In February 2009, Hall Of Fame horseshoers Mike DeLeonardo, Red Renchin and Danny Ward sat on a panel at the International Hoof-Care Summit. During this session, they provided insight on how to improve the economic outlook for a farrier practice during a poor economy. The transcript is posted below. To download an MP3 of this panel discussion, click here.
Danny Ward: Good morning. I feel real privileged to be on the same panel as Red and Mike here. Both of these fellows have operated multi-farrier practices for years, been very successful and have built up a great customer base.
The year 2009 might be a little different for some of us though and I guess that will depend on your customers and how thing are affected in your local economy. Where I live is not the high end and with horses when things get a little tight sometimes they get put on the backburner. It’s hard for me to argue that a horse can’t miss a trim or a shoe job once in a while. Most of them are pretty tough, not that that’s what we try to promote. I’m not suggesting that we neglect these customers, but what I am suggesting is to cater to your regular customers that continue to support your business and your work. So sometimes your ones and twos that don’t get worked on quite as often, don’t lose them, just cater to the ones that are with you every few weeks.
Red Renchin: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Like Danny I’m extremely proud to sit on this panel. I don’t know if you folks know but between the three of us we probably have about 120 years of experience in the industry so we’ve had a lot of different types of opportunities in the industry and we’ve seen a lot of different things so we hope we can give you back some of the stuff that we’ve learned.
Running a farrier business like a business I think is extremely important. Some of the things that you want to be aware of are to have a good contact with your bank, know who your suppliers are where you can get different things, treat your customers as customers and not friends. There’s a big difference between the way you treat a friend and the way you treat a customer. Little things like being on time, answering your phone or having an answering service or your hours. Do you start at 9:00 and quit at 3:00? Let those things be known to your customers. It’s a business and we want to stay and treat it like a business.
Mike DeLeonardo: Taking stock, we need a plan, Sam. Thank you for getting up early this morning and coming here, appreciate your attendance. And I have been shoeing horses my entire life so I never ever had a real job, and when I first started out shoeing horses I didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to do with this thing but I just knew that I wanted to shoe horses. And so at that point, this was in the early 70’s there was no organizations there were no conferences like this and so I had to kind of sort my way through the whole thing.
And so you young guys that are starting out, I think it is very, very important for you to kind of get a lot of different experiences with a lot of different kinds of horses and types of shoeing and kind of get some kind of an idea of what you prefer. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of horses over the years and I kind of settled on the hunters and jumpers and that was a very, very good fit for me. A lot of it depends upon where in the country you live and what your interests are.
We are very, very fortunate that we have the ability to pick and choose where a lot of people do not and so take advantage of this.
RR: Keeping good records 20/20. We are in the computer age now and stuff and if you are not using good paper records and books, then use a computer. There are laptops now that almost all of us can get. If you keep good records on your client, on your horse, it makes your job a lot easier; it also makes answering questions a lot easier when you have information. Nowadays we’ve got cell phones that take pictures, we can digitalize anything, we can take our x-rays digitize them and drop them into programs.
So record keeping is so important, you want to keep a record on the address of where the horse is, the address on where the client is, information about the way you shoed the horse, the discipline of the horse, how the client pays, there is so many areas in record keeping that you can do.
DW: Just going to add just a little to that Frank. I’d lost my place here but the hindsight is 20/20 with business. And as everybody knows the business aspect is important to whatever you’re doing.
But I had a bookkeeper years ago, she knew nothing about what I did except shoe horses and she said it looks like you didn’t use as many city fives this year as you did last. It’s kind of an eye opener so after that I started keeping personal records on my supplies and that way I can look back and see what I might need in a certain month, certain week, or whatever to be prepared for.
RR: Have an effective financial accounting system. Keep good books accounting for all dollars earned and spent. What I do is I use the Quickbook system it has a very, very comprehensive system. I can keep track in the year exactly all the money where it’s come from and all the money, where it’s gone.
I keep all of my tax records on there, all of my payroll accounts and the nice thing about it is at the end of the year you can print a really, really detailed records as to exactly where all the money has gone. And so what you need is really accurate information as to making financial decisions and if you want to revise your spending or whatever it’s a very, very important tool to have.
