As a business strategist, I’ve worked with many different types of organizations: management consultants, financial advisors, engineering firms, marketing companies, coaches, law firms, private schools, and even a restaurant, among others. The most successful firms are fueled by passion, a desire to serve deeply, and are supported by a sustainable growth strategy. Horses are my passion and developing a thriving six-figure business using horses presented some unique challenges. Here are five tips to help you prosper in the fast-growing field of equine-facilitated learning.
- Treat Your Business as a Business – Most of us work in this space because we love horses and have been deeply impacted by them. Our passion is strong. But passion can often overshadow good business sense. Develop a business plan that identifies your target market, your value proposition, a plan for outreach, annual financial goals, and roles and responsibilities of any team members you employ. Develop a budget and track your income and expenses. Get insurance. File taxes. Charge what you’re worth. If you do something pro-bono to build awareness, make sure it fits in your long-term strategy. Resist the urge to barter services. For example, it’s better to pay someone $100 for their service even if they just paid you $100 for your work. Be sensitive to how you spend your time, money and energy. Respect yourself and your work: be sure to see yourself as a professional and your business as a business.
- Create a Niche – To be successful, you must be seen and heard so others can find you. It can be quite noisy in the business world so create an area of specialty. Consider your own interests and background. How have the horses helped you or someone you love? Be specific. Yes, working with horses can help everyone, I know that, but if you’re too general, you dilute your message, lose impact, and few people seek you out. Here’s a secret: once you create a reputation in a space, prospects outside of that space will also be drawn to you. My focus is business coaching and leadership and my book addresses this niche, but I’ve had many people call me for help with their kids, relationships, autism, and other issues. I refer them to my colleagues.
- Emphasize Client Outcomes – Your credibility is based on the results of your work. What happens for clients after they work with you? How does your work impact their lives? Focus on client outcomes and the possibilities for your prospects. The horse is the medium for transformation and it’s easy to become enamored with explaining the incredible process that unfolds in the arena. I know, I’ve done it many times. The horses are amazing. But remember, outcome first, then process, as appropriate. Collect testimonials for social proof.
- Promote – You must be the leader of your own success and this means being visible in your work. For many folks, promotion is the most difficult aspect of being in business. But don’t confuse promoting your business with self-promotion. Your work helps people, right? Your target market deserves to be able to get the help they need. And if they don’t know about you, you can’t help them! So get out there and show them what is possible. Develop a website, create a Facebook page, and use other social media to share your work. Write articles and blogs on your area of expertise, give talks to local groups, create strategic relationships with key figures in your community, develop videos, host an open house for your target market and demonstrate your work, write a book. Ask for referrals. Be bold about what you can do for others!
- Diversify for Profits – As you know, keeping horses happy and healthy costs a lot of money! Overhead costs can be huge and one vet bill can kill your profits. Weather can also be a factor. Consider what else you can offer that would provide value to your target market. For example, private telephone sessions are a great way to give support regardless of location and weather. Webinars and teleconferences allow you to serve folks all over the globe. Create packages of offerings not just single sessions. The cost of getting a new client is much higher than adding value to an existing client who already loves your work. Consider seasonal special retreats. Develop specialty deep-focus groups. Partner with others. Make your business as flexible as possible so you can serve people in multiple ways.
Bottom line, you must be the leader of your own success. Owning and running a business is not easy, but the rewards can be priceless. Best of luck!
Shari J. Goodwin is a business strategist, author, speaker, horseman, and leadership coach. She helps entrepreneurs and business leaders gain clarity and confidence, increase profits, and achieve the impact they desire. She has been featured on multiple news outlets and is author of the Amazon best-seller, Take the Reins! 7 Secrets to Inspired Leadership. Check out her new workshop, Equine Behavior, Insights & Horsemanship Excellence! Shari can be reached at www.jaeger2.com.