Positive Changes in the Way We Work, Learn, and Live as a Result of COVID 19

The coronavirus created a global health crisis, disrupted economies and stock markets across the world, and has left so much uncertainty about our future. Now, as the world struggles to get back to normal, it is clear that the outbreak will create lasting changes in the way we work, learn and live. This article highlights  many of the positive outcomes that have occurred as a result of COVID 19.

The Way We Work

-Increase in Ability to Work Remotely

With so many employees forced to work from home during this pandemic, it’s given employers plenty of reasons to re-think their work from home policies. Companies are seeing that working from home during this time is actually having a positive effect on productivity. A recent YouGov survey found that 54% of respondents, professionals age 18-74, feel that they are actually more productive. The reasons for this, they said, were less time spent commuting (71%), fewer distractions from coworkers (61%) and fewer meetings (39%).

Many employees are actually happier working from home, at least on a part-time basis. Employees are saying that they don’t want to give up this benefit when it’s time to go back.  It’s going to be difficult to take this away from employees now that they have had the chance to experience working remotely. Employers who don’t adjust to this “new” normal may lose valuable employees. This is indicated by a recent Gallup survey showing that 54% of US workers would leave their current job for one that would allow them a flexible work arrangement. 

Employers should also consider the effect of working remotely on employee engagement. Years of Gallup research shows that when employees are engaged, their performance increases dramatically. Employees who are engaged are more enthusiastic, energetic, positive and healthier! Engaged employees feel better about what they do for a living and where they work. Companies with higher engagement claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects and 21% higher profitability. So, what does job flexibility have to do with employee engagement? A lot! Gallup research indicates that remote work flexibility improves engagement. The chart below indicates that the optimal engagement is when 60%-80% of employees’ time is working remotely. In 2012, this was not the case. Optimal engagement occurred when employees spent less than 20% of their time working remotely.                                               

Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics, sees this pandemic as a “game changer” for remote work  for reasons such as greater competition for talented employees, less reluctance from managers and reduced real estate costs for employers. Her firm estimates that employers can save approximately $11,000 per each employee, who work remotely 50% of the time.  Employers are starting to realize that the money spent on office space can be used in better ways. 

On the forefront of changes in job flexibility policies is Twitter. On Tuesday, May 12, 2020, Twitter gave its employees the choice to return to the office once the pandemic subsides, or work from home forever. 

-Decrease in Business Travel

With the increased use of video meetings to conduct business during this pandemic, companies realize that they can take the same great care of their customers without the need for travel expenses such as hotel, airfare, car rental and expensive meals. Webinars have even become a very effective way to obtain new clients. Video conferencing has allowed companies to have staff meetings and company celebrations with employees all over the world. New employee interviews are also being conducted virtually, without the need for people to travel to one location. For example, Google announced that for the foreseeable future, they will conduct all job interviews virtually, using Google Hangout for the health and safety of their employees and job candidates.

Post-COVID 19, companies will give a lot of thought into how and when they spend money on travel based on what they learned during this time. In May 2020, Business Insider reported that 17 top CEOs say they are likely to be more selective about their business trips, or skip them altogether. 

The Way We Learn

-Education: Increase in on-line Learning

According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics, over 1.3 billion students in 186 countries have had to start learning online. In many instances, it seems to be working, and for good reasons.

Health and safety are definite reasons to support the demand for online learning. Alice Pong, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician and the Medical Director for Infection Control at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego said hospitals have seen a sharp decline in pediatric admissions for respiratory illnesses. She states that the decline is due to kids not being in daycare or school.

With regard to college, the cost is soaring. It is getting increasingly more difficult to afford the cost of a four-year degree, particularly middle-class students who don’t qualify for financial aid. Many believe that online courses will increase dramatically and be used in conjunction with in-person learning as a way to decrease college expenses. 

While online education at any age group is highly controversial, there is research that shows that on average students retain 25-60% more information when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. A lot of this is due to students being able to learn faster online since it requires 40-60% less time to learn than a traditional classroom setting. Students can learn at their own pace. They can also go back and re-read or skip information they  already know. The results vary between age groups though. Younger children still learn more effectively in a structured setting. 

While school will start again, it’s clear that more classes will be offered online long after the pandemic is over. 