MD: That’s me. Be honest with yourself, get rid of fluff, keep necessary insurance in place. I think insurance is kind of like horseshoes, that it’s a necessary evil.
One of the things that I’ve found is that you need to have a good insurance agent. They can steer you to the best coverage as to what you need. There’s a fine line between having too much insurance and not enough. Having not enough can be very, very devastating. What I have is I think is really important is it’s a must to have medical insurance.
My wife and I are in good health, we have major medical with a high, high deductible. We are kind of self-insured when it comes to the smaller stuff, what I want to do is protect myself against any catastrophic thing that might wipe out my entire savings. The same is true with auto insurance.
Shop around the places are very competitive now, make sure you keep your driving record good. The other thing that I have is contractors liability insurance policy incase the unforeseen should happen and I would have a horse hurt when I was working on it, or destroy somebody’s property. Again, you need to kind of having your butt covered.
As far as disability insurance I’m a little bit ambiguous about that. I looked into it years ago and I thought the premiums were excessively high for what you get. I prefer to put that money into a savings account instead, but that’s a little bit different, everybody has his or her own story about the use of disability.
MD: Calculate the actual cost of doing business. You may have to raise the prices on some clients. Again, this is where good bookkeeping comes in and is absolutely paramount to your business. That we’ve all heard about the widget manufacturer who lost one dollar on every widget that he sold but he thought he could make it up in volume. The same thing I think happens with a lot of people shoeing horses is the fact that they want to do the numbers and they want to be very, very competitive and so they are generating a lot of horses.
But it’s not how much money you make; it’s how much money you get to keep at the end of the day. And so you have to understand that we are a fragile commodity. That when we are out there working, we’re using up our bodies. And when you’re churning out the numbers eventually what you are going to do is you’re going to wear yourself out. At the end of your career you’re not going to have anything left, so you have to work smart, not necessary harder.
DW: Use the amount of business technology to advance. Such as cell phones. You know there is a lot of things out there, we use our cell phones. We also have the capability of faxes, e-mails, text messages; all of these things can be used in your daily practice. In fact, there are a lot of little laptops that you can do with projectors and project things on a screen that can be in your truck, that you can be showing a video of something that you want to talk about. There is a lot of good information out there that while you’re working on the horse you can show your client things.
Technology makes our jobs go a lot easier, it saves time and stuff. So you want to be up on using e-mail properly, getting information out. Fax machines, your cell phones, the Blackberries, there’s so many things that we can use now that’s combined together to make the job so much easier and time is money. So where you can use this technology and cut time down, you’re going to be making money and having more time to spend with your family.
RR: If times are tough you may have to scale back your standard of living, get your family on board. That we are coming off of one of the longest running, most unprecedented economic bubbles of all time and I think the whole country is kind of holding our collective breath to see what happens next. And we are kind of like that fat horse whose been out on pasture all the time and all of a sudden we are back to have to go back to work for a living and I think we are going to have to be more realistic about our spending habits and that sort of thing. Again, it all kind of depends upon your financial circumstances.
If you’ve been living within your means you’re probably going to be fine. If you have kind of stuck your neck out there and you’ve done a lot of spending and you thought this whole thing was going to go on forever, you are maybe going to have to totally suck it up. And in these kinds of situations, especially if you have a situation where you maybe have a spouse that no longer has a job and your income has been drastically reduced. You are going to have to make some drastic changes in your standard of living. And I think it’s important, especially if you have kids who are kind of used to the better lifestyle to sit everybody down for a little bit of a family meeting and kind of get everybody on the same page. Especially the kids where you make them understand that it’s a family thing that everybody kind of has to cut back.
And don’t try to take this whole burden on yourself that you want to kind of maintain the standard of living for everybody else but yourself because it produces a lot of stress, which is very, very unhealthy for you.
DW: Setting financial goals will be very important especially now and later. But working as independent contractors, which we are, you really have to make pretty good judgments with your income. Especially with economic down times as we are in right now.
