By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer
Scott Hammond established Hammond Property Management in 1997 and now manages 24 home-owner and property associations, spanning from commercial and retail to condominiums complexes all over Big Sky. Hammond employs 18 staff, the longest serving of whom, Ryan Welch, has worked with Hammond for 16 years.
They conduct weekly inspections on homes, facilitate sub-contractors for maintenance work, plow and shovel properties, provide consultation and advice to mostly volunteer boards and respond to 24-hour emergency access to clients.
As part of this ongoing series, Scott Hammond shared his thoughts with EBS about what it takes to make it as a small business owner in Big Sky.
Explore Big Sky: What has been the key to your success?
Scott Hammond: That’s easy, long-term relationships, including with staff, sub-contractors and, of course, clients. I am most proud of HPM’s ability to maintain healthy long-term personal and professional connections with the people of Big Sky.
EBS: Do you remember your first customer or first sale?
S.H.: Yes, in September of 1997, Clyde DeShields hired me to manage his Meadow Village property. I am happy to say all these years later I still work for Clyde and his family.
EBS: What are the biggest obstacles to operating a property management company in Big Sky?
S.H.: Staffing, the cost of living, and limited housing options as some major ones, but also being an hour from the supplies and services of Bozeman.
Specifically, property management work covers such a variety of services, keeping the costs and expenses of sub-contracted services reasonably priced is a big challenge, and with the surge in new construction this has been even more difficult lately.
EBS: How has the business landscape changed since you started out?
S.H.: A larger pool of competition, new property management companies opening and numerous ownership changes among them has been prevalent of late. The demographics of some of the HOA’s we manage have changed. Ownership user patterns have changed. Where once vacation ownership was prevalent; we have seen a shift toward permanent resident and long-term rental us-age. This pattern shift in ownership has required changes in management of the properties. The ad-vent of VRBO and Airbnb have also changed the climate of HOA management.
EBS: What is it about Big Sky that compels you to stick it out through the hard times?
S.H.: Our location and people. The outdoor recreational options are just so good. When I visit other areas of Montana, you realize that our combination of skiing, Nordic trails, mountain bike trails, fishing, mountain bike riding, hunting and access to public ground is truly exceptional. I have found over the years that the people of Big Sky are genuine and hearty souls.
EBS: What is one of the most memorable moments you have had as a resident/business owner in Big Sky?
S.H.: There are many. But generally speaking in business, it’s the times that myself or my staff makes a mistake. I have witnessed that owning up to it, quickly rectifying it, learning from it, and then moving forward can be rewarding. That, and when I first learned that they were building a tram to the peak.
EBS: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
S.H.: This is a funny one, I read Doug Bing’s “Making it in Big Sky” [Blue Ribbon Builders] earlier this year. He stole mine: “always do what you say you’re going to do,” which is what my first client, Clyde DeSheilds, told me almost 22 years ago. It has always stuck with me. But I must add a favorite: “Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.”
EBS: What advice would you give to small business owners just starting out in Big Sky?
S.H.: Be aware of what a great client base Big Sky offers. We have large, intelligent and often appreciative group of customers here in Big Sky. Hold your staff and employees high, support them, and understand how challenging it can be to afford to live and work here. Remember, it’s a tough hiring environment. Be prepared for the shoulder seasons, and don’t forget to enjoy the woods around us.
EBS: Where do you see your business in 10 years?
S.H.: I hope to be moving forward, working towards making the HOA’s we manage great places to live while maintaining the great staff we have now.
EBS: Where do you see Big Sky in 20 years?
S.H.: That’s a tough one. I would rather tell you where I hope we can be. First and foremost, I hope that Big Sky can have numerous affordable, deed-restricted homes for locals and their families. I hope to see the school district continue to thrive and grow. I believe that Town Center and Meadow Village can grow with solid urban planning, with an emphasis on pedestrian-friendly design and access to the woods around us. I see an expansion of the mountain biking specific trail system (selfishly).
Generally, I hope that further development is controlled and considerate to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in which we all reside.