Hi There - I'm working on my MBA and one of the requirements for my class is to create a comprehensive buisness plan. I'm thinking about a business plan for a retirement horse boarding facility, and I've developed a very brief market survey.
If have a few moments, please click on the link below - the survey is only 10 questions and you'd be helping me out immensely! Good karma coming back at you!
Well, I run a retirement boarding farm so I am interested in your project!
In my opinion you are too focused on price -- because price varies so widely across the country. For example, I charge $475 for pasture board and I'm full, whereas you are focused on gradations under $350/month.
I think a business plan would need to figure out what services people are going to want; you don't offer a choice being that the services listed would be included in the board rate (vs an additional fee). Also, what would you include in pasture board? That term means different things to different people. What size pastures? (that will increase your costs, but maybe increase your desirability). These are just a few things I'm not sure you are considering.
I would pick one area of the country and work off of those prices both for income and expenses.
i filled it out. as i was taking it, i realized my input might be skewed...i was reading the questions and thinking, "yeah, i probably wouldn't pay more than like $250 for pasture retirement board." ...then it hit me like a bolt of lightning: i currently pay $375 for pasture retirement board! whoops. oh well, the place is worth it.
My mare wonders about all this fuss about birth control when she's only seen a handful of testicles in her entire life. Living with an intact male of my species, I feel differently! WAYSIDE
Around here I would never consider pasture board. I have TBs and tomorrow it will be in the negative temps I would, however, very much like a place that does extended turnout in mild weather, and I don't mind 25/7 turnout if the fencing is safe/visible at night!
I did it and was thinking I have this at Weapon's current barn. Full care, stall with daily turnout, nice selection of hay, owners swap out blankets as weather requires, very nice and conscientious barn owners, I provide grain and supplements for $250 a month. I'm sure they would hold for farrier or vet if needed.
In my area, there is no place that costs less than $300 for rough board that you would want to keep your horse, so I was kind of bemused by the $50-dollar increments. It would be more useful, I would think, to see what people expected for, say, either 500 or 350. Also, I'd be wanting to know things like size of pastures and hours per day of turnout, and whether there were run-in sheds in the pasture, etc. It's all about quality of life for the retiree.
Also, I might find the nickel-and-diming over this service or that service to be very bothersome. I might suggest simplifying your business plan, and just charge a flat rate that covers all those things. Most of them sound like pretty basic horse care, which I would expect of a good retirement farm. Maybe you could have one tier of "full service" retirement board, and a lower "a la carte" tier. But if you charge for all the individual services, you are having to note down which horse you groomed, who you lunged, how many times you fed extra whatever, and it will take up alot of your time even before you get to the part where you have to go chase down the money from potentially absentee owners who live in another state, etc.
Good luck! Try to think of it as, "what services/amenities can I afford to provide if I am getting paid X per horse, and what can I provide if I am getting Y per horse. How many horses do I need at level X, and how many at level Y?"
Wow, 95 responses already! Thanks so much to everybody... I was so worried that I woudn't receive any... And thanks to everybody who commented in this post as well. If people are interested (and if I can successfully figure out how to pull everything from survey monkey), I'll post the results here.
SMF11 and SharonA - thanks for sharing your experience and for the perspective on price. To be honest, I didn't expect there to be much interest in retirement boarding, so I assumed it would have to be priced very competitively. Looks like I could be wrong based on the results so far... I also intend to post this on a more local message board. Its been very fun to watch the survey results come in!
It seemed to me that you devised the pricing/services/question by beginning from regular boarding. To me, retirement boarding is a whole different animal.
So, for example, I wouldn't choose a place that did stalls and paddocks alone (but would pay $350 for that since I don't know how anyone could do all the care/feet/worming plus the barn work for less). But then again, I'd also spend $350 for pasture 24/7 since, in my research, that's about what you'll have to pay if you want good supervision. Looking at my answers alone might not make them make sense.
I think the big deal with retirement boarding is
1) The number of services you can fold into one price that won't choke your HOs.
That's because by the time the horse is far from the HO, the last thing you want as a paying customer is to not know what the bill is going to be every month, but then also wonder if the BO did X and Y that you would have done. IMO, the HO needs to see the place and meet the BO in person so that she can let the BO do the daily stuff more or less as she would already choose.
