Easing the Transition

TLDR: I’d love some ideas on easing the transition on existing boarders when we take over the place in a month.

We have a different vision for the property than the current owners, both with respect to care and use of the facility. It’s currently kind of a “partial care/casual” place, and our vision is a “full care/show barn” type of facility. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to move it from point A to point B but the care changes alone will significantly impact costs, which are relatively low at the moment because of the way it’s currently being managed. I do have some indication that the boarders are interested in updates, but that’s hearsay.

As I’m writing up rules, rate sheets, etc. I’m thinking about the existing boarders and how they may feel when they discover that everything is changing. A certain amount of ripping off of the band-aid is probably warranted, but I also don’t want people to not feel welcome. Financially, it’s fine if they all go, but I want to manage the PR aspect well (I’m in marketing, what can I say).

I was thinking of giving them some time (3 months?) either grandfathered in or at a slight board increase before things would change significantly, but making it clear what board would be “finally” and what was included in that. That way they would have time to find another place to board if they hated the new rules. I’m planning on having the contract, rate sheet, rules, etc. all ready to go so that they can review everything, plus a nice intro & welcome letter from us explaining the vision. I’m also planning on hosting a “meet the new people” party (COVID rules permitting) so that they have a chance to get to know us.

What am I missing?

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That’s all very thoughtful of you. Are you ok with current boarders staying a full 90 days with their horses on the current level of care? Or are you imagining some fairly immediate changes to level of care? If the latter, I’d be more inclined to give a shorter notice period that prices will be increasing to X due to Y changes being implemented on Z date.

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The current boarders will absolutely thank you-- I just got “kicked out” of a similar situation with 45 days notice, which then turned into 30 days notice.

Can you write an email outlining what changes will be made, the cost of full board after the 90 day period and the cost of meeting in the middle? Stress what new and exciting things you will be offering that might make them want to stay, while considering that the lack of new and exciting things might have been some people’s original draw to the facility. also maybe outline when certain big changes would be made, so it doesn’t seem like everything is coming all at once. If you don’t have emails, a printed note in an envelope with their name for everyone to take home and look over?

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Just know that no matter what you do, there will be people who are not happy about it and they will be the people talking the loudest.

I assume you have done your market research and your planned facility is something that the market in your area will support.

I think your plan of 90 day notice is great. Though I understand why you would want to raise the board immediately I think it makes the most sense to give them at least 60 days before you raise it. With what might be the whole barn looking for a new place in the same price range it will not be easy for all of them to find a new place if your new price is not something they can afford.
I will admit that you have no obligation to provide them with inexpensive board for any amount of time, just suggesting it as a good will thing.

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The level of care will be pretty immediately changed. In part, because my own horses are moving there, and that’s not how I want them taken care of. A shorter period might be good, but there is a definite lack of alternative facilities in the area, and I have some sympathy for them (most barns in the area require that you be in a full training program).

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Again, that’s very kind of you. Coming from an area that has limited boarding options, I totally get it.

My concern was that you might find yourself boarding a fair number of horses at a loss for those three months. And that wouldn’t be fair to you.

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Absolutely. I like the idea of something printed. Hopefully I’ll have emails by then, but I have a feeling that part isn’t going to be super smooth. I’ll have to have them sign a new contract, and I want that all to be a package.

I think 90 days is very fair. If I was a boarder in that situation, I would appreciate a letter (like you intend to do) outlining the changes to come, effective dates, and new rates.

Do you happen to know what notice is stated in their current contract (if they even had to sign one)? Most places I’ve boarded have a 30 day notice for rate changes, so it would certainly be nice to attempt to honor whatever is in their current contract (even though it’s with the soon-to-be previous owners/management, not you).

