“The first time I thought that living in Peoa and working in Salt Lake could really work was the day my partner called saying that there had been a bad accident with one of our clients’ companies—a helicopter had gone down,” says attorney Larry Stevens. “I spent the day on the phone with insurers, inspectors and potential witnesses. At 6 p.m. I realized I was still wearing my T-shirt and boxers. Nobody new it!”
Stevens is one of an ever-increasing group of Utahns who live in rural areas but manage regional and even international businesses with the help of technology.
From River Bottom to Big City
“It’s drop-dead gorgeous,” Stevens says of Peoa, which is 15 miles east of Park City. “We live on 30 acres of ground along the Weber River, right on the river bottom, with horses and all kinds of wildlife.” Rural beauty and quiet was what drew Stevens to Peoa and what keeps him there. He is a trial lawyer with Parsons Behle & Latimer (PB&L), a Salt Lake City firm, but works in the PB&L Salt Lake office only two or three times a week. “I draft and review documents and participate in conference calls in Peoa all the time,” Stevens says. PB&L technology converts voicemail messages to e-mail, which Stevens can view on his Blackberry or laptop wherever he is.
“Sometimes, Peoa can seem almost too remote,” Stevens says. He and his wife keep a condo in Salt Lake, so they can eat dinner with city friends on Friday nights and then stay over.
Stevens recently completed a different sort of high tech commuting as general counsel for Resolution Copper Company, a related entity to Rio Tinto, which is a PB&L client. Rio Tinto wanted a PB&L lawyer to supervise legal matters in Superior, Arizona, an old mining town 60 miles east of Phoenix. For a year, Stevens worked three weeks per month in Superior on two separate computers and two separate Blackberries. Sometimes he was in Salt Lake doing work for the Arizona mine; sometimes he was in Arizona taking an email or phone call for a Utah client.
Llamas and Benefits
For three years, Salt Lakers Shirley Weathers and Bill Walsh spent their weekends in Fruitland, in the western part of Duchesne County. In 1996 they decided to move there permanently. They were working with Utah Issues, a private non-profit, but realized they couldn’t keep their Salt Lake jobs or find jobs in Duchesne with their current skill sets.
Weathers and Walsh set up a consulting business, similar to Utah Issues. They now consult on health care, welfare and special education issues through Walsh and Weathers Research and Policy Studies. Weathers and Walsh network with people around the country who work with Congress and the U.S. presidential administrations on social issues. They also lead pack tours and day hikes, with 12 llamas and teach llama-packing clinics through another company, Rosebud Llamas Utah. They run a guest house as part of that business.
Recently, Weathers and Walsh set up another business, UWISE.BIZ, to help the disabled create their own businesses. They received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to identify gaps in Utah self-employment services for people with disabilities. They have worked with the Small Business Administration, Workforce Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, Association of Independent Living and others to study the services Utah has for people with disabilities, and to identify gaps in those services. “We provide the services that traditional small business experts, such as SCORE, the SBA and the Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Center, don’t provide,” Weathers says. UWISE.BIZ now offers fee-for-service advice directly to business owners with disabilities, often paid for their work by third party payers.
“We do a lot of work by e-mail, over the phone, on our Website and we meet face-to-face with our clients on occasion,” Walsh says. “We can live in a rural area, with a creek running through our property, but we’re also really in touch with the issues going on around the country.”
Janson Riley of Pro-Tec Design Group designs gold processing equipment for several mines around the world. He visited Turkey seven times in the last several years, but spends most of his time working out of his home office in Ivins, Utah, outside of St. George.
Riley keeps in touch with his project team during weekly technical meetings using SKYPE technology. “I can talk with people 8,000 miles away and there’s no delay—it’s just like being there.”
He uses autoCAD, e-mails and whiteboard software so participants in different locations around the world can look at the same project drawings at the meeting and make comments on them. “We take turns marking up the drawings and saying, ‘What do you think?’ and ‘I think we ought to do this.’” Riley also relies on highly specialized design equipment—an autocad design tools—AutoCAD software program and aincluding Inventor 3-D modeling system—to create world-class gold processing plant technology.
Utah has a significant presence in the gold industry, Riley says. Bountiful-based Summit Valley Equipment, for which he is a consultant, is a major engineering/design and manufacturer of gold equipment. St. George Steel fabricates the steel for the gold equipment.
During his career as a senior project and equipment designer, Riley completed projects in Turkey, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Central and South America, the Dominican Republic, as well as in Nevada and Utah. “The red rock country of Southern Utah is mineral rich,” says Riley. “And Nevada has some of the best mining country in the world.”
In addition to his gold equipment design work, Riley is a professional landscape photographer. He and his wife, Vicky, love the red rock country and have an online gallery at www.lifelitecreations.com
. They are planning to build a bricks and mortar “four seasons gallery” in Ivins in the near future as well.
Faxed From the Country
Mary Flood, an investment advisor with Inverness Counsel, a New York City-based company, sees her full-time office assistant only five or six times a year. They talk on the phone, though, every day.
“We scan everything, such as tax returns, trusts and correspondence,” says Flood, who lives on seven acres of land near Oakley in Summit County.
Flood’s assistant, who lives in Roy, Utah, keeps paper files for Flood’s clients, who live in various locations across the United States. And Flood occasionally sends letters and makes phone calls, but most communications with clients are by e-mail. “The older clients ask, ‘Where are you, anyway?’ But, the younger clients don’t ask or care. It doesn’t dawn on them that it’s an issue [for some].”
Flood moved to Oakley for the rural lifestyle. “We have a school bus behind the house, a back hoe in the front yard and no driveway,” she says. “We raise our own meat and eat fruits and vegetables from our garden. I can see the night sky and nobody tells me it’s so polluted I can’t breathe today.”
Flood has several suggestions for using a remote assistant. “It’s helpful to have some time in an office together before you try to work remotely,” she says. “We spent a year together thinking how it would work. We’d say, ‘Let’s pretend we’re not together. How would we handle this task?’ We also needed a level of trust, since my assistant handles clients’ money.”
Airline Reservation Mom
Jennifer Peacock lives in Herriman, Utah, where there are still horses, fields and lots of open area. “If people ask me what I do, I say I’m a stay-at-home mom,” says Peacock. She is also a “crew member” for JetBlue and has been making reservations for them since 1999.
According to Cris Palauni, JetBlue manager of reservations, all JetBlue reservation crewmembers work from home. The agents are responsible for providing a phone line and broadband access, and JetBlue provides routers, phones and computers.
The majority of crewmembers work part time, 24 hours per week or less. Approximately 85 percent of them are women, and are typically in their late 20s to 40s with children at home. JetBlue has 1,200 reservations agents working along the Wasatch Front, from Orem to Ogden, and from Herriman to Tooele.
“Utah women make great reservations agents because so many are patient and accommodating, with pleasant voices and demeanors,” says Palauni.
JetBlue founder and Salt Lake native Dave Neeleman suggested the reserva-tion system.
“We’ve pioneered this home-based reservation system so successfully that we get several calls every month from other companies asking how we do it,” says Palauni. “We host a monthly conference call explaining how we make this staffing model work.”
Besides being home with her children, Peacock likes earning an income while saving on gas, clothing and time spent driving to and from work, and can do her work when her husband is at home.
“I have a separate room that’s my office, and my husband watches the kids,” she says. During my break, I can put my kids in bed, fix the pillows or throw blankets on. I always know that everyone in my family is safe.”