Do you set the tone for your hoof-care work or do you let someone else do it for you?

I’ve recently been reading quite a bit about the importance of tone setting in business relationships. That’s led me to thinking about examples of farriers doing a good job setting the right tone in their relationships with clients.

Since I started working at American Farriers Journal in late 2000, I’ve done more than 50 “Shoeing For A Living” stories, as well as spending other days, or parts of days, in the field with farriers. One of the things I’ve noticed is that farriers who set a professional tone wind up being treated as professionals. Farriers who don’t are more likely to be taken advantage of. Essentially, setting the right tone boils down to you being in control of your work, rather than someone else.

Expectations And Results

Farriers who set a professional tone arrive when expected. They understand what clients expect from them and make it clear what they expect from clients. Good communication — including listening to customer feedback — is vital.

One of the indicators of setting the right tone is how the hoof-care work fits into a barn’s daily routine. When a farrier sets the right tone, the visit is an integral part of the day. The barn’s staff works with the farrier to facilitate the call, rather than behaving as if the visit is some kind of a necessary — but not appreciated — interruption.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you sometimes feel as if you’re shoeing in the middle of a bridle path? Are grooms and riders frequently bringing horses or equipment through, interrupting you?
  • Do you get a lot of surprises? Are you often asked to do extra horses that aren’t scheduled, or finding that horses you're supposed to shoe aren’t available?
  • When you’re done with one horse, does someone from the barn staff have the next one ready for you or do you wind up putting the first horse back in its stall, then getting the next one yourself?
  • Is someone from the barn available to hold horses for you — particularly horses that aren’t being very cooperative?
  • Can you expect someone to provide you with any needed updates about how a particular horse has been moving or acting, or if there has been any change in its behavior?
  • Do your clients see you as the hoof-care expert or do they frequently challenge you?
  • Do you get a lot of questions about the bills you leave or are your regular charges clearly understood?

If your answers to these questions indicate that these are problems for you, you may want to think about how you can set a better tone for your relationships with your clients. This isn’t a matter of marching into a barn like a Marine drill instructor barking orders. With current clients who you’d like to improve the tone of your relationship, it means setting some time aside to communicate.

Communication And Feedback

Talk about issues you're having, and discuss how these can be addressed. Remember that this is a two-way street. You may find that the best way to avoid heavy traffic in the area where you are shoeing is to schedule an appointment for another day or time. On the other hand, they may be unaware that the location is an issue for you.

With new clients, consider setting the tone right away. Experienced farriers often present new clients with a list of client and farrier responsibilities. Just because you are a novice farrier or are new to the trade, doesn’t mean you have to let the owner set the tone.

Farriers are always looking for ways to be more efficient. They experiment with finding the perfect distance between the anvil and the cross-ties, arrange a tool box so they can reach a driving hammer or rasp without having to set down a hoof, and draw and redraw rig plans to get the perfect layout.

Look at setting the right tone as just one more way to improve your efficiency and establish yourself as a respected professional.