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Mike Beckley: Manager of many, listener to all.


Mike Beckley, president and general manager of Catamount Ranch & Club in Steamboat Springs, drives his Range Rover around the club's nearly complete golf course. He stops to talk with workers digging a ditch. He calls them by name, asks how things are going and whether they need anything.

A little farther down the road, at what will be the first tee, Beckley hops from the car and offers to carry the clubs of a golfer and potential homeowner who's about to try out the new course. The prospect is reluctant to let the smartly dressed, 6-foot-4 Beckley serve as his caddy, but Beckley is adamant. The golfer, however, is equally adamant. He won't give up his bag. The tug of war finally ends when an attendant steps in to guide the golfer to the course.

This lead-by-example style is Beckley's management philosophy in action He says he's developed it from years of working "the front lines. Lots of people have lots of different theories about how management best works," says Beckley "I absolutely believe, I've always believed, that the product is where you interface with the guest. I don't know how you manage an operation unless you're down there understanding it. Basically it's all about knowing your product and being able to lead and react daily. I believe that those guys in that ditch ... have such an understanding of the product and what's needed. They're doing the homework, you just have to be there and listen. So that's why I do it that way Plus I'd rather be outside than sitting at a desk."

Beckley, 52, developed his style by not sitting behind his desk. His working career spans posts in the U.S. Navy's flight program to road manager for rock bands like America, Poco and Crosby Stills & Nash. His brother, Gerry, is a member of America, and in the 1970s and '80s, when Mike was not touring with the band as a bodyguard and road manager, he lived in Vail, working at Vail and Beaver Creek as a ski instructor and on the trail crew. "I remember thinking, if I ever got to be the head of the trail crew ... I'd touch base with them twice a day, and say, 'How are you guys doing? What are your issues?' The next thing you know I got a promotion and I got a chance to go in and say, 'All right guys, what do you think?'"

His first crew had eight members, but now, he says, "Nothing is different with 800. Everything you ever needed to know to succeed in business, your line-level people can tell you." One of the first things he learned as a manager was that people worked harder when they have fun. His crew's job in the summer involved installing fence posts. "We (called our) truck the 'B-1.' That's when the B-1 bomber was coming out. We wired it with a killer sound system and everywhere we went, we had reggae blasting," Beckley said. "We had a huge pink flamingo that was wired to the front of the truck, and we had more damn fun. We laughed a lot, we worked hard and I think when you work hard and go home at the end of the day you feel like you've accomplished something."

Beckley's success led to a series of promotions that ended his stint in rock-and-roll and started his full-time career with Vail resorts. By the early 1990s, he was named managing director of Beaver Creek mountain, a position he held for 10 years. "Mike definitely had a passion for the resort," said John Garnsey, chief operating officer for Beaver Creek Resort, "He had a passion for the lifestyle ... and that helped him communicate with the constituencies of the resort."

Throughout his career, Beckley said he worked with and around extraordinarily talented people. Not just artists like his brother; but managers like David Geffen, founder of Geffen Records and now a partner in Dreamworks SKG; and myriad management personalities at Vail and Beaver Creek resorts. Taking a cue from a management guru, he developed his own personal board of directors to tap the expertise of his peers and protagonists. "The concept is that you pick three or four people that you really admire," he explained. "You go to them and you literally say, 'I would like you to be on my personal board of directors. I'm going to call you from time to time and I'm going to ask you for advice.' It is amazing what a healthy dynamic that is. There is a code of honesty."

But honesty means hearing the good and the bad, and he said some tough comments from a member of his board helped him improve his performance.

"It had to do with ... my not understanding snowmaking," Beckley said. "What, basically, this person said is, 'The snowmakers like you, but they don't respect you.' That was a tough pill to swallow. I sensed they liked me, but why didn't they respect me?" The answer was a lack of understanding for the difficulties of their job. "So I tried to get back to developing that expertise," he said. And while the negative comments were hard to listen to, the experience proved the effectiveness of his personal board. "You need a series of people who can steer you in the right directions," he said. "I would recommend it for anybody. I was going to say anybody in business, but really anybody."

Beckley said managers whose philosophies he didn't admire also taught him what not to do.

"Let me say to begin with, I'm not overly comfortable with the term 'managing,'" he said. "To me it's not so much about managing, it's about facilitating, letting them do what they do well. I think that bad managers don't listen and bad managers don't build teams. I so believe in teams -- the power of a Maria (Maria Wright, sales and club administrator) and a Dave McAtee (Catamount's club outfitter and fishing guide) who get us there -- rather than me saying, 'I'm the one, follow me.'"

Managers have to say, "This team is going to win," Beckley said, and then check their egos on the sidelines.
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Title Annotation:Catamount Ranch & Club
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Previous Article:getting ready for snow at copper mountain.
Next Article:WHO OWNS VAIL?

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