How mapping your service area can improve your shoeing career

"Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" I couldn't help but think of this old computer game when writing this article. Carmen San Diego was a 1990s game in which you played a detective trying to find and thwart villains across the globe while learning geography. As farriers, I feel like sometimes a villain in our practice can be a failure to analyze our service area geography.

Let's face it, many farriers don't use a map to get from barn to barn anymore. With the smartphone age upon us, maps are quickly becoming things of the past. That being said, don't rule out using one to show you where, how and why you travel to provide hoofcare. 

Recently, I took a look at my service area on a standard map. On that map I pinpointed the approximate location of all my clients. Then, I took a look at my past 3 months of appointments. I was amazed to see just how much I wasted in travel time. While most of that may be because I am still a young farrier, I feel it is a good practice to review your service area annually.

Know Where You Work

By mapping my area, I learned where the majority of my bigger accounts were, the maximum miles I traveled to a client and the closest clients to me. This gave me a great picture for how to improve my scheduling and save the wear and tear on my truck. For example, instead of driving 2 hours for three or four horses, recommend on your next visit that the client meet you at the vet clinic for a discounted rate, or ask for referrals in their area for a one-time discount. With a full day's work from the referrals, you won't be wasting time driving when you could be working under more horses.

Another great thing the map can show you is where potential new clients are located. That could be a vet clinic, show barn, roping arena, etc. If you recently moved or are looking to branch out to new areas, do a Google search for horse barns. Put them on your map and you can give yourself targets on where or what type of horses you may want to branch out into. 

Do you have a day in your schedule that is lighter than the rest? Use that day to network with potential new clients or vets/farriers in the areas you may not currently travel to. 

New Areas, New Prices

A map can also be used to detail your prices. I shoe in a lower income area, so my prices can't be raised more or they exceed what my area can handle. However, about an hour both north and south of me are areas I could travel to more frequently that would allow me to increase my prices due to their economic strength. I already knew this, but putting it on the map gave me an extra visual of just how many more horse owners there were in new locations.

The visual aid of the map also can help you find other farriers in your area. Are you getting burnt out or have a horse you can't seem to help on your own? Use farrier websites or Facebook to find some help. Put these possible mentors on your map and make it a point to visit him or her in the near future. You could do this with a map of the U.S. also. Want to attend more clinics? Put a year's worth of them on your map and make them vacations to learn and travel.

One other great reason for mapping your service area is for your safety. If you work alone and/or travel on the road long distances a lot, a pinpointed map can give your spouse or significant other an idea of where you might be. This could prove vital if you were to get hurt on the job or in a bad accident and not have access to your phone or someone to help you. If you communicate the night before what your route for the next day or week will be, then someone will have a place to start looking if you get in a bad spot.

Using an old-fashioned map is a great tool for your business. By seeing your travel routes and service area, you can learn where you are focusing your efforts and see if you can improve revenue, reduce drive time, learn from other farriers near you and potentially save your life or the life of someone else.

Drew Morales is a Certified Journeyman Farrier from Tucson, Ariz. He enjoys learning and shoeing with farriers he meets while serving in the United States Army.