Whenever Austin Adventures led travelers on memorable trips to exotic locations, Kasey Austin wasn’t far behind.
“My dad was either working in the office or leading trips, and I was always the kid tagging along,” said Austin, who is vice president of operations for the Billings-based adventure travel company. “I wanted to help out chopping up the vegetables, and I loved washing the dishes. When we did guide training, we would have a lot of them sleeping in tents. I just thought as a kid it was cool to grow up in this environment.”
Austin received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at the University of Montana. But the family business drew her back.
Last year Austin’s job took her to Holland and Australia. She also participated in a guided trip through Yellowstone National Park. She has visited every corner of the world. But so far, Peru has been her favorite country to visit.
“I just love the mountains and the people, and I love attempting my horrible Spanglish,” she said.
Describe how you got where you are in your work today: 1. Hard work (long hours and unwavering focus). 2. Full dedication to the adventure travel business. 3. A willingness to jump into just about any situation (whether it’s traveling to Costa Rica to train 40 guides on the way we do business or writing a blog on the “Top 10 Hidden Corners of US National Parks” and 4. A love for what I do (both office and field work!)
What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Every year, our business deals with what we call “guide drama,” and since I’m the direct supervisor of all of our guides, it’s me who gets to solve the problems. Sometimes these problems are simple — for example, Katie is missing an Austin Adventures T-shirt for a guest and needs me to overnight a package to her. Other times, the challenges are much bigger, such as when a pair of guides who are supposed to guide with each other for 12 weeks straight end up not liking each other after week one, and I either have to step in as mediator or move guides around in the schedule. Since this is such a crazy business to be a part of, I deal with all sorts of strange problems, such as finding out where a repair shop is in the middle of nowhere for a bear who tried to rip into a trailer or figuring out what the best menu to serve would be for a person who only eats foods that are both gluten free and vegan.
What did you learn from that challenge? The ability to remain calm and clearheaded is the most important part of solving any kind of challenge. I’ve also learned that there’s never one way to solve a problem, and once I got my head around that idea, I’ve been much more efficient at finding solutions.
What’s the best business advice you have received? Delegate. Part of managing and working with others is learning to share the workload and being a team player. Loving to work independently myself, this has been difficult for me to accept, but I’m quickly learning that I can’t do everything on my own, and working closely with our guide team and office staff has shown me that teaming up on projects and problems is the efficient way to do things. Aww, what a relief!
Who gave you that advice? My dad and my supervisor at AA, Christy Hamill.
Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’d like to continue serving as head of the Yellowstone Riverfront Trails Committee to get more bike trails and connecting trails in Billings.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? I measure success in many different ways, but most of all I wouldn’t be successful if I didn’t love doing what I do.
Which living person do you most admire? My dad, hands down. Anyone who knows me could tell you that. He is the reason I am successful at all to this day. Every move he makes seems to be for my benefit. I owe so much to him.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Graduating as a Presidential Leadership Scholar from the University of Montana in 2011.
I’m happiest when I’m… Hiking or traveling. I just returned from a monthlong work trip to Africa this week.