Douglas Emerson Profitable Horseman
Profitable Horseman Newsletter 
April 24, 2009
Here Is A Way To Get Things Done Right The First Time, Every Time


It's spring and in my part of the world and that means an abundance of water.  Melted from ice and snow and delivered by relentless rains, water is everywhere.  Motionless water is standing in low pastures, puddled in driveway potholes and trapped in my leaky rubber boots.

        flowing water

There is water in motion as well: trickling, flowing or roaring toward larger bodies of water.  Nature sees to it that water stays in motion without instructions.  It goes wherever gravity chooses to send it.  Natural flow for water is easy to see and understand; it's downhill and usually along an obvious, well carved path. 

Ideally, the work in your business should have natural flow to it just like running water, resistance free along a clear path.  But in many businesses, work flows like ketchup from a bottle.  Following inverted shaking, taps and slaps, the ketchup bottle temporarily spurts and drips an appeasing amount, very similar to the way some employees respond to the boss's instructions.

Workers (assistants, volunteers, family) often have difficulty maintaining work flow because the path, that is what to do next and how to do it, is unknown.  They're trapped like water in a low spot in a field, waiting for a drainage ditch for guidance.
Sure, you've told them, more than once, in different ways when and how to do things.  But, most likely the instructions you gave were in your own concise language.  You see the problem with your concise language is that it's too concise, lacking details and only presented in one way and in your style.

Consider your assignment of the task:  sweep the barn.  You have the mental image of a swept barn and it's done according to your standard.
The recipient of the order is now faced with many decisions:
What broom?
Where is it?
Where to start?
Sweepings into stalls or into a shovel or out the door?
Sweep the feed and tack rooms, too?
How much sweeping, rough, medium or squeaky clean?
Sweep behind trunks and under mats?
Catch cobwebs too?
What about horses cross-tied in the aisle in my way?
Where does the broom get stored when done?
The process of sweeping, simple at first glance, is filled with decisions.  The other work tasks in your business require decisions too:  Feeding hay, turnout groups, when to blanket, how often to check water buckets and scrub, greeting customers, cleaning tack, taking messages, fueling the tractor, filing receipts, loading the trailer for the show and so on.
Unclear expectations about work and how to do it by the owner, guarantee inconsistent performance in job completion by the employee.
Well defined expectations in the form of an operations manual for your business will help communicate the order in which to do work and the steps necessary to complete it.
WAIT, before you stop reading, an operations manual doesn't have to be difficult to produce! 
Be easy on yourself and your employees, construct the manual one part at a time.  Start with feeding, or stall cleaning or cleaning tack.  Begin with a notepad and take notes on the process and what's important.  Use your digital camera to take photos of what a clean stall looks like, the right level of bedding to maintain in the stall and the image of a rack full of clean bridles with sparkling bits.
The photos will save hours of writing and explain certain parts of operations more easily than words.  Draw on the photos if that helps explain.  Don't go to extreme details at first.

Describing eleven ways to operate a rake in the barnyard may be overkill.  Add detail, or better yet, have your employees add detail as they analyze the process.
Operations manuals are often associated only with large corporations like McDonalds, Starbucks or Wal*Mart.  

Small businesses have less room for error than  large corporations; lean with employee numbers by economic necessity, there are no extra people in small businesses to pick up the slack for low productivity.
An operations manual is the basic support for a system to allow work to flow like water on a clear path.  Your development of systems for your business will help:
  •   minimize conflicts between employees
  •   create consistency in quality of work done
  •   speed the completion of work
  •   reduce training time for new hires
  •   minimize worry while you're out of town
Let me know your results.

Others Have Said 

"Don't gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it." --Will Rogers

"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation"--Charles Kettering

"If you have to have a policy manual, publish the Ten Commandments"-- Robert Townsend     

Back At The Barn

After a quiet winter, I welcome the calls and songs of migratory birds as they return in the spring.  The red wing blackbird's call is a favorite.

However, the chatter of year round sparrows in the indoor is noise I can do without.  Some days, they just get on my nerves. 

Yelling shut up to sparrows in the indoor is about as effective as whispering whoa to a runaway.

But, for a split second, it always feels good.

Pasha long

I help professional horsemen and horsewomen struggling with the business half of the horse business. 

Not enough time, not enough money or not enough of the right people working for you?
Is your horse boarding business unprofitable?

Contact me to see if I can help.

Until next time,

Doug Emerson
Profitable Horseman Deewochagall
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