Q&A with Randy Van Horn
By Brandon Walker
One may not see signs or banners advertising Handy Randy’s Maintenance scattered around the Big Sky area, and that’s for good reason: there aren’t any. Founder and owner Randy Van Horn—the only employee in his business—operates his maintenance services strictly on a word-of-mouth basis and has for nearly 15 years.
Van Horn has a background in a wide array of industries. Before starting his own business, he worked construction jobs, with scrap metal, and even ventured into plumbing.
Born and primarily raised in Morris, Minnesota, it didn’t take long for Van Horn to visit Montana for the first time. The first experiences he recalls are his childhood summers spent at his father’s Wheat Farm in Fort Benton, Montana. After attending two years at Alexandria Technical College where he focused on production agriculture, Van Horn was steered down a new path by his grandfather who advised him it wasn’t an opportune time to start in the agriculture industry. From there he went on to Southwest Technical School where received a degree as a machinist.
Van Horn moved to Livingston and became an avid outdoorsman. He enjoys hiking, camping and skiing among other activities, and was naturally drawn to the Big Sky area. Explore Big Sky caught up with Van Horn to discuss how he operates his small business and what got him started.
Explore Big Sky: How long have you been in the business? When did you originally start?
Randy Van Horn: When I married my wife, Beth, I was working for Harvey’s [Plumbing] and she said ‘I don’t want you driving the canyon once we get married,’ and I said ‘OK, what do you want me to do?’ She says, ‘Well you seem pretty handy since I’ve known you. Why don’t you start your own maintenance business; I know enough people up here.’ The rest is history.
EBS: What differentiates your service from any other maintenance service provider in the area?
R.V.H.: Maybe a good work ethic. Since I’ve started my business I’ve never advertised; it’s all been word of mouth and I’ve never been without work. Somehow work always finds me. I never have to look for it. I’m always busy, sometimes a little bit too busy because I have a hard time saying no.
EBS: What is the biggest obstacle that you face running a business in a Montana ski town?
R.V.H.: From my experience, I don’t know that there really is any. I always kid that I have three employees: me, myself, and I. So if I want to take a day off, I have to ask I and I says yes and me says ok.
EBS: What is something you wish you had known before starting your own company in Big Sky?
R.V.H.: I mean for me personally I can’t really think of anything …Throughout my jobs and everything I’ve been in different positions where I know kind of what to expect. For anybody else getting into a business I would just say, you know, do your homework, don’t just jump in with both feet. Find out what you’re getting into so you have a better outcome.
EBS: What is the best business advice that you’ve ever received?
R.V.H.: Always do the best quality work you can for your customers.