BY PENELOPE GREEN
An article went around on Facebook a while back about owning a small business and how that can lead to depression and anxiety. Some of the worries include the costs of operating, profit/loss statements, book of clients… the list goes on and on. Like any other small business, running a riding school/boarding barn/equestrian program has a lot of ups. But clients leaving is one of the big downs. It stinks when you lose a client—no matter what the reason.
One thing my husband always says is “they all leave.” He’s right. If you don’t lose a client to the neighboring barn that runs a different program, does a different discipline, or just for a change, then you will lose a client when they quit riding, graduate, move, get married, have kids etc. They all leave. Those were harsh words to hear at first, but they have been helpful. I don’t dwell as much as I used to.
People leave, but it’s how they leave that makes all the difference. There is a right way and there is a wrong way.
So, you’ve decided to leave for a change in discipline, pace, or a different program. Maybe you have outgrown your trainer? Maybe you want to be closer to home? Maybe there is a ‘deal’ you cannot pass up? These things happen! It’s okay to make a change, but it is not okay to be crappy to the people that have taken care of you/your four-legged friend. Most professionals spend more time, effort, and energy on you/your critter than you will ever know. It costs nothing to be kind as you make your departure.
Instead of being snippy, have a conversation with your trainer/barn owner, or send a note. However you want to do it, let them know that you’ll be leaving for a change. Most owners/trainers will be bummed, but we know this stuff happens. Be honest with us.
Some things that aren’t helpful when leaving:
- Don’t lie. Don’t tell your trainer that your kid is taking a break from riding to pursue a school sport when you are actually switching barns. This is especially important if you will be running into one another at the shows. Be honest. We’d rather find out from you.
- Do not announce your departure on Facebook so your barn/trainer finds out through social media or through a third party. Having the conversation can be super uncomfortable, but there are absolutely no excuses for your trainer to find out from someone else or online.
- Do not post comments, pictures, and videos ‘digging’ at your old barn. “Look at what I’m doing now that I left!” Most of us are professionals and aren’t going to comment that what you are doing looks dangerous or that you weren’t showing up for lessons or riding regularly so that’s why we didn’t have you doing XYZ. Maybe we weren’t comfortable with something you wanted to try. Or one hard truth, maybe your ‘new’ trainer is better for you than we were. Is it nice to post that kind of stuff on social media? The only reason that I can think of that people do this is to hurt feelings and create drama. Be better.
- Do not recruit current clients. You are leaving. There is no reason to take others down with you. What if some asks you where you’re going? Sure! Tell them. Do whatever. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the client that leaves and actively reaches out to others left behind to encourage them to leave as well. That’s just crappy.
The worst situation is one where you were asked to leave. I realize that must have been really hard for you. But guess what—it’s also really hard for your barn/trainer
At the end of the day, we do this profession because we love it. But we also do it to make a living. Will we make a living by kicking people out? No! If you were asked to leave it is because things were so bad that there was no other way out. It can be incredibly awkward for your trainer, and for you, to run into one another at a show. What makes it easier/better? To be friendly. Say hi. Don’t sneer and snicker to others. Your former trainer should do the same. How does it look when either party just turns the other way when the other says hi? It looks childish.
I can’t really think of another industry where clients leave and still have to see the person that provided them a service as frequently as you do in the horse industry. It can be uncomfortable for everyone, but we can all be better by being kind and respectful.
Say hi. Be cordial. It makes everything so much better for everyone.