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Really weird idea: letter of intent for potential boarders?

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  • #21
    It's funny how people get so offended when they hear things that are contrary to what they want to hear. It's great that OP has a small fortune right now. So how much is that small fortune earning wherever it's invested? What is the ROI? If you take that money and put it into a horse boarding/trading facility, what is the projected RIO? Which is higher? Or are these questions not thoughtful and helpful enough? SMH.


    • Original Poster

      I didn't want to hear any particular advice re: a letter, was just brainstorming ... other than I wanted sound, reasoned, non-emotional dialogue and that just doesn't seem to happen save for a few posters. But thanks for your concern about my financial situation!


      • #23
        Back to brainstorming - With the exception of the posts about one person obtaining a loan using letters of intent and the advance payment for puppies - responses seem to be trending away from the idea.

        You're really talking about supply and demand and creating a demand for your product in a market where supply is limited. That is a nice position to be in. You can call it a letter of demand or a waiting list. If your property allows for adding additional barns, you can build your business plan to layout a rollout for your construction.

        You could start by answering the question: How big is too big? How much of your property do you want to dedicate to your horse operation? How much of your space do you want to dedicate to your own horses vs boarders? I do agree with the poster that said '..nobody ever complains about having too much storage space." That allows for space that can be converted if demand grows and you want to accommodate that demand. Course, it's more cost-effective to build out from the beginning.

        You have several stages of development for this project. You're in the concept stage. Perfect place to plug in your marketing plan as your project proceeds. I'd think about a waiting list in lieu of a letter of intent. It isn't always "If you build it, they will come" (ode to Phil Alden Robinson). Some very, slick, 4-color ads "Opening in the Summer of 2020" or some such and a link to sign up for the waiting list. Build an e-mail list and keep your prospects updated as construction proceeds. Create a website.

        People are not likely going to want to switch barns in the middle of show season. Keep that timing aspect in mind.
        When you are at the point when you know that absolutely nothing else can go wrong and delay your opening - that is the time when you can tie down your commitments from prospective boarders and require advance deposits to reserve space.

        And, since you have the dough, think about private lockers for tack. You control the locks - but folks know their tack is secure.

        I'm looking back at forty. Those were great years. May I suggest that if you entitle a thread "..really weird idea... . " you shouldn't be all that surprised if some folks agree with you? Great project. Have fun.


        • #24
          OP I think you can answer your own question. Would you be willing to sign a letter of intent and if so under what conditions? If not, well there's your answer.


          • Original Poster

            That's exactly right ... I didn't expect or think most would agree with the letter idea. That's why I titled the thread that way. Just was surprised (I don't know why, however?) when people started making assumptions and implying I had done zero market research or had no idea whether people were even interested or not. Definitely thought the letter of intent idea was a wild one, hence the thread title. My lawyer confirmed this morning. otherwise, thanks for your thoughtful advice. I don't mind the original idea being thoughtfully shot down; I do, however, mind the implied sense I am a total novice without me actually stating such, the inference that I am solely out to make a profit, and the idea that I would be taking out astronomical loans without any mention of such. The know it alls never cease to amaze me. To answer the final wild wpecilatiin about my trainer, I have one on board, contract signed. The helpful advice from those who have maybe been there and done that are truly valuable though so thanks. What is hard to understand about the fact I simply wanted to know if other had done or had heard of a letter of intent for potential customers? I don't know.


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by TheMoo View Post
              OP I think you can answer your own question. Would you be willing to sign a letter of intent and if so under what conditions? If not, well there's your answer.
              Actually, I completely would. That's where I got the idea.


              • #27
                Originally posted by APirateLooksAtForty View Post

                Actually, I completely would. That's where I got the idea.
                A letter of intent has no particular legal authority unless it amounts to a contract. In that sense it's a nothing when it comes to asking for financing or any other support from some third party. If it were accompanied by a non-refundable deposit on goods or services NOW it might have some real "legs" with banks et al.

                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raa, Uma Paixo


                • #28
                  Originally posted by APirateLooksAtForty View Post

                  Actually, I completely would. That's where I got the idea.
                  Then it may work if you structure it so that it is appealing to perspective boarders with any conditions that you, as a boarder, would like met.

                  For me a big one would be a refundable deposit under certain circumstances like death of a horse, loss of job, relocation due to job, things like that.


                  • #29
                    Wow! No profit?!?! You must really love to go through audits Good luck with your creative ideas.


