Just today it happened. My office manager set up a “one time” riding lesson. My definition of a “one time” riding lesson, is someone from out of town who is only in town for a few days, and makes the time to come out to take a riding lesson. Now don’t mistake this for a phone call, which starts like this—“my child loves horses, and she has never ridden—so can we come by and take a lesson?”. I don’t look at this as a “one-timer”.
If you call the office and want to schedule a lesson, and you’re either not sure about this “whole riding lesson thing?”—I mean kids just naturally know how to ride a horse, right? Or maybe you’re just not sure about committing to a whole bunch of riding lessons, that your neighbor told you were really expensive. No, this is not a “one-timer”. These local, and unsure phone caller’s may turn out into being your next best client.
This post is about the out of town family or adult looking for a fun activity to do one day while they’re in town. Now we do have an advantage being in Louisville—because of the whole “Kentucky horse thing”. But I bet you get more calls than you think, “Oh, we’re in town this week-end or tomorrow could we come and ride a horse?”. If that’s how they start the conversation, I tell them that we don’t have trail rides, but we do offer riding lessons. At least 50% of the time, they aren’t really looking for a trail ride, just some fun activity.
I know, I know—you’re in the business of creating long term riders and horse-owning clients. But yesterday in 45 minutes, I had made $120. Now I do value my time, and if my time could be better spent working in the office or on a new marketing project—I consider that valuable. But it was scheduled right before my busy afternoon of lessons was about to start, so I was already getting myself into lesson mode anyway.
Yesterday’s lesson was 2 twenty minute, Small Fry lessons. We used two ponies, and myself and my office manager did the lessons. Two got on had a little mini lesson, photos were taken by the Mom and Dad and then we switched and the other two got a mini lesson with more pictures taken. These people were from Nashville and were spending their Spring Break in Louisville.
No we don’t keep time slots available for One Timer’s, but usually throughout the week, either someone has cancelled or rescheduled and there is space for them. Now this family had scheduled a week in advance, but often One Timer’s call the same morning or within an hour and want to ride. Again you just have to make sure you have the space. We do not put any One Timer’s in with the regular lesson schedule. I mean a One Timer might be in the ring at the same time as a regular lesson, but they have a different instructor, and since it would usually be their first lesson, they usually ride in the center of the arena, and only walk with a few steps of trotting.
I do have a large WARNING—which I’m putting in capital letter—any One Timer must PAY IN FULL prior to scheduling their lesson. No exception, not ever, all One Timer’s and Out-of-Towner’s must pay in advance! Just because they are here for a short while and may find something better to do, and you will be out there standing with your lesson horses waiting. One thing I do encourage with my one-timer’s is tipping. Often when you go on a vacation, and you have a tour or event, you tip the guide or instructor. I encourage this and my instructors always enjoy this. Not only do they get an extra lesson or two, but they’ve gotten another twenty bucks or so.
Another situation is the Grandparent child. I have had children join us for multiple lessons or camps, often for several years while they are staying the week-end or week with their grandparents. What a great thing for grandparents, they’re not really sure how to keep these active, spunky kids busy for a whole week—send them out to camp! I had one family, whose grandparents still worked full time, and the kids came for two weeks in the summer to stay with them. They had two boys, who attended two weeks of camp and this went on for about six years. The oldest boy ended up becoming a camp counselor for our camps, and got to take home some extra money. No one was bored, and they were ready to go to bed at 9:00.
So where do these one-time, out-of-towners come from? Funnily enough about 8 years ago, I made a big project of taking a bunch of flyers downtown Louisville to the three biggest hotels. I personally went to the Concierge at both hotels (with a small box of Plehn’s Bakery cookies, yummy—best in town) and talked about our programs. You know if they’re not real busy, these Concierges are really chatty. Anyway most of our one-timer’s come from one of these hotels. And these are also the most expensive hotels in town. So they can afford to pay. So don’t give any discounts, no matter how many want to ride.
So next time the phone rings, and someone says “We’re in from out of town, could we come ride?” . Just don’t hang up right on them.