Most years in early July, my wife and I spend a week or two in Spain, usually developing our golf swings (with moderate success) and exploring the pleasures of new wave, innovative Spanish wine (far more successfully). A great time for R&R, and reflection on the past year. This time, I also brought out with me the feedback replies from our owners on the first two years of Owners for Owners. Many thanks to everyone for their emails, telcos and face to face discussions. It’s really great that we’ve had such a positive response to what we’re doing. So, here is the feedback and recommendations for the future.
Overall approach and differentiation from syndicates
- Don’t change any of the basic principles and ways of operating.
- Keep the focus on everyone being genuine co-owners, not syndicate members.
- Don’t dilute the ownership experience with more owners per horse.
- Stay with six co-owners maximum per horse. That enables everyone to be close to the action.
- Maintain the not-for-profit organisation of OfO and the low cost base.
- So we definitely won’t be changing the core co-owner model. The plan is to maintain the current horse numbers and to replace them as they retire or are moved on.
- Lots of positive feedback on the support and openness of the trainers on our roster.
- They were selected not only for their training ability, but also for communication with owners.
- Owners have enjoyed visiting other trainers as well as their own.
- Acknowledgement by these trainers of our owners when they meet them on the course is appreciated.
- We will continue to support our current group of trainers, and because we value their commitment to us, we want to maintain our loyalty and continuity with them. Therefore we won’t be adding any new trainers at the moment.
Horse buying policy and budgets
- Lots of concern about the bloodstock market, and the escalating prices and market dynamics.
- There is a clear feeling that ordinary owners are being priced out of the market.
- There is no desire to increase the maximum hammer price budget for OfO of £50k.
- This is one of the most important areas for reflection. No-one wants OfO to become more like Highclere or Thurloe. Chasing very high bloodstock prices leads to large syndicates and / or reduced overall quality for the same money, as the commercial syndicates try to maintain their margins. The view is that we need to consider more creative options that produce good value for money while hopefully buying well-conformed and well-bred horses that will take owners to the better races at better tracks.
- We’ve made decisions therefore to: invest in store horses rather than the ready-made Irish P2P winners (as per the new 3yo Flemensfirth for Charlie Longsdon); select a top-quality agent as our NH buying partner (and this is Gerry Hogan); avoid the increasingly prohibitively-priced sales such as Tattersalls Book 1 on the Flat and Brightwells on the Jumps; buy in France to take advantage of both their bloodstock and the prize-money premiums (we’re planning to revisit Arqana in Deauville with Karl Burke in the autumn); and buy several NH yearlings (two commissions have now been given – one to Gerry Hogan to buy and keep the yearling in Ireland and another to Anthony Honeyball and Rachael Green in the UK – for which the purchase budget will be c. £15k each).
- No-one wants to see these cut back, but equally few want to pay more to cover additional costs.
- There is no desire to have a standard charge built into everyone’s monthly / annual payments.
- Everyone loves the stable visits and “meet the trainer” mornings.
- The Cheltenham picnic was really appreciated.
- It looks as though we’ve got the balance about right. We’ll continue to organise visits, picnics etc.. There won’t be any standard charge, but we will let people know in advance if costs are going to be incurred. There were several suggestions about the possibility of OfO race sponsorship; attending the black tie ROA dinner; organising a golf day and barbecue. We’ll definitely look into these.
- Really pleased that everyone is happy with what we’re doing here, and the quality of the web site.
- The frequency and standard of communication seems to be right.
- Owners really appreciate being kept closely involved, and with nothing hidden.
- In response to the recommendations to go on Twitter, we have now done that. We’ve developed a “content calendar” where we communicate daily where possible on Twitter (which can also be read on the feed into the Home Page of our web site), weekly with the Sunday updates and fortnightly through the 1st and 15th round-ups to all our owners, plus the bi-monthly blog.
Accounts and Administration
- The complete transparency of costs and accounting received very favourable mention.
- Clearly this has been a problem area with some of the commercial synciates.
- Jack’s work on the admin and VAT reclaim is very much appreciated.
- The only changes here are that some owners wanted quarterly invoicing as a reminder, and also a six-monthly finance summary, particularly if a large surplus is building up in the bank account. We’ll do that and let owners know in advance when there will be a summary on any surplus.
Once again, many thanks for all your feedback. Do keep on letting us know about any potential changes or areas of innovation that we ought to pursue. And let’s hope we have a great time on the track in the years ahead.