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by Callista17 View Post
                      Wow! No profit?!?! You must really love to go through audits Good luck with your creative ideas.
                      No profit FROM THE BOARDING. Sales and leases only. Get a life, you people truly suck and need to go volunteer at the soup
                      kitchen. Or as a pm just pointed out, maybe you are jealous. Seriously if you aren't being helpful (or at least intelligent) what's the point of posting?


                      • #31
                        Originally posted by APirateLooksAtForty View Post

                        No profit FROM THE BOARDING. Sales and leases only. Get a life, you people truly suck and need to go volunteer at the soup
                        kitchen. Or as a pm just pointed out, maybe you are jealous. Seriously if you aren't being helpful (or at least intelligent) what's the point of posting?
                        I have a life, and a profitable one. Don't ask for advice if you can't graciously accept it. Sales and leases are great! I look forward to your posts about your financial troubles and audits. I can see how you are trying to get people to sign on before coming to your barn to work with you and have you take care of their horses!


                        • #32
                          I think the idea posted above of creating a waiting list, a website, etc. and keeping people on board and eager is the best idea. I know in my area, boarding facilities with quality training programs are in very, very short supply-- especially those with a good sized indoor (PNW weather), turnout and quality care/feed. Board is not profitable unless linked with training/trainer with a good clientele.

                          I would not sign a letter of intent without a trainer (mine or one I would move to) involved. I would put myself on a waiting list IF the promises were real-- barn/arena/care/etc. REALLY were built and done at the time promised. Too many barns say they are doing X, but it never happens.

                          Good luck OP-- it sounds like you know what you are doing and will have some success ahead of you! (Wish you were iin my neighborhood....)
                          Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                          • #33
                            Originally posted by APirateLooksAtForty View Post

                            No profit FROM THE BOARDING. Sales and leases only. Get a life, you people truly suck and need to go volunteer at the soup
                            kitchen. Or as a pm just pointed out, maybe you are jealous. Seriously if you aren't being helpful (or at least intelligent) what's the point of posting?
                            I think you might have a hard time keeping boarders if this is your normal reaction to people.


                            • #34
                              I was in a situation where there was an expectation of a letter of intent with a down payment attached. People who signed a letter of intent (and paid a month's board in advance of the operation starting up) were offered a contract where they were written in at a reduced board rate for the first 12 month period of board.

                              To me, it was too risky. The equine professional driving the plan wanted those down payments to help defray overhead costs, which I get. However the nature of the plan at large led to a major potential of "over promise, under deliver". I did not sign (and did not board with them). Ultimately, the idea fell flat on its face despite having people sign on and pay in advance. I assume they refunded people that money though have no personal awareness of the fallout either way.

                              In a position like this I would probably start at basics. What is max capacity that the land can sustain, based on the type of turn out you want to provide? (All weather dirt lots often seem an easier set up to house more horses than primarily pasture, for example.) From there, I would work backwards. What's the max amount of space you want to lose to client storage? Max amount of time/staff/wages you want to put into hosting clients?

                              OTOH, you can also look at what volume makes it worthwhile - buying things in bulk and storing (hay is huge for this) can be far more cost effective depending on location.

                              Rather than building a facility around interest (as the professional I knew attempted) I would recommend building what you can comfortably sustain. If you end up having a waiting list for stalls, good for you! That ends up being a nice security to have, with some inevitable client flow. You can avoid overbuilding and overspending this way, so long as you find the sweet spot for what size makes it most cost efficient from a building perspective.


                              • #35
                                Not to the OP specifically but more generally ... what is this "market research" so many of you speak of as preferable to the "letter of intent"?

                                True "market research" is not easily done on something like a boarding barn. Products that regularly have market research have a time-tested protocol in place and past stats to compare. There is a history of what results were valid indicators and what did not prove out in the market. The research is compiled by experienced researchers and analysts who are specialists in that field.

                                Boarding barns are not one of those products, unless there is an area where boarding barns are hiring market researchers. There are certainly some good stats that can be pursued and termed "market research" for boarding barns. How many local horse events, what is their attendance, what do people spend, what other local board barns and their size and rates, etc.

                                But without history on the research, what worked as an indicator and what didn't, the results will just be information. They won't be a clear indicator of a "go" or "no go" decision.

                                Personally I think exploring other more specific means of gauging the level of interest was a good idea.


                                • #36
                                  OP - so if you really expected nothing from this board and found only one post of value -- why waste everyone's time asking in the first place? People of goodwill offered their thoughts. That's what this board is about. They don't deserve your insults because you don't like what they said, based on the limits you deliberately placed on your information. I think you owe it to yourself, as well as the board, to at least be polite. No one was trying to be less than polite to you, just offer their honest feedback based on their relevant experience.


