a facility or other related equine enterprise, a little thought should bring to mind the reality of similar decisions. Where is your passion going to take you?
Not many of us have been immune to the business model based of sharing your passion and building a team. This premise is all around us in corporate America. Education is one key element of putting your passion into practical application. My own horse crazy youth was followed by the determination to continue to follow my passion and the dreams of that 12-year-old girl to go to England and become that horse master as depicted in the 1961 film presented on television by Disney. The reality at that time was that my family was far from enthusiastic at the prospect of any financial future for me making a livelihood with “hay burners.” There were few and far between formal schools or programs existing here in the United States during the 1960’s that could foster my passion and teach me how to channel it into a profitable business model. Meredith Manor that was started by Ron and Kay Meredith back in 1963 was a voiced choice by a few of my early mentors. My eventual choice was England, but today your passion can lead you to search on Google and be inundated with information on programs offered across our country and find information on colleges that offer equine study programs with a business emphasis. (I found www.HorseSchools.com of interest.)
Why education as part of your passion? Education is a tool to apply to your business model. Probably you, like me, can count the number of facilities and equine businesses that have failed over the years due to the lack of education as to what it really entails to produce a viable marketing product in the equine world. As a consultant, I have attempted to help some of these failing enterprises to redefine their focus and tighten up their initial business model. That initial business model was what I found out they never had to begin with. Unless it is a hobby or sourced by other outside revenue, you simply can’t go into an equine business blind thinking you are going to make a living at it. Too often people have unrealistic dreams. It has been said that an educated passion will produce a disciplined purpose. That brings up the subject of team building.
If you don’t know about something, you find people that do and you ask them to share their knowledge so that you can glean an education from them. If you don’t know how to do something, you find people that can teach you how to do it so that you can have that hands¬on education. If you want to build a team, even if only one other person is to work with you, you need to surround yourself with like-minded and like-educated people, who not only know what you want, but know how you want it done, and who can anticipate your desires and react accordingly. They stick with your program, your focus, and your goals. From the mundane to the most important, think about the myriad tasks that go into the business aspect of your passion. I remember meeting one of our Olympic rider’s horse’s grooms and when I asked them about their daily routine, it was mind boggling, on the detail of what went into the commitment to this special equine and their rider. From early morning to sometimes late at night, they knew what was expected, possibly needed or going to be asked for at any time. It was a study in passion that was channeled early in their life into a disciplined purpose, that of becoming a professional groom. They had started off with the education in a series of mundane positions but they learned the tools of the trade and now were traveling the world. For those who may be interested in job sites, either to post for or find a position, there are two that I found of interest — www.proequinegrooms.com and www.yardandgroom.com.
Although some people that have worked and apprenticed with me over the years may say I am like working for a dictator, the term like-minded doesn’t mean they don’t have thoughts and ideas that can’t be voiced. Over time the apprentices that have worked for me have learned how to voice their ideas. Another key to taking your passion forward into a purpose is listening to other professionals that have experience. You encourage their input and give credence to what they are saying. The bottom line will always be that it is a team consensus on what is decided upon for what you want to produce. Recently I was asked about some thoughts on training and since I like acronyms I said the five C’s are the most important. The explanation of which is that in my interaction with an equine I need to stay calm and confident of my control right from the initial interaction. If I can’t stay calm and I am not confident of my control of the situation with the equine, I am setting myself up for failure. I need to be clear in my directions and stay as concise as possible so as not to confuse the equine. What do I want to convey, to teach, to attempt to train the equine to respond to and in so doing not confuse them and make them nervous or resistant. I could also add a sixth C being consistent in application at all times. I need to be totally consistent and not vary my approach, which could add to confusion. If this simple format is not adhered to I can expect chaos, which unfortunately applies to working with new clients and their equines that don’t have a clue as to what they have gotten themselves into but now want a solution. It is also necessary, when building a team around you, that you explain your expectations for each and every job description that you hire for. Whether it is stocking the shelves in a store or supply warehouse, keeping the books in the barn office, preparing horses for presentation or performance or cleaning the wet spots in your stalls, you need to communicate, clearly demonstrate, if needed, to teach how it is done to show your expectations and then explain as concisely as you can the reasons why you want it done the way you want it done. Working as a barn manager myself and having had a barn manager work for me, the importance of being on the same page as to what our expectations were was something that we communicated. There should be no surprises in what your team has to produce for you wherever your passion leads you.
When a European Olympic dual discipline rider was here in the United States two years ago I was intrigued by her statements about her team and how she is able to be here while they are all back in Germany taking care of her facility, her training business, her own horses and the many other commitments she has to sponsors and manufacturers. You may never relate to a business model on this level, but thinking ahead and making a plan so as to put your passion forward are the first steps.
*** Ms. Hilton would like to answer questions and receive ideas for future columns from our readers. You may submit your questions or ideas to: Bonnie Hilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.