CBS News – November 2011
By Megan Strader
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
After 20 years of working as a horse trainer, David Mellott knows the importance of a good reputation. “If something bad happens, it travels a lot faster than the good things do.”
So it takes some confidence to take the step he’s in the process of joining a relatively new website that will allow people to rate their experiences with him.
Ratemyhorsepro.com serves as a resource for people in the horse community, giving people the good and the bad.
Last month Eyewitness News brought you the story of Stephen White, a former Butler County horse trainer who’s been charged with raping an underage girl. Within hours of the story airing, Rate My Horse PRO received a call about it and was in contact with us looking for more information.
“That’s how we get a lot of our information, from the good honest people that want these people exposed and not doing business in our industry,” explains Debbie Hanson, Director of Media Relations.
Stephen White has not been convicted and still needs to go to trial, but Rate My Horse PRO’s goal is to bring a higher level of accountability to the industry – getting information out and allowing people to submit information of their own.
“We want them to have a voice and to say – we do not want this going on in our industry. We want our industry to be better,” adds Hanson.
The website also aims to highlight professionals who are doing good business, where Mellott hopes he lands.
“It’s like anything else, you want to do your research before you go give somebody your business.”
Blue Ribbon Business – July 2011
Lisa Derby Oden of Blue Ribbon Business
discusses with Debbie Hanson, the Media Relations Director of Rate My Horse PRO, how the website is educating horse owners across North America. They also discuss how horse professionals are building a network of advocates and managing their business like never before.
Read the transcript below.
LDO – Welcome to Blue Ribbon Business Bits! I’m Lisa Derby Oden and run Blue Ribbon Consulting. Since 1995 my business has focused on helping horse businesses and associations achieve success through evaluation, planning, marketing, leadership and professional development. I’m here to provide you with breakthrough strategies for your horse business transitions. These podcasts are one of many resources that I offer and they give you a peek into what’s behind building breakthrough strategies for your success. The great thing about podcasts is that you can download them to listen to them while you clean stalls, drive to your next lesson, or clean tack. Oh, and be sure to check out and sign up for my free newsletter – Blue Ribbon Business – at www.blueribbonconsulting.com.
Today Debbie Hanson joins me. Debbie is a native Virginian who came in to the horse world 17 years ago by means of her daughter. Shortly after her daughter became involved in showing horses, two individuals running a consignment business defrauded Ms. Hanson and stole her daughter’s hunter/jumper pony. Ms. Hanson’s response led to spearheading an extensive FBI investigation spanning several states, identified dozens of similar victims and resulted in federal felony convictions and prison sentences for the two individuals responsible for the fraud.
Ms. Hanson has been actively advocating for sales reform in the horse industry for more than a decade. Ms. Hanson has also served on the Board of Directors for The Horse Owners’ Protective Association (HOPA), the Virginia Horse Council, and as an Ambassador for the Virginia Racing Commission.
Ms. Hanson continues her work today as the Media Relations Director for Rate My Horse PRO. Rate My Horse PRO is an industry advocacy platform built upon a rating system which equally engages horse consumers and professionals in improving industry standards.
WOW, we are so lucky to have you with us today and I’d like to welcome you Debbie to Blue Ribbon Business Bits!
DH – Thank-you so much for having me and asking me to join you today – hopefully I’ll be able to answer some of your questions and questions that some of your listeners have.
LDO – I’m sure you will. Rate My Horse PRO is such an exciting innovation in the industry. It is a great intersection between technology and the horse industry. I’m wondering if you can tell us about how Rate My Horse PRO evolved, where did the idea start, and how long did it take to develop from idea to launch?
DH – I think everyone in the horse industry has pondered the thought: “there must be a better way to select the people I do business with.”
Likewise, professionals providing services have thought: “why is my service worth the same price as the guy up the street?”
Joining these two basic thoughts with a small group of amateurs and professionals initiated the concept of a rating site. The evolution of the site will never end, however, to evolve it to what it is today took about 3 and a half years. There are a lot of intricacies that make up the simple final product the user sees.
LDO – That is so true that you can have a great idea that comes to mind, but then doing the architecture and code writing can be a conflicting process. I want to give you guys kudos for actually getting this off the ground. In some ways, it reminds me of me of the Better Business Bureau. What parallels are there and how are you different?
DH – The Better Business Bureau is a large organization that works across industries, business types, and deals with other high varying factors. We, on the other hand, are focused in depth on the horse industry. Our system is designed around the horse business and the horse enthusiast. This gives us a better understanding of the industry, allows us to focus on the true issues, and our technology design really improves access to a vast amount of information.
For example, our focus allows us to partner with horse industry-focused groups like Stolen Horses International aka Net Posse, legal advisers, and other professionals willing to share their wealth of information and knowledge. The BBB just can’t go to the depth that we can and make it all so accessible.
LDO – That’s so exciting that you can do that. I’ve had a look around the site and have joined myself – and I hope those listening here will also take that step because I do think it is something that will move our industry forward.
Will you tell us the benefits of being involved with Rate My Horse PRO? And how does someone sign up to participate – I’ve walked through the process, but I’d love for you to tell us about it? Are all the trainers, shows, stables and other horse businesses there signed up as participants? Or can, for example, a rider sign up to rate their trainer if the trainer hasn’t yet signed up?
