Executive Exodus Part of ‘Reset’
TELLURIDE – Chuck Horning, the owner of the Telluride Ski and Golf Company, said this week that he has no intention of stepping back from day-to-day, hands-on management of the business.
Nor does he have any interest in selling the company, Horning said in an interview scheduled at the request of The Watch to discuss recent changes in management at the company.
“I have no intention of ever selling [the ski company],” he said. “I’m focused on how we can make this great in the long term. I love it. I’m quite enthused and committed to getting this company reset.”
Horning described the “reset” as both necessary in order to put the business on a sustainable financial footing and to ensure a departure from the management style of his former CEO, Dave Riley, whose contract Horning terminated in August.
Where previous management was a “top down,” Horning said, he prefers a “decentralized” management structure that includes asking questions of employees at every level and customers as to how operations might be improved.
Following the change in management from prior CEO Riley to Horning and the subsequent launch of the reset at the start of this ski season, at least nine longtime company executives and department managers have left the company.
They include executives and managers in finance, legal, food and beverage, sales and marketing, mountain operations, the ski and golf club, snowmaking, and retail.
Horning said that some employees have left since he took charge for personal reasons and some because they either could not or did not want to adapt to a new management philosophy.
Although Horning has not taken an executive title, he affirmed Tuesday that he is responsible for making major business decisions at the company. But, he said, “decisions are made based on good information after going through assessments.”
“We’re less of a corporate structure and more a group of people working together,” Horning said. He said that the company was formerly encumbered by too much bureaucracy, along with low morale.
The vacant positions brought on by management departures have been filled in most cases by moving employees in the affected departments up to management positions, Horning said.
“People enthusiastically want things to be different,” Horning said. “But when it comes down to making changes, it’s difficult.”
Horning was joined in the interview by two senior executives, Jeff Proteau, who oversees mountain operations, and Ken Stone, who is directing sales and marketing. Both said that Horning has “shaken up” Telski’s corporate culture and work environment for the better. As an example, Proteau said that he and Horning spoke directly to employees in the snowmaking department and were able to very quickly determine where improvements can be made for next season.
One of the bigger businesses Horning managed prior to purchasing the Telluride Ski Resort in 2003 was American Health Centers, which had between 2,000 and 3,000 employees, he said. A division of Horning’s holding company, Newport Federal, American Health Centers built and operated healthcare facilities. Horning no longer owns American Health Centers.
Over time, he said, that business was also “decentralized” under his direction.