Friday, April 18, 2014

Retired Life

The thing about being retired is that you don't have to be worried in the least about whether you are wasting your time or doing things that might appear weird or out of place. Without the yoke of a 9-to-5 job, or an all-consuming personal business, or a supervisor or a manager to pin you down, choices open up everywhere.

Sometimes on the way home from the golf course (nothing unusual about that for a retired guy) I will just veer off, head down to Cottonwood Road, wind around the bottom of the mountain slopes and then turn up Hyalite Canyon to the reservoir or beyond,
Hyalite Canyon scarp and cliffs.
enjoying the scenery every mile of the way, and taking in the joy of hikers, campers, fisherpeople, hunters and boaters, here and there.

Then there was last January. For a week I picked up stakes and hung out in Bismarck, North Dakota, during its coldest winter in decades. One night I ate at a Red Lobster, because, well, I never had. There were blizzard and blizzard-like conditions daily. I mean, what kind of a whacko nut travels to Bismarck in the middle of the winter except someone whose work compels it? Me! The payoff has been some extraordinary blog posts on family history, with more to come. I actually can't wait to get back to the State Historical Society of North Dakota and dig some more.

Now, I was confident the Bismarck trip would have a substantial payoff. My next journey, I really don't know.

We have owned stock in this company or that for decades. Each spring we are inundated with annual reports and proxy statements, asking us to approve the election of board directors we have never heard of, requesting we anoint the appointment of auditors as if there was a real choice, begging ratification of the compensation of senior officers, and imprecating approval of some obscure by-law or charter change, understanding full well the change is almost always motivated by a desire to protect the interests of management. We check the boxes affirmatively and return the statements in the post paid business reply envelopes provided because it is good for postal revenues and we know that as an individual investor our only real remedy to deal with a company whose management we don't like is to sell our fractional interest. In other words, fire the company.

I have never been to an annual shareholders and voted in person. That is going to change this month.

I'll gas up the Jeep Liberty, head west on I-90 through the Gallitan Valley and across the continental divide at Homestake Pass, through Butte and past Red Lodge, along to Missoula. From Missoula I'll head north on US 93, skirting the shore of Flathead Lake, up to my ultimate destination of Kalispell. Kalispell bills itself as "a dynamic community located within a thirty-minute drive of Flathead Lake, Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort, Glacier National Park, several National and State forests and parks, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness area." While I might stick my head in at some of these scenic byways along the way my very specific goal is the Hilton Garden Inn, for that is where Glacier Bancorp (GBCI) is holding its annual shareholders meeting.

It will be a gray hair gathering. Seven of the nine board members are older than I. There are a couple of attorneys, a CPA, an oil man, a developer, a Blue Cross/Blue Shield gal, a former bank regulator, and an optometrist represented.

The director whom I am actually a bit interested in seeing is one John W. Murdoch who founded Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply, headquartered here in Bozeman, now operating 23 stores in four states. Their flagship store on North 7th Street on the the outskirts of town is where I go to buy stuff that keeps me warm and makes me look Montanan. 

John Murdoch had been in the ranch and home supply business for some 36 years. He figured there had to be a way to introduce all the good and useful stuff from that tradition to everyday folks like you and me, but still maintain the interest of ranchers. He also figured that if you did the basics right—even when building a retail store—it would surely succeed.
One day, John took the opportunity to put his ideas down on paper, a paper napkin, actually. On that uncomplicated surface he wrote these three basic principles: carry lots of down-to-earth merchandise; be a place where the whole family likes to visit; and be a place where the customer is always met with thanks. So with a big idea, a paper napkin and a few ideals that withstand the test of time—the story of Murdoch’s began to take root.
John got down to business, and in 1994 his first store opened its doors. On that inaugural day in Bozeman, Montana, the flagship store was outfitted with five eager employees, eighteen big, wide parking spaces out front and more than a few crossed fingers and toes. The hope was that the new store would appeal to the town’s local ranchers, outdoor people, and well, most everyone else. Turns out that John was onto something, and by 1996 the bustling store needed room to grow. That’s when he moved the store to its present location in Bozeman. The story spread like wildfire, and two short years later Murdoch’s expanded yet again—this time to almost 50,000 square feet with literally thousands of first-rate products on the floor. Along the way, more stores were opened in Montana and other all-American towns like Montrose, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. In 2004 the name was changed to Murdoch’s. 
Today, Murdoch’s is proud to have 23 stores spanning four states. Our family of stores is staffed with more than 1,000 dedicated employees—all friendly, knowledgeable folks who are there to help!
There is free popcorn on the way out. A spring ritual has become stopping in when the baby chicks arrive early spring, and checking out the cute, furry little meal mates, under heat lamps, before they are sold off to the rural and home-spun town crowd. If I show up at Glacier's annual meeting wearing Carhartt, I don't think Mr. Murdoch will mind.

And if the meeting is a wash out, at least I can swing up to Glacier National Park and file a personal report on how the spring plowing is proceeding on Going-to-the-Sun Road.


1 comment:

  1. On balance, this is sensational work and lots of it. It is an accomplishment that will truly be cherished for generations to come SRF