And of course in some areas the season can dictate a big part of your income and work schedule. But I would suggest putting a set amount of money, monthly in a business savings account if possible. Money that could be used as a cash flow when times are a little bit slow.
The accounts don’t offer big returns but they are easy to access and I think that’s important. I also think it’s important to think about the future and I can speak from experience because it gets here pretty quick. If you haven’t talked to a banker or financial planner I would suggest do so and there are some awful good investments that are solid and out there for us. And if you will again take a certain amount of money, put it away monthly and be consistent that money can double in some years plus interest and that will pay off for you.
RR: Your number one priority should be to pay off all credit card debt. That I come from the old school where I don’t like to owe people money and I don’t like people to owe me money. I think it’s been a travesty of what we’ve allowed the credit card companies to do to perpetuate this buy now and pay later thing on this country and then be able to charge us exorbitant interest. You hear these stories about anywhere from 12 to 24%, that is just unreasonable. And especially the young people especially where they have been sold this bill of goods and then read up these massive debts.
I don’t know what the number are but it’s common where a lot of these people have thousands of dollars in credit card debt and they cannot get out from underneath it. And so it’s a sinkhole, and so avoid that at all possible costs. Buy only what you can afford and you will be much, much better ahead.
MD: I totally agree with Danny in that regard that start a rainy day fund. That you are operating from a point of power if you’ve got a little bit of money in the bank. Again, I come from the old school where I started a savings account as a kid and I’ve had a savings program my entire life and it really, really bothers me if I leave home and I don’t have a couple of bucks in my pocket.
But that is a real, real common situation in this country where people live from day to day and have absolutely nothing to fall back on. And again you kind of arrange you priorities and a savings account should be high on that list.
RR: Budget for some luxuries, don’t become obsessed with savings, and remember everything is temporary. I believe everything in moderation that again, if you beat yourself up where you think you are behind the eight ball and you’ve become obsessed with trying to save every cent, that’s not a good situation either. Give yourself an “atta-boy” award now and then and buy yourself something nice and kind of enjoy it, but keep it small and something that really means something to you.
DW: The location is important. Gas and travel as you know right now is a major expense for us and it’s probably a little easier for you guys and gals out there that are in a heavily populated area. I spent a couple days with Charlie Brown in Scottsdale, Ariz., one time and the majority of his work was eight or ten miles from his house and that’s quite a luxury. I think most of us have to travel just a little bit more than that. Try to route your work if possible into one certain area if you can, it’s just not practical to crisscross counties shoeing horses anymore financially. I would suggest always calling ahead and confirming your appointments. One little bit of lack of communication can be costly, especially for us. If you have an area where you live and you can actually shoe a horse or two at your home, I would promote having one and two horses if possible brought to you. You might even charge just a little bit less because it’s going to cost you a little less. So try to maybe promote some horses to come to you.
RR: This is an important area, an area that’s actually easy for us to save money, but we tend to lose a lot of money. Make sure that your liner in your forge is in good condition. A lot of us, when you look at your fellow farrier friends you look at their liner and it’s kind of burnt out. The belly is burnt around it; the edges are kind of wore where we ran the shoes in and out. Keeping that liner in good condition saves you propane, saves you time it takes to heat the shoe, saves you all that time you run back and forth from the horse waiting for that heat up because you’ve got a cold spot in it. So be aware of your forge itself.
We buy our forges and then we work them until they are almost dead and then we decide to fix them. There are all kinds of kits out there to repair your forge so that you don’t have to buy a new forge or buy a new liner. So check with your supplier, check with the forge companies and find out what repair kit to keep your forge in good condition.
RR: Using your tools and keeping them in good condition, I think this is really important. Keeping your nippers sharp. If you have a rotating system, I have a rotating system with my nippers and so that I set them back in. I don’t wear my nippers all the way out so they’re totally gone, the reins are shot, the heads are all shot. I get them down to a point where they are starting to get dull and then I send them in to be rebuilt.