                                  • #37
                                    No response to the OP because it's a beautiful sunny day and we are in between snow storms, and I have the day off...

                                    But imagine if you would the pleasure of having a tiny fortune to spend building a barn in a high-demand area, and also assume the tiny fortune gets you into some decent horses for sales/leasing... To me that actually sounds heavenly.
                                    COTH's official mini-donk enabler

                                    "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


                                    • #38
                                      Perhaps one idea would be to create a waiting list and offer a limited number of incentives for people to move in right away. Perhaps 6 months at reduced rates, or an extra service, or something. If I were in your market, and you and/or your trainer had a good reputation, I would be willing to move in when you opened. A modest discount would seem fair payment for the inconvenience of being among the first, because people do need a bigger sense of humor during the shake-out cruise, so to speak.

                                      That might accomplish the same thing as a letter of intent. If you've asked me to put down a deposit to hold my place line, so to speak, there would need to be provisions to protect both of us in case something happens. As in, my horse dies or you find out I'm bat**** crazy and you don't want me anywhere near your place.

                                      Your project sounds lovely, and it sounds like you're going in with the right expectations. Good luck!


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by APirateLooksAtForty View Post
                                        i have a dilemma. I am building a barn due to popular demand in my area and to service my own needs. I am trying to decide between 15, 20 or 25 stalls. I was thinking 15 but then people started coming out of the woodwork saying "if you are building in that area, count me in! Definitely save me a stall!"
                                        well we all know how people are prone to flake. I want to get my barn started and I don't want additional co at ruction at a later date as this is also going to run as a very professional sales barn. Has anyone ever heard of asking boarders to sign some type of letter of intent? Is that crazy? Thanks for any advice.
                                        I also live in an area where demand is high and supply is limited; most (good) barns have waiting lists and often boarders basically need referrals from other boarders or their trainer to get a stall when one becomes available (ie, the waiting list is not necessarily managed on a FIFO basis.)

                                        That said, I have never heard of a barn asking for a LOI or similar document, and would not sign one myself for a facility under construction. I would be concerned that the ask was an indication of potential financial instability and would also worry about whether the promised amenities would actually be delivered as promised. Please note OP, before you react to that statement, that I am not suggesting that *you* are not fully able to fund your facility nor suggesting you won't deliver on whatever facility description you have offered your potential boarders. I am merely telling you why I would not personally consider committing to a facility prior to being able to actually SEE the facility and judge the care, etc.

                                        Best of luck with your project.
                                        We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                                        • #40
                                          OP, I can't advise you specifically but will tell you what I am doing.

                                          I have an existing small boarding facility with 8 horses, 4 of which are boarders. I am adding a very nice indoor and an additional barn area as well (as an addition, not in the indoor but attached and some additional fencing). I have decided to cap at 15 capacity but I am really targeting 12. That is something I can manage myself on a daily basis.

                                          i have done this for a number of reasons. First, I do not want to rely on a daily employee. That raises costs substantially if you do it right. It is also a PITA.

                                          I also don't want my private home to become a zoo. Right now my boarders are mostly retirees. The additional horses will likely be part of a small training program. I don't want a million lessons, etc. the rest of my family is not horsey at all, and I want the farm to feel like a home. 3-4 additional owners only will preserve the private feel. I am also very selective, only take experienced people with no drama.

                                          i also am realistic and my top of the market prices will not work for more than a subset of local riders. Honestly, most of my retiree boarders are long distance from high COL areas who want a personal touch for their retirees, and full service like blanketing, hoof picking, free choice hay and private meals, etc. I am not willing to take a loss or compromise on horse care standards. I can also preserve my amateur status because there is no temptation to ride them, they are retired!

                                          So for me, the 12-15 number works. My family farm where I grew up is the same (dad has 14 now).

                                          i have out feelers out and at the risk of being premature could have all my new stalls filled. But if that doesn't work out, I am confident I can find other clients. I wouldn't do a LOI. I mean, who knows what anyone's circumstances will be in 6-8 months when I am ready to open the new barn.

                                          I do make a small profit on the boarders but have a few sales horses. Unfortunately I have had some bad luck in the past on a couple projects. I am definitely INTENDING to make a profit but man plans, the horse gods laugh. That is good enough for the IRS. Everything I own is for sale for a good offer except the mare my kids ride (and I may well let an in house trainer use her for lessons for a percentage).