Beyond the Build


Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: What Rounding Up the Herd Taught Me About Business Prospects

In previous posts, I’ve shared with you how important it is to me take time away from the office to clear your mind, opening it up to see new possibilities. You’ll be amazed at the clarity you find when you take a step back and focus on the bigger picture.

My annual visit to the Dakotas is no exception. Buffalo Gap, South Dakota is in the Black Hills, about 50 miles south of Rapid, and certainly qualifies as one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been making the trip every October for the better part of two decades. Each year, I stay at Hartshorn’s Ranch, a sprawling 6-mile by 10-mile place that borders the Cheyenne River and is home to cattle ranchers who have been my longtime friends. The few days I spend there afford me a complete change of scenery and pace. I get in a little pheasant hunting and help them round up cattle.

We ride the rolling hills of the range with its many valleys, gorges and creek bottoms looking for the cows that have spread out since last May. I jokingly say that when I get through riding to the south end of the property I’m in Nebraska. I at least feel like I have traveled that far.

As I rode this week I got to thinking that the cattle business is much like our businesses during these times. We are all out there looking for prospects in the valleys, gorges and creek bottoms of the current economy. Business is rarely staring us in the face, but it’s still there to be gathered up. It’s slowly getting better. You just have to have a keen eye, perseverance and the ability to stay in the saddle for a long period.

I found all those things true on my trip. By the end, I was tired and could hardly get off the horse, but I was able to count it another successful year. We gathered 246 head from the range, then drove them to a corner where two barbed wired fences meet. From there, we drove them back several miles, across the Cheyenne River and on to the ranch.

Even with all that careful attention, there are still two pairs unaccounted for. Once the weather turns cold, the last ones will make it to the corner and figure out it’s time to come back to the ranch. I encourage you to work hard, then watch as your business comes ambling back in. It will be well worth the time in the saddle.

Check out more of my experience at Hartshorn’s Ranch on my flickr photostream.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.