Part Tradesman, Part Businessman
Often times as farriers we work really hard to become better at our trade, but neglect working to become better at the business side. Recently, I picked up Terry Stevers, a hero of mine, to go to a clinic. On the way there I was picking his brain and he told me there are three things required to be a successful farrier. The first thing was, you must have the hand-eye coordination to shoe a horse to his conformation. The second was, you must be able to manage his money well enough to continue his practice. The last thing he said was, you must be a people person. It was the last of the three that struck home with me.
With Terry’s words tattooed on my mind, I posed this question on Facebook: “New farriers need all the advice they can get in order to start and maintain a healthy shoeing practice. I would like to hear from horse owners about what farriers have done to you in the past or continue to do that you absolutely hate. This is your chance to vent so don’t hold back.”. The flood gates opened and I decided to write about what people were saying.
First, be punctual, or at least call if you’re going to be late. Do not just not show up without notifying your client. My grandfather gave the same business class at the end of his course for over three decades. At the end of the two-hour lecture he would walk to the chalk board and write “1. 2. 3.” vertically on the board. He would then say, “If you do nothing else I have told you today, do these three things and you will never be hungry.” He would then write “SHOW UP” after all three numbers. This should not be the number one reason farriers lose business, but it is!
Second, communication is crucial in keeping your clients. It’s hard to convince owners that what someone else has told them is not correct or won’t work in this particular circumstance. It is our job, however, to educate the owners in a respectful way. Use literary references to back what you are saying. While we’re talking about educating, it is also important to continue to educate ourselves. It is ok to get a second opinion on cases that we feel might be out of our ability range.
Lastly, be a professional if that is what you call yourself. That means treat your clients the way you would like to be treated as a client. I call it the “Golden Rule of Business.” When you are being paid to take care of someone’s likelihood it is imperative to give that horse your undivided attention. To many times we get busy and cut corners or rush through because we are tired. If your work load is to heavy, adjust it. Sometimes it is easy to care more about expensive horses and just get through the less important horses, even though we charge the same amount. Treat each client with the respect they deserve and give them the job they paid for.
There are many reasons that farriers blame for being fired, but very few times do we have the intestinal fortitude to look in the mirror and say, “it was my fault.” It’s time we start! Most of us have been fired for the same silly reasons and pointed the finger at someone or something else. Most of the reasons we have been fired could have been easily been avoided had we paid attention to our clients or just asked what we could do better. After all this is a service that we supposedly provide and they are paying. If the roles were reversed and we felt like we weren’t being treated the way we thought we should, we too would find someone new.