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Entrepreneur Insights: 6 tips for dealing with the unexpected

Entrepreneur Insights: 6 tips for dealing with the unexpected

Posted on: May 28, 2013
Author: ATB Business & Agriculture

Famed horse wrangler and motion picture man John Scott shares his tips for problem-solving when animals, weather, and faulty parachutes disrupt your plans.

Third-generation Alberta rancher John Scott has his dusty cowboy boots firmly planted in two worlds. Impressively, both worlds thrive on his rambling ranch at the foothills of the Rockies near Longview.

First comes the actual ranching. John and his ranch manager Cathy Sutherland run a successful cow-calf operation, bison herd, and herd of over 100 horses. It's a labour of love for the man who continues to work the land his grandfather homesteaded in 1904.

But his grandfather probably didn't anticipate the success of John's second business: motion pictures. You see, the Scott Ranch has hosted dozens of movies, commercials, and TV shows, and the Scott horses, wagons, and gear (cowboys call it "tack") have travelled across the continent to appear on the big and small screen.

John started as a riding extra and stunt man in the early 1970s, built his own herd of horses and collection of props and sets, and is now the leading man of Alberta's blockbuster motion picture industry.

How did he do it? Hard work, a love of the outdoors, and a thirst for adventure have surely helped. And the ability to tackle unexpected challenges with positivity (and a solid plan B) has come in handy on more than one occasion.

Every business experiences its own surprises. Here are John's tips for tackling yours:

  1. Accept that you can't control everything all the time (especially horses).

    "Sometimes a horse will have an off-day. You think that everything's going to be fine, but there's something that doesn't appeal to him, or he doesn't like something. And boy, it doesn't matter what you do."

    "A horse can make you look like a king or he can humble you and make you look like a tramp."
  2. Have a Plan B...and C.

    "We had another picture for a company out of Montreal. We had to drop Peugeot cars out of an airplane, and they come to the ground on a parachute, then a guy jumps in and flies around the countryside with it. But one of the times the parachute didn't open and the car just punched through the ice."

    "Fortunately, we had three cars, but things like that can really throw you off—you've got to be thinking quick."
  3. Start each day with optimism and curiosity.

    "It's always interesting to get up and see a new day—see what the challenge is going to be for that day and what a director's going to throw at you and what he's going to ask of you, and see how you can make it happen."
  4. Don't let a little sleep stand in the way of your commitments.

    "I had booked a mare and a colt to come to a shoot at 8:00 the next morning. 9:00 at night, I get a call that the colt's died. Now between 9:00 at night and 8:00 in the morning, I've got to find another mare and colt, so I'm on the phone for a long time. Finally, you get it done, but it puts a lot of pressure on you."
  5. Find a banker you can lean on.

    "In agriculture, things will hit you that you cannot see coming, such as BSE or a plant closing down because of E. coli and you can't ship your cattle, or you get drought. You try to plan for things, but you just can't expect what's going to hit, and that's when you need somebody good on your side in the finance business to help carry you through the dry times... You've got to have somebody that believes in you."
  6. If you have to fly by the seat of your pants, have fun doing it!

    "When we started off, we started pretty tough. We didn't have much for good equipment; we didn't have any tack trailers. Everything was thrown in the back of a pick-up truck. Everything was fly by the seat of your pants."

    "But I had the expertise of the guys that were great riders and we could pull it off. Whether we had mediocre horses, poor horses, or good horses, we always made it work and we had a lot of fun doing it."

To hear more from John other successful Alberta entrepreneurs, visit our We Grow Alberta page

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