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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov. 9, 2009
    Posts
    32

    Default Professional advice for a sticky situation!! Kinda long...

    I am a young professional who started my own small barn and riding program 3 years ago in a VERY tough new city. I have worked very hard (as most professionals do) to form positive professional relationships with other local trainers/barns, and of course all of my clients.

    There is another young trainer in town who started a strictly "beginner" barn about a year ago. I was very supportive with her when she first started out, but she has since crossed the line of "professional competition" and I'm not sure how I should handle it.. I could use all the help I could get here....

    A few examples...

    I came up with a creative slogan to use in my barn's advertising (posters, website, business cards, etc.) she changed two words around and used it in a major advertising campaign...

    My husband is a photographer, and she asked if she could use one of his photographs to use strictly on her website. He agreed and she then used it for all sorts of printed advertising (posters, business cards, pamphlets, etc.) with out permission.

    I organized an annual Schooling Show series and wrote a special "Dear Competitor" letter to welcome participants to our show and explain our "mission" at our show. She then organized a fun show at her barn and copied and pasted my letter and inserted her name..

    She has had 3 young girls who took part in her riding program last season move on to our barn. I called her when they contacted me to be sure that she was aware that they were looking to move etc. she said that was no problem. She has since maintained awkward relationships with them by inviting them to ride her school horses at "private barn shows", or come by the barn and ride "for fun", or to take part in a fun "drill team" practice. She tells them it's no big deal as it's all for "FUN". I know there appears to be "no harm done" by them participating in all her fun activities, but I do feel it takes away from the program that I offer. I try very hard to build a good rapport with my students, but seem to struggle with the kids (between 11 and 13) that come from her as they seem to want to take "lessons" with me, but be loyal "friends" with her. I am doing my best to manage the situation and build loyalty by running a great program, but feel she doesn't respect the way of the industry (if that makes any sense...).

    I know this is a TOUGH industry where only the TOUGH survive, am I out of line by thinking these things are going to far? Should I just fight back by continuing to run a great program and just "rise above" or should this be addressed? After finally breaking in to the local industry, and starting to finally gain the support of the local BNT's I really don't want to draw negative attention to myself by seeming nit picky with my competition...

    PLEASE ANY ADVICE OR POINT OF VIEW WOULD REALLY HELP!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan. 28, 2003
    Posts
    226

    Default

    What is a strictly beginner barn?

    One that offers only lessons and in-barn showing on school horses with no sales or boarding?



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov. 22, 2005
    Posts
    1,663

    Default

    My first thoughts are to just continue to offer the best program you can and rise above this other person. I would also not let her use anything you have, such as photographs. If your advertising goes out first and she then copies it, everyone will realize that is what she is doing. That stuff is not copyright protected so not much you can do about it.
    If the young girls that train with you still go and ride at the other place and don't contridict your teachings, then I would let that go too. They are gaining valuable saddle time at the expense of the other trainer!



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul. 11, 2004
    Posts
    6,990

    Default

    Legal
    Legal
    Legal

    Invest a small amount of money, go talk with a lawyer, show him examples of what intellectual property she's stolen (slogans, use of photos etc.) and have the lawyer write her a letter demanding she destroy all the "offending" info/literature etc. she's using.

    Go after her simply and clearly. Think dealing with horses, don't natter/bother/annoy her, give her a simple and quick response. She's bad news and is already happily stabbing you in the back with students.

    Get thee to a lawyer...
    "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 9, 2007
    Posts
    9,173

    Default

    At the bottom of each picture and page of type and ads, write "copyright 2009" and your name.
    Then if she uses your picture/print ad/type/etc., get a lawyer and sue her. People will tell you that copying you is a sincere form of flattery, but it's irritating and annoying.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct. 30, 2001
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    1,283

    Default

    Rather than ignoring it and moving on or getting a lawyer involved at this point, why not call her and discuss your feelings. I would let her know that you think its fishy that she didn't keep her word about using the photo solely on the website and that you've noticed she copied your prize list letter. If she's not apologetic and continues the behavior, THEN look at legal possibilities.

    I would let her former students continue to ride with her for "fun" as long as she isn't derailing your teaching.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr. 16, 2007
    Location
    Ft Campbell, KY
    Posts
    96

    Default

    I would go the legal route. Keep it strictly professional, and coming from business-to-business perspective. Your husband could always bill her for the additional use of the photograph, but I would consult a lawyer about whether there is any recourse for your current actions and how best to protect your creative properties in the future. I don't think there is any "Action" you can reasonably take regarding your students. They can hang out with anyone they like.
    Integrative BodyWorks Blog
    'Cause every pony deserves a good rub!



