Establishing Customer Policies
It is unlikely that you set customer policies and firm scheduling criteria when you began shoeing. Any work was welcome and uncomfortable conditions did not cause you great concern. However, as you established yourself and developed your skills you probably began to notice (and become more irritated with) less than ideal working conditions and customers. We have a few ideas for those of you in the early stages of your career and perhaps some of you who have “been around.”
Dave Farley has talked about 5 factors in working conditions and their importance to doing the best work possible. He explains to his customers that if any of the conditions are less than desirable it will make his final job more uncertain. He has found that customers will try to improve conditions if you present it to them in this way.
Attach 20% value to each requirement and let your customer know you can work up to 100% of your ability if all are met. If any are lacking, your final job may not be 100%. Be especially firm with the well-behaved horse category. It is a tough, risky job with a good horse. The dangers to your physical and financial well being are magnified greatly by an unruly horse.
Cash flow is important in all businesses. You need to establish firm policies on payment. Our recommendation is payment on completion of work if this is possible. If you choose to bill, develop a habit of invoicing at least weekly, if not daily, and request payment in 10 days, 30 maximum. The shorter you can keep the payment period the stronger your cash flow will be. If you wait to do monthly statements your cash flow is strained, even if your clients pay promptly after receiving the statement. If you choose to do work on account be firm with your terms, regardless what they are. Don’t let your customers get in the habit of paying late. After all, you are running a business. You need to remember this in dealing with your suppliers. They have an even tighter margin and depend on your payments to keep inventory and service levels up.
If you can develop scheduling policies you will find you have much better control of your business and profitability. Stress the importance of regular hoof care. You might find a six week rotation to be ideal but be flexible with your customers that are not professionals. If you can get them to agree to 7-8 weeks or less you will find this to be important. Efficient management of time is your benefit and the good condition of the hoof is your customer’s.
Set realistic schedules and allow enough time for the unexpected.
Stick to your schedule and communicate with your customers if conflicts come up. Don’t make a habit of changing your schedule. If you have customers that are willing to get on a schedule you owe it to them to do everything possible to be there - on time.
Make sure your customers understand your requirements if they can’t meet a scheduled appointment. Set a requirement for advance notice of any deviation from schedule.
The information you collect in a database will be useful in setting up schedules and implementing policies. It is also invaluable to your communications efforts. These policies enhance your service to your customers and increase your efficiency- the key to improving your profits.