Getting them rebuilt is much cheaper than buying a new one. Keeping your hammers in good shape so that when you’re hammering you don’t knock a chip off and hit somebody in the eye or yourself in the side. This is really important, if you don’t care for your tools properly, you are buying new tools. Be careful about them, keep them in good shape. If you have an open rig, have a tool box that you can keep your tools in. I know these gentlemen that live in these parts of the country where there is a lot of moisture; a rust problem is really heavy. Keep your tools in good shape, don’t let them rust up. Oil them down, clean them up, and keep them in little cases.
RR: Put off luxury item buying. Years ago I worked for a brain surgeon doctor, Tom Rankin, and we were having a conversation and he was telling me about delayed gratification. That he was telling me that he went to school for 14 years before he ever made a dollar as a brain surgeon. But when he went to work, now he is making three million dollars a year. And I would urge all of you young farriers out there, it’s so tempting to look at us guys that have been in the business for a long time and we got the nice trucks and we got all the toys. It is not necessary to have all of that when you are first starting. In fact it is not good business practices. If you talk to any of us guys you’ll find out that we started shoeing out of the back of our cars, back of an old beat up truck, just like you’re doing. And so that is the normal progression, so do not think that you have to kind of jump right up into the big times and do it gradually, it’s a whole lot better business plan.
MD: Buying supplies in bulk, box size is a sizable discount. This is something that I think I see on a daily basis being involved with Harry Patton that guys miss out on. We all know what we use in a week, what we use in a month, you have a base idea of what your client base is. How many city head nails or how many of size one shoe or whatever it is, you know what you want. What I see happening in the industry and talking to other suppliers is us as a group will come in and buy ten of this, five of that, a box of this. The dollar figure is much lower, but the profit that we can make off of it is even lower. If you buy in box size there’s a discount there. Almost every item that you buy from your supply house in the box size gives you some type of discount. Most farrier supply houses also have a discount if you buy at x dollars.
So if you are spending $1,000.00 a week on supplies or $400.00 a week on supplies you are coming into the supply house every day or every other day, you’re losing a discount. Because you are not getting to that discount. Check with your supplier, ask him, say what’s the discount on this if I buy this amount? Do you have a discount on a dollar if I buy x number of dollars. How can I get my supplies at a better price? Every penny, every dime that you save is money in your pocket and money you’re not spending out. So be aware of the discounts of the companies that you’re dealing. And don’t be afraid to ask your suppliers, but if you don’t ask, I’m not going to tell you.
RR: Get a gas card to buy fuel at discount and shop for the best prices. It’s kind of ironic because I do have a Shell card that I buy my gas with and the deal that they offer me as I get 5% off of all of my gas purchases and I think it’s one or 2% off all the other purchases. At the end of the year this is a nice, significant discount.
And so this is one of the ways you can kind of make the credit cards work to your advantage and they are competitive pricing, especially when gas was up around $4.00 a gallon this was a significant purchase every time if you filled up. Especially if they have introductory offers that are really, really good where they want to get you in for that first month or so and you can get some terrific deals. So take advantage of the gas cards.
DW: Going along with that same line. A lot of communities across the United States there is local fuel clubs that you can join. Most of the time you don’t hear about it unless you do a little research, check your yellow pages, check around with other businesses. You’ll find that businesses that use vehicles in their business that have fleet vehicles or are locksmiths or plumbers. They know where there is a fuel club, join that fuel club it’s not very expensive to join, but the cost of the fuel is much reduced to what you would pay at the normal gas station.
MD: Tighten up your shoeing schedule, plan better, consolidate the shoeing trips. What I do is my business I keep track of all the horses’ schedules. And so I tell the customers when the horses are going to be shod.
Generally what I do is on Sunday morning I make up my schedule as to which horses we are going to be doing this coming week. I segregate them into three different locations that I kind of work in. And so consequently I know how many horses I can do in a particular day, in a particular area and so I can kind of group them together. And so if I have a morning stop and an afternoon stop what I do is I try to get the maximum bang for the buck being in that area.
And I think we are going to really have to minimize the amount of time where we are traveling across the country and not getting as much money made as we need. So this is an important, important area where you really have to tighten up.