DH – Rating systems across the web are often hijacked by fake identities entering fake rating to boost or destroy a reputation. Rate My Horse PRO developed the first ever rating site that requires identity verification to use the site. We have a fully secured third party that processes each applicant against their credit card information for a $5 fee. The process is pretty immediate, so once you have entered your information with a credit card you are usually checked and approved within several seconds.
Rate My Horse PRO is an industry advocacy platform. What that means is that anyone who has verified their identity can add any professional to our site. A verified member can also rate any business they certify they have done business with.
Professionals and business owners have the final word on their profile information once they are verified members by claiming it if it already exists, or by adding it. Professionals and business owners also get to upload pictures, pricing information, service offering, and services they provide.
LDO – This is so interesting this whole process that you have put together – it is really true in today’s world with all of the social media, a lot of people say I want to stay away from that I don’t want to get involved. People don’t understand that things are being said about them whether they want them or not.
This is a good example of that – where they have to claim their information – so with that in mind – how do you ensure the ratings are fair? I’ve looked through your process and it looks like it addresses the concerns that may arise. I’m sure that has been an area of concern for some so your insight is really important here.
DH – Fair and accurate were the central themes of our system design sessions. First, we built a statement system. People don’t have think of every possible angle by which they can evaluate a provider. We provide statements that are easily observable to the participant whether they are deeply involved or a casual observer. If a rater doesn’t believe they can rate a statement they are directed to leave it out, and that statement does not count for or against the business.
Second, each rater is identified by the system, so if they enter a second rating for a provider, it simply replaces their first rating. Furthermore, they certify they are being honest, and they certify they have in fact done business with that individual.
Professionals cannot rate other professionals within their own category; we consider it a conflict of interest. As a result, only the pure customer is rating the service of a provider. For example, a trainer cannot rate a trainer, however, they can rate a farrier.
Our service is community active; meaning we offer tools for users to flag items that are not correct. This practice allows us to investigate issues and offer the most comprehensive accurate rating service anywhere on the web.
LDO – That is really well thought out – that whole process – and makes so much sense. Maybe you can tell us about the reception has been so far. This is a good demonstration, from my perspective, of how “Diffusion” which is defined by Wikipedia as the process by which a new idea or new product is accepted by the market. The rate of diffusion is the speed that the new idea spreads from one consumer to the next. Adoption is similar to diffusion except that it deals with the psychological processes an individual goes through, rather than an aggregate market process.
Please forgive me as I provide a little more background here for our listeners – one diffusion theory categorizes the adapters as: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Innovators are venturesome, educated, and utilize multiple info sources; Early adopters are social leaders, popular, educated; Early majority are deliberate, with many informal social contacts; Late majority are skeptical, traditional, lower socioeconomic status; and Laggards use neighbors and friends as main info sources, and have a fear of debt. I’m guessing you’re still in the stage of business development where you’re seeing participants that would be termed, innovators or early adopters. Can you comment on this – who you’re seeing be the most responsive to your business?
DH – WOW, great marketing definitions there!! I would say people who are excited about the people they do business with, people who cannot get enough information, and people who have had horrific experiences are in each of those groups.
Emotion drives most decision-making, excitement, anger, and fear, and these emotions are not limited to any of these traditional groups.
I think you can certainly find groups of people using our site that fit within the “innovator” and “early adopter” categories, but our appeal is not about how people think, it’s FIRST about what they want and need.
LDO – Excellent, thank-you. I think we’ve covered quite a bit so far. Do you have any other words of wisdom for our listeners?
DH – Yes. Loads!
It is time to hold hands in the industry. Too often we focus too much on what I’m doing today or tomorrow, and we don’t really consider the path, or the well being, of the horse industry as a whole. Who is leading the way? Who is making this industry more accessible to outsiders? Who is focused on making sure that participants are having more fun? Who is making sure that the industry is accessible? I know there is no organization that can do this – it is up to us as participants and professionals to do this for ourselves.
Rate My Horse PRO is the medium that is best positioned to help the horse industry overcome its greatest hurdles to customer retention and growth. That is what I find so exciting about what I get to do!!
LDO – Wonderful, so now that we’ve talked about Rate My Horse PRO how does someone contact you if they want to talk to you, ask a question or get involved?
DH – The best way would be to go to the website at horseauthority.co and utilize the Contact Us and send any questions. There is also an FAQ section.
LDO – I’m really looking forward to checking in on Rate My Horse PRO as it continues to grow.
Debbie, thank you so much for sharing your experience and expertise with us today! You’ve given some great information here that is valuable to others that own and operate a horse business.
Just a quick reminder that in case our listeners want to listen to this segment more than once, it can be downloaded to review the material and ideas as many times as you’d like.
And if you need further assistance with horse business management issues, feel free to look me up. Issues emerge throughout your growth and are all part of your horse business transitions.
I always compare horse business transitions to riding your transitions as an equestrian well.
Half-halt, half-halt, kick on. Investigate, evaluate, implement. That applies here too. We’ll be continuing our discussion of marketing in future segments. So until then, Happy trails!