Horse Trek'n


23rd January, 2019

Horse Trek’n – Marketer takes the reins in regional tourism business

When this young professional made the move to NZ from the UK in search of greener pastures, she couldn’t have predicted the result would mean buying a decade’s old horseback touring outfit.

Having completed a degree in economics, Elizabeth Glover left home in the UK to complete a residency in Auckland.

As it turns out, this was only the first step to realising a dream occupation.

We spoke with Glover to find out a little more about how she came to be managing the Waitangi-based horseback touring business, Horse Trek’n.

“I’d started working in digital marketing as an account manager, where my role mostly focused on designing marketing campaigns and content for high-tier clients across Australasia,” said Glover.

“But living in Auckland for a year proved more than long enough. We’d moved to NZ from the UK for a change in lifestyle, and there’s so much more to New Zealand than just staying in the cities.”

Career development a case of horses for courses

Glover’s career switch wasn’t completely spontaneous; prior to moving to NZ permanently, she’d spent nine months in Glenorchy, Otago working for a horse trekking company.

“A few years later when we saw this similar little business for sale, we thought we just had to give it a go,” she said.

A small yet established offering, Horse Trek’n had been catering for riders of all levels of experience for over 20 years before Glover and her partner picked it up in February 2018.

And as is often the case when buying into a small business, Glover found there was plenty of work to be done in bringing it up to speed.

“We’ve made quite a few changes already and there are still more on-going.

“The first thing we did was put my marketing skills to use and completely redesign the website and online booking platform.”

The online presence was a priority for Glover, as she realised there was a large amount of efficiency lost with most bookings still being made over the phone.

By designing a site that included answers to all the most frequently asked questions Glover’s customers asked over the phone, she could begin using the online platform to convert directly. And the result has been a complete about-face in how prospective customers book their experiences.

“Online bookings now account for around 60 percent of all bookings we receive, which means we can dedicate more of our time to operations and ensuring our customers have the best possible experience with us.”

Regional challenges persist

Moving to a regional area with a tight-knit community sounds idyllic, but it can come with unique problems that your average city dweller may not consider.

This has certainly been the case for Glover and her partner.

“One of my biggest bug bears has been the internet speeds I have access to,” she said.

“This has made updating the website very difficult, and I also need to spend a lot of time online to complete our banking, bookkeeping and accounting or checking on the bookings system – all of which is more challenging due to such a poor connection.”

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The tyranny of distance has impacts on more than just internet speeds, however.

Regardless of what line of business you’re in, things like equipment, freight and logistics fees, and fuel are all costs business owners seek to manage as closely as possible.

But if you’re not near a major trade and transportation hub, these costs will naturally be higher.

“It takes longer to go out and buy equipment and there is also fuel to consider each time too and rural shipping is costlier for getting things delivered,” said Glover.

“These might seem like quite minor things, but to a small business they can all start to add up quickly – especially where our nearest major town for shopping is about an hour’s drive away.”

Additional effort makes older business hot to trot

Beyond managing these issues, Glover has also enacted all the kind of housekeeping initiatives anyone should undertake when acquiring an existing business, like bringing the health-and-safety plan up to code, re-decorating the office and replacing outdated equipment.

But one of her largest investments has been made in increasing stock levels.

“When we took over, the business was managing seven horses, some of which were getting quite old.

“We’re now up to 14 horses and have purchased a few suited for taller customers where previously this meant a large section of the market wasn’t being catered for.”

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Glover and her partner also forked out for a minibus in order to service the large contingent of backpackers passing through nearby Paihia.

“For the first time, Horse Trek’n can offer a pickup service as we know not every visitor to the area has personal transportation options,” she said.

And while it’s just on a year since Glover began working on the business, the feedback from her customers and local community members has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Hopefully this will soon translate into improving our bottom-line figures as well.”

Glover’s new life and career are off to a flying start, but she’s hesitant to suggest it would suit all comers.

“If you’re keen, then go for it and don’t look back – just make sure you’re ready for a steep learning curve depending on your background,” said Glover.

“For me, it was a big leap to take running my own business and I had to learn a lot of things very quickly on the fly, such as payroll, accounting and lots of reading up on the relevant legislation.

“The main thing is being prepared for things not to happen overnight and to make sure you forge some great relationships with the local community.”