RR: On that line you want to take and make it a practice of the day before, have yourself or your secretary or whoever does this, call the client, confirm the work. Especially during the early part when you’re coming into winter and when you’re going out of winter. Maybe coming into winter they’re going to want to pull trim, maybe coming out of winter they’re going to shoe a few more.
So this really important, it also gives you a good idea what’s going on with the client. Maybe Mary has got a doctor appointment that just came up that she forgot to call you about and there’s going to be nobody there to open up the gate to let you in. So that’s an appointment you’re going to have to adjust. Keep that communication open with your clients so that you don’t waste time driving to one spot and then realizing that oh my god I can’t get in there.
DW: Go out of the way to explain what you are doing with horses to your customers. Take the time to help and let them know right from wrong. Especially if it was a new horse owner now. I realize nobody would do anything intentionally to hurt a horse or to harm a horse but sometimes just out of a lack of knowledge things happen.
It’s just a good idea to sit down and go over the basics with them and just make sure they know a routine. If you’re just starting out I would suggest contacting your local riding schools, saddle club, 4H things, FFA clubs and offer to do a clinic, especially in slow times for you. And you don’t want to teach them to shoe horses, that wouldn’t be the idea. But maybe how to pull a loose shoe, maybe how to cut a nail off that can hurt a horse, and in my case especially to wrap a foot to protect it until somebody can get there and have a little bit more to work with. Things like this can help your business as well and actually help educate some owners with new horses.
We’re still shoeing for people with grandkids in some of these local clubs so it does pay off in the long run.
RR: Yeah times are tough not just for us but for our clients. We need to offer payment options for the clients that need more time to pay. This is really important, you don’t want to lose a client just because they’re having a hard time for the next six months.
You want to keep that client into the program. You want that client to know you understand that times are tough. This is a business option that is all across the United States in our industry or any other industry. And some of the things you can do is you can hold a check, post date a check. You can do a payment plan, 1.75% monthly is a good way of charging them interest on that. Find a way to keep your clients. The worst thing that happened to us is that we have a client today, we have him for eight, nine months, couple years and they have a hard time and they are out of taking care for their horses for six month and then they call us back, we have a mess. We have to really clean up that mess because they haven’t had anything to do with that horse.
So we are working twice as hard to get that horse back where we had before six months ago. If you would have taken that time and figured a way to work with that client, collect that money, charge a little interest just like any other business, we are business people. And make them feel like you are reaching hand out to help take care of them and their horse.
RR: Collect all of your money. Tighten up on credit, especially on late payers. A veterinarian friend of mine said late payers turn into no payers. What I do is I bill all of my customers, I send the invoices out and I find it is very important to do this in a timely manner.
I like to bill on a weekly basis on my single accounts that just have one horse. What I do for my stables, I bill at the end of the month. If you send your bills promptly what that kind of sends is a little subliminal message to them that you want to be paid promptly. And if you are late in getting you bills out that kind of sends the message to them that if I don’t get the bill until three weeks after the horse is done maybe I shouldn’t send that check until three weeks. The other thing is that as far as late collections.
Again, this is where our good record keeping system at the end month, what I do is print out a little statement that says receivable summary and you have all of your money owed to you and you can tell whether it’s a 30, 60, or 90 days. Some people are kind of under the assumption that they don’t have to pay the bill until you tell them they have to pay the bill. And I always used to be a little bit reluctant to get on the telephone and make the calls, but I
I’ve gotten a little bit better technique of doing that where I just kind of call them politely and just asking them if they’ve gotten the bill. You don’t have to get on your high horse and demand the money and jump up and down threaten them and all of that. But just kind of gently remind them and let them know that you know that they’re on their rears and you would like to get paid. And so often what that does is it kind of just reinforces the fact that you indeed want your money.
MD: Scheduling your next appointment in advance, you know that’s really important. Before you go out to that client, look at that list and look at them and figure out how many weeks in between you want those horses to be. And then on your receipt that you are going to give that client, write the next appointment. Your next appointment is in 5 weeks on September the 5th at nine o’clock. You’ve already established that you’re going to be back. It’s harder for a client to say, no, most of them are going to say thanks Mike, appreciate it. Nice to know you are going to be out here again and be on time and be there.
