Growing up, I spent a lot of time around the world’s best farriers as they came to our home and were trained by my father, Dr. Doug Butler. I was able to work side-by-side with many of them as they became master craftsmen and learned the fundamentals of farriery. I also have worked and consulted with farriers from around the world.

This chance to observe has given me a unique perspective on the habits and behaviors of success. In this series of articles I want to share with you what I’ve learned from observing these habits and behaviors up close so you can utilize them in your life and farrier business.           

Personal success trainer Anthony Robbins once said: “Success leaves clues.” Here is a list of of 10 habits, behaviors and clues that I’ve observed that top farriers around the world have and what you can do to become an even better farrier in your business.

1: Ambitious and Resistant to Complacency

Most business owners are committed to preserving a status quo as long as possible and this is true for farriers as well. Everyone wants the easiest way to set up a system for their business that allows them to keep taking money from it for years without looking for ways to expand or increase potential. Most farriers love the work and helping horses, but feel overwhelmed because they may not have all of the business skills they want to expand their business.

It used to be that a farrier could go along and expand their business steadily over time. Today, change is happening quickly and the best farriers force themselves and their business to change for the better. The best farriers choose not to just react to the changes they see around them; they proactively prepare for the future they want to create.

Regardless of the industry, the top professionals who I know never permit themselves a moment of mental rest. They are always simultaneously working on implementing what is working now and at the same time working on a replacement for it when it is no longer effective. Being content with just getting by isn’t a behavior of top professionals in any field. 

In today’s new economy, farriers must be responsive to the constant changes around them: demands from their clients, understanding horse anatomy and conformation so proper farrier work can be done in any situation, threats from new competitors, etc. To succeed long-term in this business, a farrier must have ambition and extreme resistance to the status quo.

Ambition is a word that sometimes gets a bad rap. A great definition of ambition is “a strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.” Synonyms of ambition include: drive, determination, initiative, eagerness, motivation, resolve, enthusiasm, zeal, hunger, commitment and a sense of purpose. These are the habits and behaviors of top farriers. 

There are three ways you can diversify your knowledge and actions so you can get more done and beat the resistance of complacency: 

Continually educate yourself.

  • Read voraciously – study other successful business individuals
    • If you read 1 book/week in 10 years=520 books, 20 years=more than 1,000 books 
  • Network with other farriers and other business leaders you admire who are where you want to be. When you understand their marketing methods and business systems, you can implement these processes into your business as well. A big key to success is to find mentors who are where you want to be.
  • Become familiar with marketing methods and media beyond what you are familiar with and use. Horse owners are active on social media. You may just want to come home after a busy day and crash. Yet, taking the time to proactively educate your clients and show your skill level will have a huge impact on how successful you’ll be at attracting new clients and retaining the clients you’ve already got. 

Look for new ways to attract new clients to your business. This can’t be something you’ll get around to someday; it must be something you are constantly working on, testing and implementing. The best farriers attract more clients because they are good at what they do AND because they are good at promoting what they do to others. You must master these skills as well.

I’ve put together a list of more than 31 ways farriers successfully market their business. If you would like to get a copy of this list, email me at and I’ll send it to you.

If you’ve been dependent on one source to bring in new clients, you must diversify. Being reliant on any one single method to bring in business is a recipe for disaster. Most farriers don’t think about what might happen if the method they’ve been using is no longer effective. For example, many business owners used to advertise in the yellow pages. Most people don’t use that media anymore to find a new service provider. 

I’ve found that farriers use a variety of marketing methods to successfully promote their skills and abilities. I’ll share these with you in future articles.

2: Big and Bold Thinkers

Some farriers hope to be bigger and more successful someday, but they aren’t really serious or committed to what it takes to achieve greater success.

Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs is a fascinating look at a man who spent a lot of time thinking about where the market was heading and anticipating where the market would be. 

“[Steve Jobs] and his colleagues at Apple were able to think differently,” writes Isacson.  “They developed not merely modest product advances based on focus groups, but whole new devices and services that consumers did not yet know they needed.” 

It takes commitment and focus to think big. It takes courage to act on these bold ideas. Apple is one of the world’s most valuable companies today because of the big thinking that went into it first. Your farrier business will only become as big as you think it can. 