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug. 9, 2007
    Posts
    9,173

    Default

    Writing "copyright 2009" and her or her husband's name on each picture and page before making flyers or ads is sufficient to copyright her materials and prevent use by others without her permission and to require payment. Simple and legal. Once you allow someone to use a picture for one thing, as her husband did, it is hard to stop the use so I assume OP has learned her lesson there.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 23, 2000
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    8,055

    Default

    You can go after her on the legal stuff if you so choose, however THIS:

    She has had 3 young girls who took part in her riding program last season move on to our barn. I called her when they contacted me to be sure that she was aware that they were looking to move etc. she said that was no problem. She has since maintained awkward relationships with them by inviting them to ride her school horses at "private barn shows", or come by the barn and ride "for fun", or to take part in a fun "drill team" practice. She tells them it's no big deal as it's all for "FUN". I know there appears to be "no harm done" by them participating in all her fun activities, but I do feel it takes away from the program that I offer. I try very hard to build a good rapport with my students, but seem to struggle with the kids (between 11 and 13) that come from her as they seem to want to take "lessons" with me, but be loyal "friends" with her. I am doing my best to manage the situation and build loyalty by running a great program, but feel she doesn't respect the way of the industry (if that makes any sense...).
    there's nothing you can do, and not your problem. If you fight that fight re: "ways of the industry" - you'll probably lose because it's petty.

    I second writing copyright on photos and outgoing materials (although photographs are automatically copyrighted, and she's violated that). If you choose to pursue it, I would have your husband, as holder of that copyright, write her a very clear letter to cease use of photographs in publication as she's in violation of the copyright. If she still continues to use the image, then you can sue her for breach of copyright.

    Just remember that this is a very small industry and if you're too petty, that will get back to you just as much as any action she takes. If you have a good program, your results will speak for themselves.
    ---
    They're small hearts.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec. 4, 2002
    Location
    Alpharetta, GA
    Posts
    2,330

    Default

    I would call her first. Something along the lines of: "Do you have a few minutes to talk? Listen, I want you to know that I'm supportive of you and your business. This town is big enough for both of us to be successful. But I need to ask you to respect what I'm doing." Then get into the specifics of the intellectual property. Hubby needs to be paid if he's going to be providing marketing materials for her. You put a lot of time and effort into your marketing ideas- she needs to come up with her own.

    As for the students going over there- There's really nothing you can do about that. All you can do is do your job and do it well. If the students still have an attachment to their first trainer, well, that's really not such a bad thing is it? It would be to your credit to be gracious about that.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov. 30, 2005
    Location
    Northfield MN
    Posts
    1,024

    Default

    fight back by continuing to run a great program and just "rise above"


    Obviously you are offering something she is not or the girls would not have left her barn. Every time they go back is an opportunity for someone else to learn about the great new lessons they are getting from you. Consider her a good resource for providing new students for your program.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov. 9, 2009
    Posts
    32

    Default

    Thank you guys all so much for your advice so far! The picture she is using for her advertising does have a copyright written across the bottom,however I've never thought of writing it on my own advertising, thanks I will do that for sure!

    I wish I had the funds to speak with a lawyer, but unfortunately I don't at this time, so that might have to wait.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep. 19, 2002
    Location
    recent FL transplant from IL
    Posts
    7,174

    Default

    Regarding the new students going back to her place for "fun" stuff--you can't control that & by trying to will only end up making you look bad (controlling). They are lesson people (not horse owning boarders) & while I understand you want their business, they are going to (possibly) barn hop to where ever the best deal is for them at that moment. If she offers them free riding time, they are going to go there to take advantage (what parent wouldn't in these times?). All you can do is hope that your lesson program offers something her's doesn't (which it must if they left) & as somebody else said, they might even convince other riders to join them at your barn.
    "I'm not crazy...my mother had me tested"



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug. 19, 2007
    Posts
    822

    Default

    You know how some people say "Trainers can't poach clients, they leave because they want to..."? FALSE! There was a very local yokel trainer in my area with a grudge against me who approached a few of my (lesson, not horse owning) students and told them she would give them free lessons and pay for them to show with her if they'd come to her barn - we're not talking professional kids, we're talking crossrail/short stirrup level. It only worked on one student, and within a few weeks she was back at my barn with her tail between her legs, wondering why she'd ever left in the first place. You can't make this crap up!

    Personally, OP, your situation doesn't sound that terrible in comparison...but I agree that it's unprofessional of the other trainer, and I get how it could be frustrating for you. The free rides thing is tacky, but it probably won't hurt you in the long run if these kids are still paying you for lessons. But the advertising thing goes beyond discrepectful, and I think you need to addess it. Agree that a phone call as JSalem suggested is in order - even if you had the money, I think involving an attorney at this point is unneccessary. However, I would draft a letter too, and make a copy of it, send it registered mail, so that if things escalate in the future, you'll have this on hand.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun. 26, 2001
    Location
    Northeast OH
    Posts
    3,102

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jsalem View Post
    I would call her first. Something along the lines of: "Do you have a few minutes to talk? Listen, I want you to know that I'm supportive of you and your business. This town is big enough for both of us to be successful. But I need to ask you to respect what I'm doing." Then get into the specifics of the intellectual property. Hubby needs to be paid if he's going to be providing marketing materials for her. You put a lot of time and effort into your marketing ideas- she needs to come up with her own.

