Giving Your Livery Yard An Annual Review
- Are your costs increasing with the new year? Most bills and suppliers will increase their prices so why shouldn’t yard owners as well?
Absolutely the most important thing to review, if nothing else! Most businesses will review their prices annually, be this corporate utility companies, or your local feed store or your friendly local farmer who supplied your hay or takes away your muck pile. Charges will not just be determined by their want to increase prices, but due to the increasing costs from their own suppliers and staff - and so the chain continues. It's therefore important that livery yards also pass these price increases on to their clients, and price their livery packages accordingly. It's no good having had the same livery rate year on year if your supplier costs are going up - that just means you’re making less income from your yard!
It is therefore important to carry out an annual review of your business spending and what your livery packages are charged at. If you keep records of your outgoings, that's great. You can base your outgoings on the previous year’s accounts and calculate your costs per stable easily. If not, it’s a little more time consuming but well worth it to say the least. With this helpful guide to Making Your Livery Yard Pay and this Calculation Sheet you can easily work out your outgoings and what you need to be charging. If you need to increase your prices this can be done easily using this Template Price Increase Letter. Ideally, you’ll also include in your livery contract a clause advising of annual price increases, so these do not come as a surprise to your livery clients. A small annual increase is much more accepted by clients than a huge leap every few years!
- Review what you offer. The equine world is an ever-changing market and it's important that what you offer is still relevant to the demand in the industry and your local area.
The variations on livery packages available these days are huge - DIY to Tailored Full Livery and everything in between! The facilities on offer vary hugely as well. It's very difficult to make any direct comparison between one livery yard and another - even offering the same livery packages in the same area - so competition is fierce. Many yards are finding the packages they offer are oversaturated in their area and as such they are finding it hard to fill spaces. This is the time to reconsider what you offer. You don’t necessarily need to change the package itself, perhaps even just amend the marketing to attract a different sort of client.
Think of the unique selling points of your yard and base what you offer around this. You might have facilities or offer services that no other yards in your area offer, but by just offering standard packages you may blend in with all other yards. Make the most of the facilities and location you have - for example if you’ve got excellent hacking on your doorstep you’re more likely to appeal to happy hackers than competition riders. Also keep an eye on the trends of the equestrian industry, many yards are now adding all-weather turnout to combat the increasingly wet winters, or are creating track systems to benefit from the increasing demand of natural livery. Don’t be put off that no one else in your area may offer what you want to - that's the point! However, when changing what you offer, make sure you’re setting it at the right price for your outgoings, as detailed above.
- Many yard owners issue paperwork to their liveries such as contracts and yard handbooks, but how often are these actually reviewed and updated?
It's important to update any documents that are issued to your liveries. Out of date or incorrect information can only cause issues and misunderstanding in the long run. Livery contracts should be renewed annually, or in fact anytime anything changes that will affect what is contained therein. Livery contracts are the backbone of your business, and set out the agreement for your services and fees between yourself and your clients. If this is wrong or out of date, it could cause serious consequences in the event of a disagreement with a client.
Even more importantly, if you don’t currently issue your liveries with contracts you really should do. Livery contracts are becoming more commonplace in the industry and are designed to protect both the yard owner and their clients. It's easy to create and introduce livery contracts, even to existing liveries. Our handy article ‘Ten Reasons to Give Your Clients a Livery Contract’ explains the advantages of livery contracts, and our Template Livery Contract and Livery Contract Introduction Letter help you easily implement them on your yard.
Livery Yard Handbooks are a great idea as well, save having too much changeable information in your livery contracts, a Yard Handbook can be reviewed regularly and should include any important non-contractual information for your clients. It's also an opportunity to review procedures, detail any changes to services or routines and generally ensure your clients are kept updated. There's a handy Yard Handbook Template to get you started. Updating it is very simple, it's just a case of working your way through and changing anything as necessary.
- Don’t forget your staff as well! If you’ve got good staff, give them the incentive to stay by increasing their wage too.
Many yard owners will know that finding and retaining good quality staff can be hard in the equestrian industry. Most employers will give a small pay rise each year in line with government increases, and the same should be done in the equestrian industry. Show your staff that they are appreciated. As an advantage, you can also look into additional training or suchlike that they can attend over the course of the year to both of your benefit, as well as ensuring they are staying up to date with practices and changes in the industry.
As well as this, having an annual meeting with your yard staff to review the previous year from their point of view can be hugely beneficial. Perhaps they’ve got some feedback on ways that procedures could be improved, or ways they feel they could work faster or more effectively with some basic changes. It can also be a great opportunity to review working schedules, employment contracts and to remind staff of any forthcoming changes or alterations to the services you offer.
- Take action to fill spaces. The New Year is the perfect time for yard owners to review their marketing so that they can be organised and efficient with their advertising in time for the spring, which is the most popular time for horse owners to look to move.
Lots of yards have their own websites and social media accounts, but many of these are irregularly updated meaning information is outdated and sends the wrong impression to potential clients. Ideally websites and social media accounts should be updated regularly, but this is not always possible and it’s a task that can easily slip minds. So to combat this, make a site or social media page that requires minimal updating. You can then easily do one large update each year to make any changes, refresh the look or add more up-to-date photos.
It's quite easy to work systematically through your Facebook page, adverts or website to make any changes. The easiest way is to view it from another person’s view (i.e. looking at your website, advertising listings or Facebook page as a visitor would see it) and write notes as you do so on the things you’d like to change or update. Then you can log in and easily work through the list and get it updated. Make sure any adverts are updated too so that they reflect the correct information to any potential livery clients.
Plan your years marketing, bearing in mind that if you offer any services over and above livery - such as events, instruction, facility hire - you should advertise year-round to reach the most potential clients. Websites such as LiveryList offer year-round advertising for a small flat fee, ensuring you have exposure for your yard all year, rather than just having to pay for multiple short term adverts whenever a vacancy arises.
- Give yourself targets for the year. Want to achieve certain goals, improve facilities or expand your yard? Then forward planning is the key!
If you’ve things you’d like to improve on your yard, such as renewing or updating facilities, then planning ahead can help hugely. Work out an action plan of what you want to achieve, and how best you can work towards this over the coming year. If your plans mean that certain facilities or areas of the yard will be temporarily out of use, you can plan ahead to make the best of this, and reduce the effect such times will have on the services you offer. If you want to re-paint the stables you’re best to do this in the summer when it's dry and the horses are out. You’d be surprised how many yard owners keep putting off tasks like this and then before they know it they are in winter again with full stables and damp weather! Set deadlines for what you want to achieve and try to stick to them as best as possible. This will also help you budget, knowing when expected costs will arise and knowing when you can increase your livery charges or costs to reflect the changes, if that's the plan.