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Category: Corporate Retreats


Gratitude and Respite | A Ranch-Wide Recharge

Unplugging During an Unprecedented Year in Travel

By Jon Martin, General Manager at The Ranch at Rock Creek

Thanksgiving is not a day of rest in the hospitality industry. This is when we work harder; it’s when we shine. This year we’re hoping to shine a little brighter because just a little over a week ago, our staff took a four-day vacation, including a blackout of all electronic communications. (Don’t worry, the herds were still fed and the pipes didn’t freeze, and we are grateful for the staff that ensured that).


Ranchers take a trip to the Washington Coast. Photo by Allison Beggs


The Spark

The blackout was like a long, deep breath of fresh air after one of the most challenging years in hospitality. Some might wonder if that is an exaggeration after 2020, and we can understand why. Closing during lock-down and reopening was challenging to be sure. But we slowed our pace, focused on the physical health of our patrons above all else in the face of a new hazard.

In early 2021, after our we became Sharecare Health Security Verified with Forbes Travel Guide and knew we could successfully operate with our safety measures. Our confidence was met by the confidence of travelers. We welcomed many new and return guests that were craving the kind of respite we can offer in our pristine wide-open spaces in Western Montana.


General Manager Jon Martin with wife Brenda on a trip to Denver during the blackout.

We heard time and again that people appreciated being able to travel here and disconnect. Meanwhile, the experiences we had with our travelers were deeper and more meaningful for us as well. People seemed to soak up the beauty of nature; the one-on-one-time spent by our guides and servers; the meticulousness of our housekeeping team; and the creativity of our chefs on a new level, and that helped us feel like a very valued part of our industry.

During this extraordinary time, precautions required us to double our efforts to protect our staff and guests. Working harder, covering shifts when people were exposed to Covid, and other knock-on effects of the pandemic required more from our staff. We could not be more grateful and impressed by how our staff executed their jobs, including receiving our eighth Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award.


The Plan

Despite challenges, our entire team here at The Ranch at Rock Creek, ensured our success. They collectively worked harder than ever to maintain the reputation we have built for 11 years as a premier luxury guest ranch and provided each guest with a heartfelt, memorable experience. As we all know, our success as hospitality professionals is reliant on our ability to empathize with and put our guests’ enjoyment at the forefront of our minds. In order for our team to stay energized for the remainder of the year, I realized they would be well-served by some time off.


Reservations & Revenue Manager and Marketing Manager Josh and Tricia Erickson in Oregon.

We have often taken a short planning break before or after Thanksgiving in preparation of the holiday season. However, I felt a true blackout closure, which not only required everyone to be physically off, but I also forbade anyone from sending emails or having work related calls between employees (with emergencies being the only exception,) would provide more value to our employees. In today’s world even the dinging of our phones on our days off can weigh on our heads – as the perfectionists we all are.


The Adventure

Our staff was not just asked to stay off electronic communication, they were also asked to do something that they are passionate about or wanted to do and haven’t had a chance. For our Reservations and Revenue Manager and Marketing Manager (husband and wife) Josh and Tricia Erickson, this meant taking a long-overdue trip together.

“This 4-day opportunity to disconnect completely from our work allowed my wife and I the time to go explore the Oregon Coast together. This is something we had wanted to do for five years, and we were finally able to do it because of this. We came back more focused and energized and loved the chance to enjoy the part of the world we call home.” ~ Josh Erickson


Ranchers take a trip to Idaho. Photo by Blaine Perez

The 900 Forbes Travel Guide service standards require us to be interconnected in all we do. While the closure removed some of the workplace communication, many deepened their connections with each other on a personal level by adventuring in the West.

“This blackout was a blessing in disguise. I’ve made great friends I know I’ll still be in contact with after our time here is over together. A group of us went to Idaho. It was so much fun, just a great group of people, all with the same mind set of just enjoying life!~ Line Cook Blaine Perez

It is heartening to see our employees from the past 10 years at each other’s weddings, taking vacations, visiting each other across the world and still sharing photos of their time as Ranchers. There are few employees that work here who have not made a lifelong friend.

