Building relationships with clients and knowing when to let them go may sound as easy as saying hello and goodbye, but there are a few things farriers should keep in mind when developing and ending client relationships that can make everything go a little more smoothly.
In the opening days of each 8-week block of classes, Bob Smith takes his Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School students to “the candy store.” Farriers in the Sacramento, Calif., area know it as The Horseshoe Barn.
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.
People start businesses for many potential reasons — freedom, unlimited earnings and many others. They frequently overlook the real responsibilities they will have, including their financial future, both their own and that of the business.
A farrier practice is a business — that is no surprise. As professionals, practitioners have a responsibility to maintain accurate records, schedule properly, bill and receive payment promptly, and track performance. At the same time, farriers also should keep records on clients and the type of work conducted on their horses, including photographs of the feet or radiographs shared by veterinarians.
After graduating from school or leaving an apprenticeship to begin a farrier career, what questions will cross your mind? Where will you find clients? How much should you charge? What type of clients do you want to work for? Certainly, there are dozens of other questions that will receive much deliberation.
Crouching under a horse and banging on an anvil 8 hours a day, 5 or more days a week wears down the body over years of work. Farriers’ backs become stiff and sore, tennis elbow can develop and carpal tunnel can debilitate hands and wrists. In such a physical profession, any injury can mean time away from work and money lost. These worries may seem like a long way off to farriers who are just starting out, but certain practices put into effect now can help prevent ache and injury later.
Whether you’re injured on the job, planning a vacation or recovering from surgery, there will come a time when you need to be away from your practice for an extended period. Having a plan in place for such an absence will save you the headache of finding coverage for your horses, loss of income and potentially losing clients.
The transition from a horseshoeing school student to a full-time farrier can be rough, even for those who graduate at the top of their class. New graduates and those just starting their farrier business understand the challenges you’ll face, regardless of education and skill.
Farriery requires knowledge and skills to provide proper equine hoof care. In this series, sponsored by VICTORY, American Farriers Journal visits Heartland Horseshoeing School in Lamar, Mo. In this edition, Chris Gregory discussed his journey to becoming an educator, his focus in teaching farrier students and the state of farrier education.
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