Our clientele that farriers deal with is what I call circle clientele. Your outer circle is your new clients, a brand new person is going to come in that you’ve never met. The second circle around that is the clients that call that are hit and miss. And then your third circle is your solid foundation clients, that’s the ones that you have forever if you can. But they always make the next appointment; they always have an appointment set up. By having that, you have a good idea what your base income is yearly. That also allows you to go to the bank and get a loan, talk about getting a house, all kinds of different things that you may want to do with your life. Because you know what your base client is and you can show that.
MD: Charging mileage or barn call or feed for your stop. I think this is very important, if you gentlemen and ladies don’t realize, you are probably the only business in the United States that doesn’t charge a house call, or a barn call, or a stock fee. Do you realize that the hay man, the veterinarian, the plumber, the electrician, all charge a house call of some sort.
You are a service-related business, which means that you have to come to them to give them and it costs you money to run that truck. On your receipt you should have some type of call fee that will tell you that if you look at most call fees out there for most service related businesses, they run $40 to $65. I know most of you have horses and you know what the vets are charging us. I know that would be pretty hard for some farriers so start it this way.
For you folks that have never charged a barn call, find where your point of operation is which is your home or if you are out of a vet hospital or if you have a facility somewhere. Go out ten miles, 20 miles, etc. Figure out a dollar figure, if you want to start at five, and ten and 20, and on out. The way I do it is three dollars for anything out at 15 miles, its $45.00 at anything from 15 to 50 miles. It’s $75.00 at the 50-mile mark to 60 miles, and it’s $100.00 for anything beyond that. I also put a minimum work fee on what we do, it’s a dollar figure.
Now whereas I use the $400.00 mark, anything less than $400.00 gets a barn call, that’s it. Anything less than $400.00, you can use things like that. If the client says I don’t want to pay that, well then like Danny said, come on into the shop, I’d be more than happy. You don’t pay a barn call, I’ll give you ten dollars off your shoeing and you can bring your horse in. And you’re going to save your gas, wear and tear of your truck, and time.
DW: Can you afford to raise your prices, oh jeez that’s really a hard question to answer, especially in down times as we are experiencing. I don’t think the question should be can you afford to raise your prices, the statement I think should be you can’t afford not to raise your prices. Inflation right now is about 2 ½, 3% a year and when your cost goes up it’s really hard not to factor in a little increase.
I think a small increase each year is very important to any kind of business, but be careful and make sure you have good communication with your customers and they know when it’s coming and you’re on the same page with that. What I used to do every year is increase my price the first of July and I did that because it seemed to be happy times, there was a little holiday up, everybody wanted to use their horses and it seemed by the time fall and winter came around they kind of forgot that little increase. So pick a good time for you, not in the worst times.
RR: Yes, marking up your prices are really important. I want to tell you that again, you are a service related business and service related business look at their business in threefold. You have the cost to run your business, you have labor, you have profit margin on the business. Profit margin on the business is different than your labor. All three of those areas are important if you are running a business.
If you are looking at your labor and the cost of your business than you may be in the red where you think you are in the black. Everything that you buy, every nail, every pad, every shoe, every packing material, anything that you buy for the horse you should have a mark up. Minimum of 25%, up to 100%, whatever you think it should be. Don’t buy pads for $10.00 and charge $10.00 to put the pads on. Using the pad as an example, if you are shoeing a horse with pads and the pads cost you $10.00 then you should be marking it up 50%, charge $20.00 for that set of pads. But that’s not the end of it, you have labor. How long did it take you to put the pad together and put it on the shoe and then onto the foot? Did it take you 5 minutes, did it take you 10 minutes, did it take you 15 minutes? I go by $2.00 a minute is what figure in. And then you have packing that’s inside there, how many of us give away that packing, that oakum, that Fleshner’s sole pack, we don’t even figure.
