Barn managers are professional jugglers. It always blows my mind how many balls they seem to keep in the air at once. In a single hour; a typical manager may be monitoring the temperature of a horse that doesn’t seem to be herself; scheduling spring vaccinations; making sure customers show up on the right day, at the right time, to the right place; and planning transportation to the next horse show. Working with and caring for horses is a labor of love, but that doesn’t mean that grooms, managers, and trainers don’t get overwhelmed or burnt out from this juggling act.
As part of my work for BarnManager, I get the opportunity to speak candidly with a lot of these managers, grooms, and trainers. And time after time, we find that the weak link in a barn is the same regardless of industry: communication!
Communication seems too obvious, right? But in my experience, most people don’t think about the way that communication processes impact every aspect of running and managing a barn. With smart phones and social media, it sometimes feels like we are in constant communication with others. But somehow, many of the most important messages get lost, miscommunicated, or misunderstood.
So what can you do? After all, you are in a barn, not at a desk or behind a computer all day. Here are a few suggestions of ways to improve communication regardless of your tech savviness:
- Team Meetings: Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting to start off each week. When we’re busy, this is often one of the first things to go. But gathering everyone in a room together for 15 minutes at the start of the week often minimizes confusion, fear of asking questions, and can ultimately result in fewer mistakes. This is also a great way to integrate and encourage new team members by promoting an atmosphere of collaboration and knowledge sharing.
- Group Chats: Many of our members use group text messages on a regular basis, but it is difficult to search back through text messages to find past conversations. Many tools have been created to solve this problem in an office setting, and BarnManager 2.0 (being released this June) has made group conversations a pillar of our new design. “Conversations” is a tool that we have developed to encourage these exact types of group chats. You can tag horses or people in these conversations, and sort and search to find the ones that you need, when you need them, on your mobile device or PC.
- Write it Down: If you are like me, you have a million and one thoughts and conversations in a day. And by the time that you reach the end of the day, you can only remember about 4 of them. Most breakdowns in communication are not the result of intentionally withholding information, but rather a symptom of being human and having too many things on your mind.
I encourage you to take some time to think about your own communication habits. Identify what you think that you do well, and be honest with yourself about what you can improve. We all want to do our best to keep our horses happy and healthy, and refining your communication will go a long way to help you succeed.