Bob Smith of the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School says most farriers spend more time and energy planning their hunting trips than they do on planning a course for their businesses. They usually ignore the importance of evaluating their careers at specific points.

He believes a shoeing career can be broken down into 3-, 5- and 10-year assessments. Set a goal of assessing how you’ve done at these marks. Here are Smith's points to consider at various stages of your career.

For The 3-Year Assessment:

Do I like shoeing?

  • Are you usually angry at horses or clients?
  • Do you look forward to getting up in the morning and heading out to shoe?
  • Are you physically and emotionally exhausted during most of the day?

If you have low energy, it may be because you lack what it takes to be a farrier or probably because you have lost sight of your business plan and goals.

Am I shoeing in the right geographic area? Can this area allow me to successfully execute my business plan?

  • Are there enough horses in the area where I live?
  • Are there enough of the right kind of horses?
  • Are there enough of the right kind of clients?

What is my reputation?

  • Is your reputation the one you want?
  • What reputation do you want?
  • What are the steps to obtaining a good reputation?

Set goals for your fifth anniversary of being a professional farrier. Write them down clearly and in detail so anyone can understand these goals.

  • Where do I wish to be at my 5-year mark?
  • How much money do I have to make to obtain my goals?
  • 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 fifth shoeing anniversary and you need to save $20,000 for a down payment. In 24 months, you have to save $888.33 per month, $208.33 per week or $41.66 per day. If you shoe 5 horses per day, you need to charge and save an extra $8.34 per shoeing.

Now let’s say that you shoe four horses per day, 5 days a week. As you can see, if you raise your prices $10 per shoeing and save that increase for every horse, you would have the $20,000 for a down payment in 2 years.

For The 5-Year Assessment:

You need to ask yourself a new series of questions at this mark:

  • Have you stopped washing and cleaning your truck?
  • Has the client become a problem rather than an opportunity? Do you talk them out of clips, specialty shoes or shoeing because you don’t want to do the extra work?
  • Do you find yourself wearing dirty, torn or worn clothes?
  • Do you go to work unshaven or with your hair uncombed?
  • Do you resent returning phone calls or talking to clients?
  • Would you rather lose clients than engage them in conversation about their shoeing needs?
  • Are you shoeing all horses the same?

If you answer yes to some or all of these questions, then you should consider yourself an employee — and a poor one at that. Would you hire someone with that attitude? You have lost sight of your primary aim and you are not implementing your strategic objectives. It’s time to refocus.

You have a new series of objectives at the 5-year mark:

  • Pick a focus/specialty in your hoof-care work. One that will support your strategic objective.
  • Seek out education in that discipline.
  • Find experts in that discipline that will act as mentors.
  • Farrier services are essentially the same throughout the country. You need to find out what the guy who gets twice your fee is doing. Forget about looking like the superior choice and make yourself an excellent choice. Then eliminate any factor that might make you a bad choice.
  • Evaluate the mechanical aspects of your shoeing. If you do not enter contests or attempt certification, have someone whose opinion you trust evaluate your work and attitudes.
  • Make a commitment to attend hoof-care clinics and seminars and read books on the subject.
  • Develop a simple or in-depth plan for the next 5 years and put it in writing. Include how you’ll reach the goals in the specialty shoeing that you like and your area can support.

For The 10-Year Assessment:

If you are so busy that you don’t have time for anything else in your life and decide to decrease your business by cutting back on shoeings, then you are in trouble. Getting smaller is your personal resistance to change — it’s your refusal to leave your comfort zone. It dooms you and your business to fading into obscurity.

Realize that you can’t define success as the ability to shoe more horses. If you haven’t already, it is time to use your experience, knowledge and reputation to make more money without working harder.

Once, a well-to-do woman was walking down a street in Paris when she saw the famous artist Pablo Picasso sitting in 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 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,” he replied.

“Five thousand franks, but it only took you 3 minutes!” screamed the astonished woman.

Picasso responded, “No, Madam, it took me all my life.” The same is true for your career and experience.

  • Attend business seminars and lectures. Learn about marketing, profits and “working smarter, not harder.”
  • Become an expert in a specific type of shoeing or discipline. For example, in keeping with the trend toward companion animals, specialize in working with geriatric horses.
  • Your shoeing rig should reflect this professionalism.
  • Develop a business plan for continuing shoeing for the next 10 years that focuses on working smarter. Is it time to take on an apprentice or start a multi-farrier practice? For increased income, should you sell products like hoof-supplements to your clients?