We haven’t figured how much that cost, and how much we should mark that up and then how much labor it took to put that together. You gentlemen that are in the coal country, that sole pack is probably coal, you are probably heating it up to get it flexible, that took some propane, it took some time, your time is worth money. Your knowledge, when you are dealing with a product, an aluminum product or something different you went to a seminar like this or a clinic with Doug Butler to learn how to do something. If you were going to the doctor’s office or the vet he would be charging for his time and his knowledge. We need to be doing the same thing, so factor that in on your prices. If nails cost you 12 cents a nail, you better be charging 24 cents a nail when you sell it to the customer.
MD: I think you stole my thunder earlier, I was going to suggest that you use credit cards here. And we do, we have for the last eight years used credit cards in our business. Nowadays a lot of people have debit cards and most of your credit card companies that you’re dealing with, the machines take both debit and credit so it’s not a problem.
There’s now a lot of small machines out there that we can put in our truck, plug into the cigarette lighter, they have their own cell phone attached with it, it’s a little attachment. And it goes instantly to the client, and instantly out of their account from a debit into your account. Or if it’s a credit a lot of times you ask a client, they’ll hand you their card and you’ll say credit or debit and they’ll just do the debit side of it and they’ll punch their little number in. You can do that right on the spot, as most of you know, I have a multifarrier business and for your gentlemen that have more than one farrier working for you, or has an apprentice that runs out and does some trims.
You can have the client’s credit card in a secure file in your computer and when you get back from the job you just go to the computer, you bring that up, you run that in your machine and you have that money. You are not dealing with trying to get a check, trying to get a bill sent out. There is so much nowadays that is plastic that we can use to increase the income and the cash flow of our businesses.
Expanding Your Business
RR: Clean up your image with clean clothes, a new sign on the truck, and update your business cards, there is an old saying that you only have one chance to make a first impression and that is so important because that impression is the one that lot’s of times stays with that client for their entire relationship with you. What I found that when I first got into the horseshoeing business is the fact that it was kind of an easy business to break into because a lot of my competitors did not look very professional.
And the fact that I was more successful than them was not the fact that I was a better horseshoer, it’s the fact that I presented a better image. And so that is so important that horse people talk to one another constantly and we are always a subject of discussion and so like the veterinarians or any other professional, have the image of a professional, it will pay, big, big dividends.
RR: When I first started shoeing at the horse shows to seek new clients that are more affluent. When I first started shoeing I shod for anybody that would have me and these are generally back yard clients and it is a good, good training ground because you get a lot of experience and you can expand your skills. But I soon learned very quickly that you are not going to make a good living shoeing for poor people and when I looked around to see who was spending the most money on their horses and these were the people that went to horse shows.
And so to contact these people what you have to do is you have to start becoming visible and so what I started doing is I started going to the horse shows and consequently I made contact with a whole different set of clients that were a whole lot richer and consequently I could set my prices higher and they were willing to pay it. And consequently my business expanded and I became more successful.
DW: Networking, we can do the same type of networking as we do with talking about situations and cases in our way we buy. You’ve got friends at home that are farriers that buy the same product. But you each only buy so much of it, it’s not enough to get the discount. If you would network together and buy as a unit, you can get those discounts by networking together.
RR: John Suttle told me this little that he does, just about all the suppliers now have websites and they have all of their prices listed on there. And so what he does is when he needs supplies what he does is he brings up his suppliers that he normally uses, he clicks on the little shopping list, you can tell everything like he’s going to place the order, gets the shipping cost right there. Then he brings up the next supplier and does the same thing and so what you do is you have comparison shopping, and so consequently what you have to do is look at the bottom line, that’s the guy you’re going to buy from. A very, very good technique.
RR: I would bet a dollar to a doughnut that everybody in this room that shod probably more than 20 years has all kinds of old shoes that are sitting in the back of the shop. That what we all do is we all buy up these shoes and then new ones come on the market and we use the new ones, we don’t want to use the old ones up. For you young guys that are a little bit strapped for cash, hook up with one of these old guys and ask them what they got sitting in the back. For school horses, back yard horses, stuff don’t have to have the latest stuff and you got a little bit extra time, beg, borrow, and ask for this inventory. It’s a great way to get shoes for cheap or next to nothing and anybody in my area if you need shoes I can help you out.