Touchdown at the OK Corral: A case study

As he turned to pick the football from the air, Doug Stevenson reflected on the day's events. He had brought his sales managers to this Wyoming dude ranch to help them refocus after an exceptionally bad quarter.

The 10,000 acre spread had begun life as a hobby ranch for an East Coast management consultant. His income had declined as his telecom customers had imploded, one by one.

Looking for some extra revenue, he opened his eighteen bedroom ranch to Fortune 500 management teams looking for a little direction and a few days away from the grind.

Together, the consultant and the salesmen had drilled down to some core objectives, identifying accounts with greater potential for growth, and those needing pruning.

That all changed as Stevenson planted his foot in the loose gravel. A pull, then a twinge, finally searing pain: he dropped to the ground with a torn MCL. As the sales managers rushed to help their fallen leader, Ranch Director Clark Griswold had greater worries on his mind: he hadn't paid the liability insurance premiums in months, and his only ranch hand with first-aid training had quit.

It only got worse: the ranch 4x4 was down with a broken axle, and a late summer rainstorm had made the road into town impassable.

Clark had been the original employee at the ranch: he had arrived to build a new 8 car garage, and stayed on as the business grew. He proved an able manager, a smooth trade show worker, gifted with event promotions and an aptitude for customer service.

Unfortunately, he was not a well-rounded communicator. The only crisis plan currently in place dealt with fire emergencies and been prepared after a hefty fine was threatened by the county fire inspector.

There were many problems facing Clark:

  • the existing marketing and promotion activities largely depended upon word-of-mouth communication and the owner's good reputation - a crisis might undermine the whole business plan
  • the poor handling of this crisis might prompt existing bookings by high-end meeting planners and executives to drop off
  • camp management hadn't discussed covering extraordinary costs - like emergency medical airlift - which now posed an immediate budget problem
  • the short range radio system hadn't been designed for so many conversations, sometimes rendering it useless. It now prevented Clark from calling the other campers back to the ranchhouse
  • a small Western town in late spring wasn't used to airlifts and fancy Eastern executives. The injury and outsized medical attention would be making the state news that night
  • a lawsuit was likely - the wrong steps or comments at the outset could affect any settlement

    What do you think the ranch's next step should be?

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