Hiring Employees for Your Horse Business

Your horse farm is a business and must be run like one. Here are some tips on hiring good help.
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Your horse farm is a business and must be run like one. Here are some tips on hiring good help.

Your horse business has grown tremendously in the past year, and are at a point where either you need to clone yourself or hire some help. Taking time in the beginning to understand this process will save you time and money over the course of your business's life. Hiring someone who isn't a good fit for the position, and repeated employee turnover can result in increased operational costs that you weren't expecting.

The following tips can help keep this process positive and productive.

Write a job description. Include a job title, required functions to be performed, qualifications and additional functions you desire but that aren't required. Ask yourself whether this position requires more horse skills or people skills. Then specify which skills in these realms you're looking for.

For example: you need "barn help." The right person will need to muck stalls, turn horses out, perform occasional light horse farm maintenance tasks (fence repair, etc.), and interface with boarders. Additional but not necessary are: longeing and riding ability, and filing skills.

If an applicant has these added skills, you will be able to have them exercise horses, if necessary, and help you with some of the record keeping that your business requires.

Qualifications for the position are: genuine like and interest in horses, recent horse knowledge and experience, capable of lifting 50 pounds, and good customer service skills.

Determine pay rate. Find out what the going rate in the industry is for this type of work. Check "through the grapevine" as well as with the Department of Labor regarding minimum wage. Decide what pay scale you will Use. For example: per hour, per stall, per horse, or per day rate. Remember that what you pay must equal minimum wage if you divide the hours worked by the total wage paid.

Advertise the position. Write up an ad that includes job description, who to contact, how to reach that person and, if necessary, the best hours to reach that person. You can also include rate of pay if you wish. Many people leave this discussion until the job interview, as it can be part of hiring negotiations.

Place the ad in publications that reach your geographic area as well as the horse industry. Tell your colleagues, friends, and clients that you're looking for someone also. They can pass the word along or might know someone who fits the job description.

Interview your candidates in person. Do you have an application for your prospective employees to fill out? Generic samples can often be found in office supply stores. Spend some time considering what's important to know before you hire. Write a set of questions that you'll ask each applicant, so you can compare apples to apples.

Remember that there are some things that are illegal to ask, and can result in discrimination charges. You can be sure you're on safe ground by checking with your state's civil rights department or your attorney.

Questions might include: previous experience with horses; why does this job appeal to you; describe how you would go about performing a specific job function; what are your strengths in a work situation; what are your weaknesses; where do you see yourself in one (three, five) year; create an emergency or high stress scenario and ask what their response would be.

Ask for references. Check out your prospective new hire with previous employers. Former employers may be hesitant to remark on negative situations due to today's litigious culture. You can verify date of employment, whether they would hire this person again, and may be able to gain insight if you ask about strengths and weaknesses.

Make your decision. After you've made your decision, notify the person you've chosen first. If he/she is job hunting he may have found another position since the interview. If he accepts, be sure to notify the other candidates that you've selected the person that best fits the job description. There may come a time in the future that one of these other applicants is the right hire for you.

Keep a file. Put a copy of your ad, job description, applications, interview results, and pay rate at hire in your records.

It's always best to treat employees with the courtesy and respect you would like if you were in their shoes. It's also smart to be sure you're up to date on legal hiring, supervision, and compensation practices, and to operate accordingly.

This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.

Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing and
association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995 through Blue Ribbon Consulting. Oden is the
author of
Growing Your Horse Business and Bang For Your Buck: Making
$ense of Marketing For Your Horse Business. She is the 1999 AHC Van Ness
Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry.