Developing & Maintaining Your Business Plan

Getting Started in Hoof Care | 2009

Q. How do you plan for a year as a guy right out of school?
(I thought that this was kinda covered in the business plan section so I answered it as things to do and know right out of school)

A. First and foremost develop and stick to your business plan. Make it work.

Turn your negatives into positives. Since you don't have many clients you will have time. Translate that time into superior service.

Don't consider a day with no shoeings or trims a day off. It is a day of opportunity to promote you and your business.

Seek out professional farriers and ask to ride with them. Be quiet, listen and learn.

Join your local farrier association and participate in as many events as you can.

Always carry business cards and leave them everywhere and with anyone you meet.

Realize that developing a clientele takes a little time. If you meet someone on the first of the month and leave them with your card, it may take four or six months for that meeting to translate into work. They may have just had their horse shod. So it would take two months before their horse is due for shoes again. If they give their farrier one more chance and then decide to call you, four or five months have passed since that first meeting.

How to write and stick to a business plan

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people have a vision of their lives that they work on every day. Successful people create their lives actively while unsuccessful people passively wait to see where their lives take them.

Successful people lives are intentional. Unsuccessful people live by accident. A business plan is like a road map. It should tell you where you are, where you've been and where you are going. It will prevent you from living your business life by accident.

Your business plan does not have to be complicated. There is no 'set-in- stone' formula that is required for writing a business plan. A good business plan should state; 1) where you want your business to go, 2) how you think it will get there and 3) what will it cost.

  1. Where you want you business to go? Your plan an be as simple as, "I want to build up to five full shoeings a day/ five days a week."
  2. How you think it will get there? This would be your marketing plan. Things like, I will return all phone calls within 24 hours, and stick to it. It would contain where you are planning to advertise (stables, feed stores, etc.) how you are going to do it. It may include a commitment to introduce yourself and your business to five or 10 new people every day.
  3. What will it cost? Figure out how much it costs you to shoe a horse. Include the regular items such as shoes, nails, gas and so on. Also include the cost of your vehicle, vehicle insurance, vehicle registration, medical insurance for you, saving and retirement contributions and your yearly trip to the Hoof Care Summit in Cincinnati every January. This is the true cost of shoeing.

Write this information down on a piece of paper and keep it, visible, in your truck. Check it frequently and you will be surprised how it pushes you to perform.

Setting your prices

When you get home from school make some phone calls to established farriers in your area and ask prices. Just say that you are new in the area and shopping for a farrier. From that you should develop a price list. Do not be the highest priced nor the lowest price farrier in your area. Pick a middle ground.

Do not post or publish your price list but keep it in your rig so you can be sure that you charge every client the same price for the same services.

Below is a suggested farrier price list. When you have to purchase and apply specialty shoes, such as aluminum shoes, the general practices is to, at a minimum, double the price of the shoes and add that to your basic shoe price. For instance, your basic shoeing price is $100 and the client wishes aluminum shoes in the front. You purchase a pair of aluminum shoes for $12. Your minimum price for that shoeing should be $124.

When to raise your prices

The object in business is to put yourself in a position where, eventually, you are working less to make more money.

As your expenses increase (gas, propane, shoes, etc.) you need to increase your prices. If you do not annually raise your prices you will have to shoe more horses just to make the same profit you made last year.

As you increase in knowledge and skills you will reach a point when you have more people who want your services than you can provide. At this point your perceived value kicks in with larger and larger price increases for your services.

Some farriers send an annual brief letter to their clients reiterating that their clients can expect the same fine services this year with the following rates, and list the price increases. In this letter you can also notify them of your professional accomplishments during the year, such as a list of the lectures and demonstrations that you attended at the Hoof Care Summit, with a brief description of things that will increase your perceived value.

Other farriers notify their clients in person. They pick a date for their price increase and notify clients of that increase in person. For instance, let's say you decide to increase your shoeing and trim fees on May 1. On all work done with regular clients you notify them that the next shoeing/trims will be at the new price. In this way you will personally tell all your regular clients of the price increase over the next eight weeks. All new clients, starting on May 1 will automatically be charged the new prices.

Protecting your business and it assets

The best protection you can have for your business and assets is quality work and taking responsibility for your work. Admitting mistakes and making it 'right' goes a long way toward preventing legal action from clients. You can purchase a variety of business liability insurance and it is recommended that you do.

Once you are established and own property and other valuable assets then you would want to speak with an attorney about forming a corporation, limited liability corporations (LLC) and other ideas that would protect you personal assets. You will need competent legal advice for these decisions.

The value of evaluating your business at different stages Most farriers spend more time and energy planning their hunting trip then they do on planning a course for their business.

Your shoeing carrier can be broken down into a 3, 5 and 10-year assessment.

The 3 year assessment—Ask yourself:

  1. Do I like shoeing? Ask yourself:
    1. Are you usually angry at horses or clients?
    2. Do you look forward to getting up in the morning and shoeing?
    3. Are you physically and emotionally exhausted most of the day?

