Striking out on your own in the horse business might sound a bit too scary for contemplation, but what if you had a partner? Family-owned horse businesses fair extremely well because of the shared responsibility and creativity, but there are a few landmines you need to watch out for.
If you start a family-owned horse business with your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or children, the age difference alone will put you on unequal footing. The older among you has more experience and might therefore take an authoritarian approach.
Furthermore, family members of differing generations are often in different places financially. If you start a horse business with your Mom and Dad, for example, they might be investing more in the business from the outset and might therefore seek greater control over decisions.
I have yet to meet the perfect family, and I’m guessing yours ain’t it. This doesn’t mean you’re dysfunctional or doomed to failure, but it does mean keeping the family dynamic in mind as you start your horse business.
You are more likely to speak up in business matters than involve your family, and you are less likely to think before you speak and/or do. It’s important to keep your emotions in check because business is, after all, business.
Making It Work
There are several things you can do to make starting a family-owned horse business a successful venture.
First, you need to draw up a contract with your business partners that solidifies your ownership and interest in the business. This means recording your individual investments in start-up as well as your continual output in terms of keeping the business afloat.
Determine what percentage of the horse business belongs to each partner and how profits will be split. Give each partner a set of firm responsibilities that he or she must uphold.
And finally, create an exit strategy. You need to know what will happen if one partner decides he or she wants out as well as what happens if a partner passes away or is rendered incapable of running his or her end of the business.
The thing is, you can trust your family but you have to protect yourself. Small disputes become legal battles because no one bothered to put anything in writing, and that’s the last place you want to end up.