Monday, May 31, 2010

Running a Business Part 1

I love to ride, and wanted to learn to ride better. That’s how this all got started.  College left me a bit fried, so I decided to take a year off to ride before going to vet school. So I packed my dogs and cat and belongings into a Budget moving truck and headed south. One year turned into 4, with 3 different working student positions, and when I had enough of those arrangements, I entered the horse world as a “professional.”
Now keep in mind, I went off to learn to ride.  Not to run a business, but to ride. 

In fairness, Claudia Garner, tried very hard to get me to focus on the business side of it – we spent time discussing promoting myself, creating a professional image, etc.  And John Krueger made efforts to go over the numbers of running a business with me.  I paid attention, but none of this prepared me for the hardest parts of running a business.

So I thought I’d write a bit about my process of trying to learn to be a boss. This will take a few posts, so here’s the first.

Staff Skills Part 1

Yea, horses are easy, people are hard.  As any of you that know me in real life know, I’m probably not the most user-friendly person. I try to be, honest I do, but my red-headed sarcastic side dominates most communication.  Combine that with a rather blunt honesty, and I spend a lot of time with my foot in my mouth.  When I was 20, everyone said tact would come with age.  If this is true, at my current rate of improved-tactfulness, I’m not sure I will live long enough.

If dressage teaches us anything, it teaches us to practice, to study, and to get help.  A funny thing about help, it tends to show up on its own time and place. Like this video, about what motivates people, showed up in a French horn blog I follow.  Not exactly what I was expecting when I went looking for advice on improving my horn playing, but cross-training is good, even cross-training of advice.

I watched the marker go over the board (why is watching anyone draw so completely addictive???), he hit the point of what motivates people.  As a boss in the oh-so-lucrative horse industry, his points that increased monetary incentive does not cause increased production is, frankly, a huge relief. 

Then he talks about what does motivate staff.  In short, the video says staff is happiest and most creative when they are left to be happy and creative, without their boss breathing over their shoulder.  This rings true with me.  I am always at my most productive when I generate the idea and have minimal oversight in getting it done.  My inner boss thinks I should follow this idea.

My inner boss has presented me with quite a challenge. 

You see, when I really look at the business of SFD, there’s the boss I want to be, and the boss I see myself becoming.

The pictures don’t really match.

Let’s be real, I’m a Dressage Geek. This defines me as a red-headed, type-A, detail-oriented control freak who knows she is right.  Trusting others with details is tough.  Especially since these are MY training horses, MY business, MY dream.  Heck, I hired Cheryle specifically to help me with the details of all of my crazy ideas.  But do I allow room for other folks ideas? Probably not.

SFD, which turned 5 this month, has grown beyond me.   Somehow, the MY needs to become OUR.  I need to figure out how to inspire ideas, then quit micro-managing, and trust my staff to be as motivated and high-standarded (is that a word? It should be) as I am. 

I write this as I am preparing for a breakfast staff meeting.  The meeting was originally set to go over feed stuff, but somehow I think this topic will trickle in.  I’ll let you know how.

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