“With everyone having different work schedules at The Ranch, it can sometimes be difficult to find time to do things together. The blackout allowed us the opportunity to go on trips together and without having to worry about things going on at work in our absence. One of the reasons I came to The Ranch was to be able to explore new places, and during the blackout I was able to visit Washington for the first time with friends that I have made at The Ranch.” ~ Marketing Coordinator Allison Beggs


The Reflection

This time gave me a chance to reflect on what I learned as General Manager in 2020 and 2021. It made me think of the incredible difference it makes to be able to choose four consecutive days to close based on our mental health, rather than close for our safety during a lockdown in a pandemic. The importance of mental health in the service and hospitality industries is often overlooked. Since August 2020, a few months after reopening, we have provided free therapy sessions with a local therapist to those employees who wanted the option. While I realize that these measures are first steps to solving a much larger issue, this year has also served to reaffirm my staunch belief that our employees are our most valuable asset and we will continue to invest in them.


Staff members on the Washington coast. Photo by Allison Beggs

Thank you to our return and future guests for responding to those emails and messages about our blackout with kindness and patience. Thank you for allowing our team to have those four days to rest and recharge. Our staff fished, traveled, hiked, spent time with loved ones, cracked open books and binged watched TV shows. This team that gives their all so that guests can leave their cares behind, got to savor the same feeling together.

We are recharged, reinvigorated and ready to deliver an amazing holiday season to each and every one of our guests who chose The Ranch at Rock Creek. Thank you to all our guests who put their trust in us. If you’re not here with us this weekend, we hope you have a recuperative rest over the long weekend and give yourself a chance to disconnect, like we did.

 

Category: Corporate Retreats


Winter Corporate Travel: Board Room to Bucket List

Montana Group and Corporate Travel

This week we’re reposting a blog that one of our ranchers wrote for Glacier Country Tourism, Montana by guest blogger Heather Rue, a former Ranch at Rock Creek employee. Over her career in marketing, she has produced hundreds of corporate, nonprofit and cause-marketing events and programs. Heather is active in her local community and is raising country kids, chickens and labs while soaking up all life in Montana has to offer. Read the original blog here


Throughout my career, I have had the pleasure of producing hundreds of corporate meetings and events in some of the world’s greatest destinations. While the purpose, scope and locations of these gatherings have varied, all of them were designed to inspire excellence, trust and community while nurturing new thinking about business relationships and value creation. More often than not, we aspired to showcase the event destination in a creative way, as we provided a unique and enriching experience for the attendees. As planners, we didn’t want to duplicate our company’s conference room in a different locale; we wanted to draw from the culture of the destination and inspire them through novel experiences, like skiing after a morning meeting or receiving a handmade box filled with local treats at turn down.

A group gets ready to ride a run at Discovery Ski Area in Philipsburg, Montana

Throughout the last decade, my passion for event planning and marketing has continued to blossom because of that essential, powerful ingredient—experiential travel. After living and working in many US cities, I am grateful to call Montana my home, especially since Montana is a place where travelers are instantly captured by a sense of wonder. Montana, through my lens, is an extraordinary, transformative destination for everyone from homebodies to globetrotters; a place where bucket-list experiences are checked off left and right.

Read more…

Category: Corporate Retreats


Experiential Travel: State of Play

The words “experiential travel” sound a lot more mature and serious than they need to be. The experience of traveling to The Ranch at Rock Creek should be an escape from normal routine. It should be at times exhilarating, relaxing and even a bit fantastical. It’s all fun and games.

child-playing-montana-664x442.jpg

Children are naturally adept at play. However, it seems unreasonable that we should lose that talent during our working life, only to rediscover it during retirement. When Jim Manley bought The Ranch at Rock Creek and made it into the award-winning luxury guest ranch it is today, he had an eye on the indefinable western spark that encourages people to dream and play. He envisaged more than a traditional dude ranch that recreated the life of a working cowboy. He sought to redefine experiential travel by inspiring a state of play for every guest, child or adult.

hiking-2

In fact, researchers seem to be suggesting that play is essential for adults, as well as children. NPR, Psychology Today, Scientific American and The Huffington Post have published stories about the importance of adult play. A researcher and psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown says,

“Play is something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

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