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Yes, the area definitely supports it. Major metro, and we’ve got the benefit of location (10 minutes from city center). It’s a diamond in the very rough. Obviously we don’t want to jack up the board for all the planned improvements right away (we will have to make those over time, and I have them in a spreadsheet to try to figure out a schedule), but we do want to cover things like adequate hay, grain, cleaning, water & ring dragging which are currently lacking.

It will be hard for them in this area to find what they have now which is cheap and close, but I can’t skimp on care in good conscience. Some people may be upset by that, but I hope things like cleaning stalls ALL the days of the week more than 1x if the horses have to be in will be welcomed.

I just know that people react almost the same whether a change is positive or negative, and so I want people to at least feel like I did everything I could to communicate.

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I don’t think it specifies. I don’t have a copy of the current board contract (yet) but hope that I’ll get that shortly to help inform me. I know it’s not my obligation, but again, I know that change is hard, and I’d like to honor as much as possible the dis-ease through the transition.

Sure, if price is their most important thing, they probably won’t be the perfect fit ultimately, but my hope is that if they come to that conclusion it’s because that’s truly their needs and not a knee-jerk emotional reaction to me bungling communication. At least to the degree that I can prevent it.

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Yes, maybe 60 is better. 30 might be too short given the area and how hard it is to get in places, but I do know of some places (more expensive) with availability, so maybe I’m just being too nice :slight_smile:

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You might be pleasantly surprised.

I had one situation where I literally begged to pay for increased hay/bedding and the costs associated with that.

Perhaps some of the current folks will feel similarly! Especially if you’re in an excellent location

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Of course I don’t know your numbers, but I was imagining say 10 boarded horses currently on a dusting of bedding and 3 flakes of hay per day with current board cost reflecting that level of care. Then you take the wheel and are like heck no we need triple the bedding and hay and basically eating that cost for 3 months! Like I said, I don’t actually know the situation but I am excellent at coming up with worst case scenarios. Lol

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It is totally that scenario. And I believe in free choice hay (among other things). There will be ~20 so it definitely isn’t going to be cheap…and I already have a waiting list among the people that know - which means little until I get in there but it is a nice indicator of interest.

Overall though, I’m willing to take a bit of a hit in the interest of long term good will. Not always, but this seems like a good time to be willing to cut some folks a break.

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That’s a lot of hay to comp, but if you’re willing to do it then it is what it is

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I think your plan is sound and very considerate of the existing boarders. Good on you.

I’d definitely have a nice Meet N Greet, with some tasty treats & cool beverages. Perhaps at that time, you could give each boarder their letter & new contract, then walk the folks thru the Big Picture.

When it’s done in person, it takes any sting that the “written word” may bring, however unintentional.

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Do you need to change the whole place?

If you had, say, 20 boarders, and you are moving 5 of your own horses in, is there a way to have different levels of board? 13 horses (including your own) on full care, fancy, expensive and 12 horses (not including yours) on more casual (but controlled by you) care, not expensive.

I completely get it if you don’t want this. But it might stop angry complaints. If your barn is even larger, angry complaints multiply.

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Defining need here is interesting :smiley: No, I don’t need to clean the stalls every day but I don’t find it acceptable that stalls don’t get cleaned one day per week. No, I don’t need to feed hay 4x/day, but I don’t think it’s a great idea for boarded horses to go 8+ hours without hay (unless there is a medical reason for doing so). The price that they are paying now is unbelievably low, because the standard of care is very low. There’s no way to actually maintain the horses or the facility on what they are paying at present, and that is reflected in the repairs necessary in the facility.

There will be several different price tiers for “full care” vs “partial care” but I still have to up the base price and services for “partial care”.

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I think 60 days is more than reasonable. I actually think giving them too long will backfire, especially if you start to do improvements while they’re still grandfathered in at a low rate. They will just come to expect those perks at the low rate. Also, you can always be flexible on a one by one basis if you feel someone is seriously looking but having trouble finding a new place.

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That’s a good point. I do want to set expectations fairly. And yes, some of those improvements will start happening pretty soon after I move.