You have to be 100% committed to whatever you set out to accomplish. I recently read the following statistics about what would happen if you were only 99.9% committed. I think it shows why a complete and total commitment is so necessary. 99.9% would mean: 

  • One hour of unsafe drinking water every month.
  • Two unsafe landings at O’Hare International Airport each day.
  • 16,000 lost pieces of mail per hour.
  • 20,000 incorrectly filled prescriptions every year.
  • 500 incorrect surgical operations performed each week.
  • 50 newborn babies dropped at birth by doctors every day.
  • 22,000 checks deducted from the wrong account each hour.
  • Your heart failing to beat 32,000 times each year. 

Best selling author of The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard, said, “There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” 

Stephen King, best-selling author with over 40 books in print, many of which have been made into movies, says, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” 

Big, bold ideas often are limited by our own negative and limiting self-beliefs. Much of success is based on changing your story.

Author Werner Erhard once observed, “If you want to be successful in life and in business, you have to give up your story and change it to a different story.” 

What story have you told yourself about your farrier business? If you want to be more successful, you’ve got to change the limiting beliefs that are holding you back. Here are 10 common beliefs that farriers tell themselves that can limit their business: 

  1. Thinking your business is different. He could do that, but I couldn’t because…
  2. Allowing yourself to be controlled by the opinions and beliefs of others. I can’t charge that price because _____ down the road charges less than that.
  3. Allowing yourself to be controlled by past experience. I tried that and it didn’t work…
  4. Being a slave to industry norms. I can only charge ‘x’ for a foot trim or ‘y’ for a shoeing job because…
  5. Fear. I hope the horse owner doesn’t find out what I don’t know.
  6. Indecision. I want to learn more, but I don’t have time now. I’ll get to it someday.
  7. Lack of clarity and focus – continually distracted by new, shiny objects instead of focusing on the areas that will bring you success. 
  8. Having a strategy that is incongruent with your goals. For example, if you want a six-figure income, but aren’t specific about how you will reach that goal, you probably won’t. A better approach would be to say: “I’m going to bring in $150,000 this year. To make this happen, I will shoe five horses/day at an average of $100/horse 6 days a week. In order to do that I must have a consistent appointment flow that will get me at least five horses a day. 
  9. Small thinking. I could never earn a six-figure income in this business because…
  10. Incorrect thinking about money and profitability of each shoeing job. I earned $150 shoeing this horse (yet not factoring in gas, cost for your rig, etc.).
  11. Thinking that you have to shoe horses for the same or lower price as every other farrier in town in order to get the job. 

Get over the stories you have been telling yourself. Start thinking bigger and develop the habit of big, bold thinking.

One of the most important big, bold ideas you must implement in your farrier business is doing the things necessary to be viewed as a celebrity and authority by horse owners in your market region. Here are some tips on how you can do that:

Your market needs clarity about you. Are you going to provide it, or will you let someone else do it for you?

Take a position and make a stand. In your marketing, ask questions that help position you as a solution to a challenge that horses in your area are facing and how you can solve them.

What question should you pose to a horse owner that helps her sense a problem she is facing and show how you can help her with the solution? The better you are at asking and answering those questions, the more you’ll draw the best barns to your practice.

Shift your marketing selling philosophy from being product-centric to customer-centric.

You should be asking: “How can I best help my target horse owners get what they want — and be perceived as doing so?” You shouldn’t be asking: “how can I shoe more horses?”

Promote yourself courageously through as many mediums, methods and media as possible to get your message out to horse owners in your area.

What are ways you are doing this? What could you or should you be doing to promote yourself in this way?

Remember, horse owners accept you as you present yourself.

Write a brief summary of how you are now presenting yourself to your clients. What should you change about how you are presenting yourself to horse owners to build more authority credibility and celebrity. 

Position yourself into a category of one.

 What category of one can you position yourself in? In other words, what can you do better than any other farrier in your area? The world’s best farriers have defined their area of specialty. What is yours?

3: Extreme Self-Confidence and Self-Belief

Look at most successful individuals in any business or field and you will see that they are extremely confident in themselves and what they are doing.

They believe they can:

  • Make things happen.
  • Conquer any difficulties that come in their path.
  • Do what others can’t or won’t.

This attitude and belief comes from confidence in what you know and what you have already accomplished.

On the other hand, unsuccessful individuals never launch ideas or projects or fully commit to implementing ideas because deep down, they lack confidence in their own ability to follow through with what they start. 

How do you develop extreme self-confidence? 