    This low energy may be because you do not have what it takes to be a farrier or probably because you have lost sight of your business plan and your goals.

  2. Am I shoeing in the right area? Can this area allow me to successfully execute my business plan?
    • Are there enough horses in the area I live?
    • Are there enough of the right kind of horses?
    • Are there enough of the right kind of clients?
  3. What is my reputation?
    1. You now have a reputation: good or bad.
    2. Is your reputation the reputation you want?
    3. What reputation do you want?
      Steps to obtaining a good reputation.
  4. Set goals for five-year anniversary. Write them down clearly and in detail so anyone can understand them.
    1. Where do I wish to be at my 5-year mark?
    2. How much money do I have to make to obtain my goals?
    3. What is the number of clients/horses I will shoe and the price I need to charge to obtain this goal.

Let's say you want to buy a house on your 5th shoeing anniversary and you need to save $20,000 for a down payment. In 24 months you have to save $888.33 per month, or $208.33 per week or $41.66 per day/5 days a week. If you shoe 5 horses per day then you need to charge and save an extra $8.34 per shoeing.

Now let's say that you shoe four horses per day, five days a week. As you can see, if you raise your prices $10 per shoeing and saved that increase for every horse you would have the $20,000 for a down payment in two years.

The five-year assessment

Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Have you stopped washing and cleaning your truck?
  2. Has the client become a problem rather than an opportunity. Do you talk them out of clips, or specialty shoes or shoeing all together because you don't want to do the extra work?
  3. Do you find yourself wearing dirty, torn or worn clothes?
  4. Do you go to work unshaven or hair not combed?
  5. Do you resent returning phone calls or talking to clients at all?
  6. Would you rather loose a client, then engage them in conversation about their shoeing needs.
  7. Are you shoeing all horses the same?

If you answer yes to all or some of these questions then you can consider yourself an employee…and a pretty poor one at that. Would you hire someone in your truck with that attitude. You have lost sight of your primary aim and you are not implementing your strategic objectives. Time to refocus.

If you doubt that idea of having a business plan and some goals work then imagine that you wake up in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. Everywhere you look there is water, no land in sight. In the rowboat is a pair of oars. Eventually you would pick up the oars and row. After five hours of rowing you would be tired, thirsty and sore. If you still could not see land or anything else that gave you an idea that you had made progress you would be devastated. Imagine your despair and how easy it would be to quit rowing because it's useless.

Now imagine that you wake up in that same rowboat in the same circumstances but this time you had a GPS. A quick look at the GPS would tell you where you are and which way you need to row. After five hours of rowing you would still be tired, thirsty and sore, but another look at the GPS would tell you were you were, where you are and how far you have to go to your destination. Now you have the energy to continue.

At the five-year point you need to:

  1. Pick a focus/specialty in your shoeing. One that will support your Strategic Objective.
  2. Seek out education in that discipline.
  3. Seek out experts in that discipline that will act as mentors.
  4. Farrier services are essential the same throughout the country. You need to find out what the other guy, the guy that gets twice your fee, is doing for his fee. I think you'll be surprised. Forget about looking like the superior choice. Make yourself and excellent choice. Then eliminate anything that might make you a bad choice.
  5. Evaluate the mechanical aspects of your shoeing. If you do not contest or attempt certification then have someone whose opinion you trust evaluate your work and attitudes.
  6. Make a commitment to attend clinics, seminars read books and do them.
  7. Develop a plan for the next 5 years and put it in writing.
    1. Could be simple or in depth
    2. How to reach the goals in the specialty. (Shoeing that you like and your area can support)

Ten years.

If you are so busy that you don't have time for anything else in your life and you decide that you need to just get smaller, cut back on the shoeings to simplify your life, then you are in trouble. Getting smaller is your personal resistance to change, it's your refusal to get out of your 'Comfort Zone.' It dooms you and your business to fading into obscurity.

You must realize that you cannot define success as the ability to shoe more horses. If you haven't already it is time to use experience, knowledge and reputation to make more money without working harder.

A well to do woman was walking down a street in Paris when she saw Picasso sitting at a café, drawing. She approached him and asked if he could sketch her, she would gladly pay. Picasso agreed and began to sketch the woman. When he was finished Picasso handed her the sketch. She was delighted to have an original Picasso. "How much do I owe you" she asked. "Five thousand franks," was Picasso's reply. "Five thousand franks?" asked the astonished woman. "But it only took you 3 minutes.". Picasso responded, "No Madam, it took me all my life."

  1. Attend business seminars and lectures. Learn about marketing, profits and 'working smarter not harder.'
  2. Develop yourself as 'the' expert in a specific type of shoeing or discipline. a. (example) In keeping with the trend toward companion animals specialize in shoeing for the geriatric horse.
  3. Shoeing rig should reflect this professionalism.
  4. Develop a business plan for continuing shoeing for the next 10 years that echoes working smarter. examples
    1. Why should clients ask feed store personnel about hoof supplements, hoof dressings and any other aspect of foot and lower leg care?
    2. Apprentice?
    3. Multi-farrier practice.