    As for the students going over there- There's really nothing you can do about that. All you can do is do your job and do it well. If the students still have an attachment to their first trainer, well, that's really not such a bad thing is it? It would be to your credit to be gracious about that.
    I agree with all of this!

    It doesn't sound like she's malicious... it sounds as though she's just a little unaware of social norms. No point burning a bridge with someone over that, especially in such a small business!



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul. 31, 2007
    Posts
    15,556

    Default

    I like the friendly "peer to peer" phone call first. Should you meet resistance, I think a little shaming might work.

    As in "You need to cut-n-paste the text of my letters? Really? C'mon!"

    Maybe this is an opportunity for you and the other pro to talk about the aims of your respective programs and the separate niches you occupy.

    If all else fails, keep following your business plan. Never discuss the problem you are having with the other pro with your clients. You are welcome, however, to politely explain the difference between what you and she offer *if* a client asks.

    The cream will rise to the top.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec. 10, 2008
    Posts
    57

    Default

    I agree with the others that picking up the phone is the best option. My mother always told me if you can't decide whether or not to call someone because you're worried about what they might think/do, pick up the phone and call. It's nothing extreme and should be easily resolved if she has much sense. As for the students, don't worry about it. I would guess that they will grow out of it and, given that you continue to give constructive instruction, they will grow to revere you.

    I understand it's frustrating to have someone stealing your stuff, but making the phone call and addressing the issue before taking more extreme measures will let you know if it's just something silly or if this person is really violating your rights. It will give you a sense of what you are really up against.



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Nov. 9, 2009
    Posts
    32

    Default

    Thank you guys so much! I will try to muster up the courage to give her a call...



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun. 13, 2000
    Posts
    1,762

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Giddy-up View Post
    Regarding the new students going back to her place for "fun" stuff--you can't control that & by trying to will only end up making you look bad (controlling). They are lesson people (not horse owning boarders) & while I understand you want their business, they are going to (possibly) barn hop to where ever the best deal is for them at that moment. If she offers them free riding time, they are going to go there to take advantage (what parent wouldn't in these times?). All you can do is hope that your lesson program offers something her's doesn't (which it must if they left) & as somebody else said, they might even convince other riders to join them at your barn.
    you cant control these students but you also cant help your own feelings and if the OP came to the forums and asked for advise, he/she is very upsett about the students hopping back and forth. i can understand.
    i know of a trainer that dealt with this in a very nice way. no yelling no fighting. he saw a student at a show with another trainer and was surprised. said nothing. when said student showed up for the weekly lesson, he left no horse assignment to the student. student went up to the trainer and asked what horse they were riding and the trainer said "oh i thought you were riding elsewhere. and basically said that at his farm he expected loyalty. that he offered the same services as the other trainer so why dont you just run along now. good bye.
    i think sometimes the students forget that trainers have feelings too and why should a trainer be left hoping and worrying they will lose customers. i would never tell a customer what to do. never. they are free to do what they want. but then again i dont think the trainer should be expected to put their blood sweat and tears into someone who runs back for the free bees or whatever the reason they are running back for. in that case its best for all parties to just "run along!"



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan. 23, 2000
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    8,055

    Default

    i know of a trainer that dealt with this in a very nice way. no yelling no fighting. he saw a student at a show with another trainer and was surprised. said nothing. when said student showed up for the weekly lesson, he left no horse assignment to the student. student went up to the trainer and asked what horse they were riding and the trainer said "oh i thought you were riding elsewhere. and basically said that at his farm he expected loyalty. that he offered the same services as the other trainer so why dont you just run along now. good bye.
    That’s not “a very nice way” – actually, it’s one of the outright stupidest things I’ve ever heard of, from a business standpoint. The trainer is being paid to provide a service, which he then failed to provide to the client, and tremendously wasted their time.

    IF a trainer chooses not to continue teaching someone, they can end their contract properly. Not by allowing the client to show up for their regularly scheduled lesson and then telling them to get lost.

    If they “expect loyalty” they can ask their clients to sign a contract, otherwise, it’s a BUSINESS. Getting all petty, wasting people’s time, and failing to provide a regularly scheduled service as agreed is BAD business, particularly if it’s for such a silly reason. Especially in such a small industry, and such a crappy economy – you should be trying to keep your clients, not humiliating them for daring to go to another professional.

    i think sometimes the students forget that trainers have feelings too and why should a trainer be left hoping and worrying they will lose customers. i would never tell a customer what to do. never. they are free to do what they want. but then again i dont think the trainer should be expected to put their blood sweat and tears into someone who runs back for the free bees or whatever the reason they are running back for. in that case its best for all parties to just "run along!"
    I think some people forget that trainers are running a BUSINESS. They’re being paid to teach people to ride. But you’re right, if they don’t actually care to keep their clients, perhaps their clients ARE best off “running along.”
    ---
    They're small hearts.



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