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A New Business Venture: Designing Elevators in Montana with Lauren Wheaton | Friends of Build Magazine #80

Ted speaks with Lauren Wheaton of Big Sky Elevator Services in Montana. She and her husband wrapped up their businesses in California when their kids went to college and decided to start a new venture in Missoula, Montana by taking over an existing family business designing and installing high-end elevators. They knew nothing about elevators, especially not luxury residential installations, but a few years later they’re thriving.

Today Ted speaks with Lauren Wheaton of Big Sky Elevator Services in Montana. After leaving behind California and their businesses there, Lauren and her husband started a new venture in Missoula by taking over an existing luxury elevator business. 

Transitioning to a 4 day work week, taking advantage of the amazing outdoor amenities, and enjoying the Montana way of life has been an incredible experience. Listen in as Lauren shares how the demand for this luxurious amenity has skyrocketed, and how they handle being the only Savaria dealer in the state through extraordinary company culture and a new apprenticeship program.

TOPICS DISCUSSED

  • [1:30] The journey to Montana
  • [3:50] Life before the elevator business
  • [4:20] Big Sky Elevator introduction
  • [5:00] What has surprised you the most? 4 day work week.
  • [7:40] The demand for elevators in residential construction
  • [9:40] The craziest realization after joining the elevator business
  • [11:25] Benefits of being a Savaria Dealer
  • [13:15] Working in Montana and unique installations
  • [15:50] What are builders looking for when they partner with you?
  • [18:38] How difficult is it to find technicians?
  • [19:35] Operating a business in California vs. Montana
  • [22:00] Construction/engineering as a transition to elevators
  • [23:00] How to pre-empt service calls?
  • [24:40] Reasons to buy elevators in the past vs. the present
  • [26:50] What are the main questions people have for elevators?
  • [28:00] What is the cost?
  • [29:30] How did you end up buying an elevator company?
  • [32:00] How have you grown the business?
  • [33:10] Where do you see the company 5 years from now?
  • [36:20] Are you glad you bought the business?
  • [39:25] What was a challenge or obstacle you overcame and how does it define you today?

CONNECT WITH GUEST Laruen Wheaton

KEY QUOTES FROM EPISODE 

  • There’s a tremendous demand now. I don’t know if it existed in the past, but the residential demand for elevators is just incredible. It’s gone through the roof, and obviously the entire state is growing, so you also have a commercial growth as well. 
  • We have to schedule around everybody’s hunting schedule in October and November, but other than that, we don’t get sick days at all.
  • We are unique, I think, in the fact that we are headquartered in Missoula. So we are hands down on the ground in Montana. We go and we do multiple site checks. So when they’re putting in these elevators, we don’t just send them a drawing and hope they construct to it.