2) The cost of land in your part of the country.
ETA: I have seen or considered retirement farms in various parts of the country. My sense of prices doesn't correlate with my zip code, but with the farm's standard of care.
In my area I pay 230. for pasture board which includes covered shelter, grain and hay fed twice daily and worming. During severe weather, horses are brought into stalls at no additional charge, and turned out in small paddocks for a few hrs. (By severe weather, I mean temps in the teens/ice/high winds in addition to frigid temps, or pouring rain. If it is pouring, they obviously don't go out in paddocks.)
My horse is not on retirement board, so I have access to 3 rings, trails, wash racks, etc.
If I retired a horse right now, I'd keep them where they are. But in another part of the country where I might not find a stable priced lower, I'd consider a retirement situation if needed.
SMF11 and SharonA - thanks for sharing your experience and for the perspective on price. To be honest, I didn't expect there to be much interest in retirement boarding, so I assumed it would have to be priced very competitively.
No, no, no! How do you know retirement boarding is NOT priced competitively??! Of course it is priced competitively -- otherwise the farms would not be successful. Isn't this exactly what your business plan is supposed to show you?
Why not find out what "regular" board costs and then compare what retirement board costs. Only that will tell you if it is "competitive". Not comparing what you are used to, say, in the rural midwest with what I'm charging near NYC.
For example, board at a barn with an indoor and a trainer will cost anywhere from $950 - $2000/month near me. So if you are used to paying that, $475 (what I charge) is a big savings.
Before you do anything else, go to Paradigm Farms website and read it! Far from there being no market for retirement boarding, they are the best example of what the market is! People ship horses to them from all over the US and they have a waiting list. Look at what they do, what they offer, and what they charge.
There's another very fancy retirement barn 2 miles from me that charges $2,000/month. How does he do that? That's the interesting question for you to figure out :-)
In fact, if you want to get a good grade, I'd advise you to find a few retirement barns and interview them to see what makes them successful. THEN do a business plan incorporating those things. Google "retirement boarding" and check out all the results that pop up. There are extremes like the large herds in Virginia that are $150/month to my neighbor (who, I do think, is the most expensive retirement barn in the country!) at $2,000, and then all variations in between. What are the price points? What are the services offered? In fact, why is there a demand for retirement boarding? (I think you need to understand that, since your starting point was that there wasn't much demand).
I understand you are just starting to do research, but I think you need to do a lot more before you are done!
Woah! Regular board near me with an indoor and a trainer is $350-450 (there's one facility that costs $600, but it is VERY fancy).
I suppose if people are shipping horses to you to retire it really doesn't matter what the local board rates are. And I would expect a retirement facility to provide more care and feed (in particular).
FWIW, I will be paying about 400/mo plus farrier/vet/deworming to "retire" my mare. Board includes a stall nightly, turnout during the day, giving supplements if needed, checking feet/grooming weekly or so, blanketing, holding for vet/farrier. The facility is not a retirement one, but is a barn I used to board at where the care is fabulous and they've agreed to help me out when I go overseas.
That's in MI where typical board at a mediocre facility with similar amenities costs about 250-300/mo. At these facilities, you typically are responsible for your own blankets, often have to check on water/feed because the care isn't necessarily stellar, etc.
Higher end facilities with trainers, indoor/outdoor, excellent care, etc cost between 400-600/mo.
I'm not aware of any "public" retirement board facilities in that particular area.
The handful of true retirement barns I've seen here in VA have run closer to 500/mo and are pasture set ups.
Cost of land alone plays a big part in cost of boarding or retirement boarding.
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
I am not sure what information you are trying to gather as the survey is quite specific in some aspects and silent on other aspects.
What I would want from a retirement farm is heavily dependent on region. For instance I may consider a warmer climate further away. If the farm was local ( colder climate) I might want a stall and blanketing services, but could handle vet and farrier on my own.
If the climate were warmer (and further away) I may consider 24/7 turnout, but would need the farm to handle farrier, blanketing, and vet requirements. The further away the more I would like email contact, the closer.......not needed.
What info do you want to gather? Pricing is so dependent on location and services offered for the needs of that location.
I dont think this survey will give you sufficient info to do a credible business plan. There are too many variables not accounted for.