  • Change your associations (what you read and who you associate with). The best farriers recognize there is always more to learn. They study up on foot conditions they may not be as familiar with so they can offer more value to their clients. 
  • Do something well.
  • Be and act better than your competition. When horse owners notice the difference, your confidence skyrockets. 
  • Develop new skills and competencies. 
  • Surround yourself with players who you have confidence in and who you know will hit the goals you need to hit every day to make your monthly and yearly goals a reality.
  • Do what you say you will do. 
  • Expect and anticipate great things in your practice and live in the vision you have for yourself.
  • Reward yourself and your team when you accomplish extraordinary things. 
  • Be immune to criticism. 
  • Take the responsibility to create your own story. Don’t listen to what others have said about you in the past.

4: Protect Profit Margins

The sacrifice of margin to make a sale does not pay. It takes zero imagination to cut prices, discount and discount more so that you have a slim to non-existent profit margin.

To succeed, you must go to work on protecting your profits, not sacrificing them.

As I see it, there are three big areas of concern for farriers in the future:

  1. Rising costs of travel and inventory. It costs more to transport your equipment and the inventory you need to do your job right. With some willing to cut prices to get the job, you must build your value to cover these additional costs. 
  2. Increased cost of running your business (gas price increases, health care increases and other costs all farriers have to bear, with nearly everything in business increasing in recent years). You must raise your prices to cover these costs.
  3. Horse owners expect more today than they ever have. Horse owners feel entitled to the best deal. This means that you have to get better at building more and more value into what you sell in ways that don’t increase your expenses. If you don’t do this and your sales revenues remain flat, you will fall behind very quickly with the rising cost of everything.

How do you protect your profits? 

  • Know and pay attention to the critical numbers in your business. 
  • Alter the source of your customers (get better and less price-sensitive customers who truly appreciate your value). 
  • Offer new and different products and services (that have high profitability).
  • Force higher transaction size by bundling products and services into your shoeing regimen. 
  • Elevate the value of what you sell beyond easily comparable products that are commoditized.

When each of your competitors offers a discounted price for shoeing, you have to trade away more profit to succeed (especially if you’re selling what everyone else is selling).

Decreased profits result in:

  • Less money to spend to advertise and promote to get new and better clients into your business. 
  • Less control. 
  • Less ability to pay others and yourself well. 

Six questions for thought and evaluation:

  1. What is the most profitable thing I currently offer to my clients? 
  2. What would happen to my profitability if I invested more of my resources into my most profitable offering (instead of diluting it with less profitable offerings)?
  3. How much money did I really make from what I am selling the most of?
  4. What profitability am I giving up by what clients I keep in my practice?
  5. Does the turnover of each inventory item in my truck justify its continued presence?
  6. Will increased costs allow me to continue to be profitable over time? 

Take responsibility for the profitability of your business. Only you can control this. Noted marketing consultant Dan Kennedy once observed: “Control equals responsibility and responsibility equals control. Anybody adept at making excuses is usually inept at making money.”

The farriers who do the best, and will continue to be the best, are those who: 

  • Focus on niche markets where they have exclusivity (there is no one else who can do exactly what they do as well as they do).
  • Are noted experts and celebrities in their individual markets.
  • Specialize so they are better known through referrals and recommendations as the best individual to shoe a horse in your area.

5: Continual Practicing and Searching for New Educational Opportunities

In the January/February 1998 issue of the American Farrier’s Journal, my father, Dr. Doug Butler, wrote an article titled “10 Ways to Master the Skills of Farriery.” I would encourage you to go back and read and study this article at As a review, here are the ten principles of success you can tap into to help you reach your goals and become a highly skilled farrier:

  1. Decide to master all of the skills of farriery. 
  2. Set specific, well-defined goals. 
  3. Measure your progress in all seven skill areas. (There is a great chart in the article that shows what should be known by each of the four levels of AFA certification by skill.)
  4. Practice all skills at your level to perfection. 
  5. Learn every day. 
  6. Be accountable to knowledge gained.
  7. Seek out a coach or a mentor. 
  8. Seek long-term success.
  9. Balance your business and life.
  10. Continually learn and share with others.

That was great advice then and it’s great advice now. The best farriers continually practice and get better at the skills of this craft. They are not content to just get by. They show their commitment to mastery through continuous practice and by being around others who can help them get to where they want to go.