-Increase in Personal Development Courses

From the start of our stay at home restrictions, there has been a significant increase in the number of people signing up for online personal development courses. Within the first month,  a company called Coursera had eight times as many enrollments for online courses in social science, personal development and arts and humanities. In March, Coursera’s Chief Product Officer said that the course from Yale called, The Science of Wellbeing, had +500,000 new enrollments in a single weekend.

Many of these courses are taught by Professors from top universities. But there are other companies, such as Masterclass, who offer a wide range of personal development courses taught by famous chefs, musicians, actors, authors just to name a few. They offer over 80 classes such as photography, cooking and building music beats. For job seekers and people wanting to improve their career skills, there are courses that offer certifications. For example, there are over 30 companies who accept Google’s course on IT Management.             

Once people experience the benefit of taking online personal development courses, demand will continue to grow. In his book, Time and How to Spend It, James Wallman says, “personal growth is central to many psychological theories of long-term happiness. So, although an hour listening to a lecture may not be as enticing as the instant gratification of reality TV or social media, it will lead to greater life-satisfaction in the long term. You could say that humans are like bicycles: if you’re not heading towards something, you fall over”. 

Just as the post SARS created an increase in e-commerce, COVID 19 will very likely be responsible for the rise in online learning.  

The Way We Live

– The Way We Travel Will Change

Travel is very likely to change as a result of the pandemic as well. By April 2020, the on-going Harris Poll COVID 19 Tracker shows that Americans are afraid to travel too far from home and of being in confined spaces. The Poll says that only 33% of Americans will stay in a hotel and only 28% will be ready to fly within three months of the curve flattening. 

Lisa Burns, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council, is seeing a larger emphasis on outdoor destinations that include camping, trails and water activities. Travel that involves social distancing will be a common theme.

There will also be an increase of people virtually visiting destinations all over the world. GoUSA TV is one online service that has seen a significant rise in viewers.

– The Way We Socialize Will Change

While we are still in the trenches of COVID 19, it’s hard to see the positive side of things, but people are coming together from near and far. And, they are connecting with friends and family more than ever before with the help of apps like Zoom and Google’s House Party. Families and friends who were not able to see each other very often due to age, illness, distance or simply busy lives, are now gathering virtually. While these apps have been around for a while, many people are just now learning how to do this.                           

In an article called “In a Time of Coronavirus, This is How We Party”, the author Emma Gray, had a date with her boyfriend on FaceTime on a Friday night and attended a debate watch party with a group of friends on Zoom on Sunday. I celebrated my 23rd birthday with many of my friends via Zoom, and I have attended a couple others as well. As my friends head off to live in different parts of the country, we will stay close because we are already using Zoom to hang out on a regular basis. My parents say they would not have lost touch with so many good friends from college if they had apps like Zoom.

-The Way We Take Care of Our Health Will Change

After COVID 19, most people feel that this will not be the last pandemic we will ever see. Therefore, countries are coming together and working hard to develop vaccines and figuring out ways to strengthen our health care systems.

On an individual basis, there will be an increased emphasis on personal sanitization, such as washing hands, keeping our homes, cars and offices sanitized. We know the virus did not go away, and even when we have a vaccine, we will live in fear of the next virus or outbreak.

We know that people most susceptible to the virus were those whose health was compromised.  Many will see a greater need to take care of their health now. We will eat better and exercise more knowing that pandemics may be more common in the future.

Telehealth has increased since the coronavirus pandemic. And, it all started in March 2020, when the Trump administration announced what it called “unprecedented steps”  to expand Americans’ access to telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

There are many terms to describe telehealth such as telemedicine, tele-therapy and ehealth. The chart below, provided by  The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality , shows the scope of telehealth terminology. 


The changes were meant to allow people to have appointments with doctors and therapists remotely and take certain tests in order to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. In March, Teledoc, a telehealth company, provided over 100,000 virtual doctor visits to patients in just one week. 

Pre-COVID, telehealth has been used to reach people in remote places. Will it now be a viable option for all of us in the future? Well, some experts believe that it will. The biggest reason that it has not been widely used prior to COVID 19, was because most insurance companies would not pay for it. There is too much support in favor of telehealth in certain circumstances now, so insurance companies will have to back down.

