Career Profile: Customer Relations Manager, Horse Farm
It is springtime in the Bluegrass and throughout the Commonwealth there is anticipation for this weekend’s Kentucky Derby. That is what brought Erin O’Keefe, Customer Relations Manager for Millenium Farms, to Kentucky.
“I always loved horses and Thoroughbred racing, so I knew I wanted to do something within this industry. Growing up in Michigan I wasn't exposed to much of it, so when I graduated I started at the bottom and figured out what exactly I wanted to do as I went.”
Erin started her career at the University of Kentucky where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Equine Science and Management and even with that degree she emphasizes the need for communications.
“For the jobs I have had and path of my career, I think a minor or double major with marketing or communications would have been beneficial. [However], while a degree is important to have as you climb the ladder, you won't graduate and immediately have the type of job you might think you should because of your education. You have to be willing to start at the bottom and prove your commitment and competence.”
Through all of her experiences which includes a barn foreman, sales associate, vet technician, working part-time in farm offices, and sales coordinator she has learned the skills to manage her current day-to-day activities.
“During breeding season, my job revolves around vet work. We check mares first thing in the morning, then get them booked to their stallions. I check in on the mares and foals, and get updated foal pictures for customers, and then pass along all that information to our customers, the owners of the horses. From there, the rest of my time is a bit more abstract depending on what is going on at the farm. I am responsible for monthly pictures on the horses, customer shows, coordinating lay up care with multiple veterinarians, and assisting the farm manager. During the summer and fall, there is less vet work, but we are preparing yearlings and selling at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton, and I assist in managing sales paperwork and other tasks for our partner consignment.”
In the end, for Erin, it all comes down to hard work and passion for the animals you care for and the customers you serve.
“I think that to be successful in the Thoroughbred industry, you have to love what you do and be internally motivated to succeed. There are a lot of long hours, there are jobs that seem thankless, but if you work hard and maintain a good attitude, it pays off. You never know where your next opportunity will come from or who is noticing your hard work.”