6: Unrelenting Focus On Establishing and Reaching Goals

Jim Collins calls this habit “fanatic discipline” or “the 20 mile march” in his book, Great by Choice. He says, “The 20 Mile March is more than a philosophy. It’s about having concrete, clear, intelligent, and rigorously pursued performance mechanisms that keep you on track. The 20 Mile March creates two types of self-imposed discomfort: (1) the discomfort of unwavering commitment to high performance in difficult conditions, and (2) the discomfort of holding back in good conditions.” —page 45.

Collins lists seven major components of these types of goals:

  • You must have performance markers. I think these should be your minimum, target, and optimal goals.
  • You must have self-imposed constraints. You have to decide what goals you will march toward every day and do so consistently.
  • You must tailor your goals to your business and its environment.
  • You must set goals that are largely within your control to achieve. In other words, work on the critical success factors that lead to success instead of shooting blanks in the dark. You’ve got to aim and focus on your target.
  • The goal should be just right for you and your team. He calls this a Goldilocks time frame (where the goal is not too long or too short, but just right).
  • Your goals should be designed and self-imposed by you, not set by someone who doesn’t understand your business.
  • Your goals must be achieved with great consistency.

—Jim Collins, Great by Choice, pages 48-49. 

Here are four rules of goal setting:

  1. Goals must be in harmony with one another, not contradictory.
  2. Your goals must be challenging. They must make you stretch without being overwhelming.
    For example, if you’re trying to learn a new skill, set goals that stretch you, but that are not completely out of reach. Goals that are motivational are incremental goals. Stretch a little bit beyond your current capabilities. Motivate yourself with incremental goals until you are able to surpass these with another incremental goal. This is a very important point with growth. If you try to grow too fast without the proper foundation and framework, you will frustrate yourself, instead of motivating yourself. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can with what you have, right where you are.”
  3. You need both short-term and long-term goals.
  4. Break down your goals into yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and hourly targets.
    You may want to put together a chart with goals for each area of your business. Start by looking at where you want to be 5 years from now and then work backward to help you build your business. For example, if you want to be taking home a six figure income, you’ve got to know exactly how many horses you will shoe each day and how much money you’ll bring in each day to make that happen. 

7: Successfully Manage a Daily Schedule and Adapt Prioritization

Robert Kiyosaki defines FOCUS as: Follow One Course Until Successful. He says, “My favorite two words of that acronym are these: until successful. Focus…is power measured over time. For example, it is easy for me to stay on my diet from breakfast to lunch. But to stay focused for years on the diet is the true power of focus. I have gone on diets, lost weight, gained it back, and had to lose the weight again. That is the lack of focus over time.” —The Midas Touch, page 51. 

Here are some questions for you to reflect on: 

  • What are your most important priorities?
  • Are you focused on them? Does your daily schedule reflect those priorities? 
  • What are the things that you do well that you and only you can do in your business?
  • How is what you are presently doing, helping you build the future you desire for yourself? 
  • List three areas where you are most productive.
    1. _____________________________________
    2. _____________________________________
    3. _____________________________________
  • In what area of your business are you currently best using your time? Is this the right area of focus?
  • Are you using your time in your business in a way that allows you to work on your greatest opportunities or do you find yourself bogged down dealing with your greatest challenges? 

Questions for reflection:

  1. What is generating the majority of your revenue now?
  2. What is the most profitable area of your business?
  3. What opportunities do you see now that you didn’t see last year that you could focus on (and that are really worth developing)?
  4. What do you believe would be a hit for your business, but can’t prove…and would be worth a test for a home run?
  5. What can you do daily to stay focused on new opportunities?

8: Utilize Leverage Points and Multipliers to Maximize Productivity and Results

To grow your business, you need to better leverage the assets you have. Your own individual assets aren’t enough.

Questions for Evaluation:

  • How have I better leveraged unused capacity at my business (times when I’m not usually busy)?
  • Is my pre-sales process more effective than my competition? What am I providing to horse owners so they are convinced I am the best farrier in the area before they call to schedule an appointment?
  • Are horse owners commenting on the experiences they’re having as a result of our work? What specifically is driving our focus on selling experiences, not just shoeing horses?
  • What game changing elements have you introduced in your practice (different payment offers, incentives, all-inclusive packages)? 
  • Do horse owners perceive that you have additional value above and beyond just the “guy who shoes their horses” as they prepare for upcoming competitions or experiences with their horses? 
  • Are your clients loyal to you once they’ve purchased from you (or are other competitors more persuasive in their marketing to pull these horse owners into their businesses)? How do you know?
  • What recurring problem do you solve that horse owners have been talking about today? How specifically are you solving it?
  • Do horse owners feel that what you do is extraordinary or ordinary? What have horse owners told you that you are doing that is new or that they have seen as they’ve talked with you? How could you better leverage this? 
  • Do you feel that you’ve re-invented the experience that horse owners have when you are shoeing their horses? How specifically have you re-invigorated your processes and systems? 
  • What industry norms has your business defied? What are you doing to stand out and be different? How could you better leverage this to your advantage?
  • What territory, niche or market square are you now dominating? Are there market gaps that no one is really addressing in your area?
  • What unmet needs or desires do horse owners have? How could you meet those better than your competitors? 
  • In what ways have you stretched the price pyramid in your business (are you selling to more affluent horse owners who truly value your skill level and what you provide for them)?
  • Do you have relationships with individuals in specific niche channels that your competitors don’t have that you are able to monetize?
  • What processes are you leveraging in your business to have more success (how the phone is answered, how appointments are set, what horse owners experience in the first 30 seconds after you arrive at their barn and during their entire experience with you?
  • What have you done to increase your margin on the products you are carrying in your truck? What leverage points or advantages has this given to you?
  • How much time are you spending thinking about where you want to be in the future? What leverage does this give you? 
  • Are you copying your competitors or are they copying you? Are your competitors aggressively pursuing your clients? How do you know? What will you do about it?
  • How does your website compare with that of your competitors? Does your website leverage your business and help horse owners see why you are the best choice?
  • How do your repeat visit percentages compare with those of your competitors? How often are you able to get an additional horse with a specific problem because you’re keeping your skills sharp? 
  • How well are you implementing what you are learning? Are you where you want to be? What are you doing to ensure that you’ll be in a different place 6 months from now than you are today?
  • What is extraordinary about your business as compared with your competitors? Do horse owners perceive this difference?

9: Develop a Marketing Plan and Stick To It

  1. List all of the ways you are currently marketing your farrier business to new clients in each of the categories on the Success Of Different Marketing Plans worksheet.
  2. Take your most recent advertising/marketing promotion and ask yourself the questions below in the following six areas:
  3. What one thing will you do to better market your farrier practice as a result of this exercise?

This exercise is also available in a summarized PDF. Click here to download and use this worksheet to evaluate your hoof-care marketing plan.

10: Steadfast In Implementation

When all is said and done, you get paid for results, not excuses. You don’t stay at the top for long by being easy on yourself. The leaders in any field are those who expect themselves to be superior, on time and on target in every setting. 

This can cause stress and unhappiness because you are always working to implement and know you must continually do more than you are.

Jim Collins calls this habit “productive paranoia,” or being obsessed with implementation. One of the interesting observations he makes in Great by Choice is, “…Leaders remain obsessively focused on their objectives and hypervigilant about changes in their environment; they push for perfect execution and adjust to changing conditions…” —page 114.

He calls responding to changes by competitors that will affect you, the zoom out, zoom in theory. He says this looks like: 

Zoom Out: 

  • Sense a change in conditions
  • Assess the time frame: how much time before the risk profile changes?
  • Assess with rigor: Do the new conditions call for disrupting plans? If so, how?


Zoom In:

  • Focus on supreme execution of plans and objectives 

In other words, when you know what you need to do, you get busy with doing it and doing it consistently. You don’t procrastinate or make excuses. You just get your most important priorities done, period. 

Be one who implements quickly. Remember, the top earners in this business or any other are those who have adopted the habit of implementation.

I hope this discussion of habits has been helpful for you. My hope is that you will take these 10 habits seriously and adopt each and every one of them into your life. You can choose to be great by what you focus on. I would encourage you to pick four of these habits we’ve discussed in this series of articles and decide to adopt them and have them be a major part of your life and your farrier practice by this time next year. Which of the 10 we’ve discussed will be the habits you will master in the coming year?

If you work on one habit every quarter (3 months or 13 weeks) for at least 20 minutes a day, it will be yours for life. 

 Put up signs around your home or in your truck to remind yourself of the habits you are going to develop and then make it happen. Then, you will employ the behaviors and skills of the top and most highly paid farriers in this business. I would love to hear from you about the habits you’ve selected and which ones you are working on mastering now.