Ranchers of the Year Award

2008 Ranchers of the Year
Wayne and Judy Kilpatrick
Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana

What sets the Ranchers of the Year apart from the operators of hundreds of other great ranches Gene Kilgore has visited? Some criteria are specific, such as: ensuring the ranch offers an amazing menu, lodging that brings both comfort and style, and offering a wide range of activities to guests. Others are less concrete: the way they’ve responded to challenges that face every dude and guest ranch owner—including maintaining a top-notch staff and keeping up with the times with innovative programs and offerings.

And the general managers of the Triple Creek Ranch meet all those criteria and more. After some 25 years as general managers of the ranch, Wayne and Judy Kilpatrick are still enchanted by their surroundings here in the heart of the Bitterroot Mountains.

Today it’s bitterly cold, with 8 inches of snow on the ground, but Wayne Kilpatrick feels like he’s in Heaven. “I’m living the lifestyle some people only dream about,” he notes, “surrounded by wildlife, mountains, clean air, and with a pretty short commute!”

But don’t let him kid you—he and wife Judy have no simple job managing a ranch with a lodge, 23 cabins with all the amenities, horses, herds of cattle, a full program of activities (from fly fishing and hiking to cattle work) and a staff of about 50. Yet, from the welcome basket of warm cookies to the tasteful décor and extraordinary service to guests, it all happens seamlessly.

Their secrets? “We make sure our staff has the opportunity to travel and work in other top facilities,” notes Kilpatrick. “It helps them to learn new techniques and to stay on top of trends.” And the décor? “You just have to keep current and freshen them constantly,” says Judy Kilpatrick.

How do they keep performing at such a high level?

“You have to believe in the concept of service,” believes Kilpatrick, “and teach your staff that it feels good to do fun, individual things for guests,” he adds.

 “It takes effort, but it says you care,” he believes. And if you convince the staff to care at that level, it makes a huge difference, Kilpatrick continues. 

“Once it has happened, they know how cool it is and how much fun it is; they get reinforcement for doing it—and maybe a tip,” he says. He also adds that the whole staff gets a share of gratuities. “So they all understand the importance of that level of service. The system does work—but the manager has to be a facilitator and believer.”

You can’t argue with results, which is why we’re honored to present Wayne and Judy Kilpatrick with Gene Kilgore’s award for Ranchers of the Year, 2008.


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