Extensive studies funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRC) show the following:

Telehealth is beneficial for specific uses and patient populations. There is a large volume of research indicating telehealth is as good as or better than usual care in certain circumstances.

The evidence of benefit was concentrated in specific uses. Specifically, they found that research supports the use of telehealth for:

    • Remote, home monitoring for patients with chronic conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure
    • Communicating and counseling patients with chronic conditions 
    • Providing psychotherapy as part of behavioral health

It was once seen negatively by the medical community, but now many doctors are supporting it and have invested in HIPPA compliant software to continue to see patients virtually.  With telehealth as an option, it will help doctors and therapists keep patients out of waiting rooms with other patients while also increasing the safety of themselves.

– The Way We Experience Entertainment and Sports

Entertainment and sports are two of the most harshly affected businesses from the pandemic. Every day, people question the fate of movie theaters, concerts, and sports. Currently, the production of many popular TV shows has been put on hold. But even worse, will we ever go to concerts again? Will I be able to attend a Griz game next year with my friends? What about the year after, or the year after that, or ever again? I worry about the answers to these questions as music and sports are my passion.

And this is how this whole article got started…. I was going to write about the fate of these two industries after the pandemic. Then, my mom wouldn’t stop  sending me Facebook videos of Jimmy Fallon and his crew singing various songs. I thought they were semi-corny, but uplifting to see him singing with big names. At that moment, I realized that there is enough fear and negativity in the world at the moment. I want to talk about all of the positive stuff that is occurring from this horrible pandemic.

Let’s start with virtual concerts. The list is endless. Musicians are raising money for good causes. People who could never afford to go, are getting to see their favorite bands playing up close and live. It’s just virtual.

Chris Martin of Coldplay appears to have been one of the first to start the trend when he played a concert from his home on March 16th.

It’s powerful. These concerts are helping us to stay positive.  They remind us that we are all in this together.  They remind us that we feel better when we are doing good for others.

Also, sports are slowly starting to come back. There have been many talks in leagues such as the NBA, NHL, and MLB, to make plans to bring back live entertainment from these organizations. Some leagues are already back on television, which is a great start. The only difference is there are no fans. European soccer has started, and the sport I have been getting much entertainment from is UFC, owned by Dana White who has done an awesome job bringing his organization back to the world.

 In a CBS interview, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said, “Assuming there’s not a second wave of the coronavirus, I think you’ll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year. So, for the economy to fully recover people will have to be fully confident. And that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.” 

We can already see signs that we will, indeed, get back to normal. And, we know that “normal” will be different in many ways. This pandemic will change the way we work, learn and live. While some of these things are hard to think about, there are a lot of positive changes that have occurred as a result of this pandemic. These are the things we have to remember to tell the next generations.

Article written by: Ben Hastings







Recycling in Montana

The importance of recycling

We all hear about how beautiful the state of Montana is. Yes, there are thousands of places to travel to and see around the world. But between the people and the sky, Montana is one of the most amazing places, wide ranges of land and outdoor activities. One may ask “what does that have to do with recycling”. In order to keep this state the Beautiful Big Sky, for generations to come we need to think about recycling and keeping Montana clean. Our generation gets to enjoy the outdoors, glaciers, geysers and so much more. Let’s do our part not for our own sake but for the future of Montana.

Everyone knows about recycling and that there is some importance to it, so why don’t we just do it. Is it the lack of resources, accountability or are we just down right lazy. “Nearly 90 percent of what we throw away could potentially be recovered through reuse, recycling or composting”, (“Figure 2f: Irimai R”). Recycling is just as important as waste management, it is an industry that will provide jobs and ultimately conserve natural resources. Not only does recycling conserves natural resources, but reduces waste, provides economic security, prevent pollution and saves energy. Recycling isn’t as hard as it seems and yet it provides more benefits than waste management. The convenience we have today will not be available in the future if we don’t start taking recycling seriously.

Montana is a large state with a low population, not every rural area has the same resources, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t available. It may take some effort to recycle but truly it is worth it for the future of our state. In this I have come up with three different places in Montana to focus on, and their recycling systems. Missoula, Great Falls and Billings, each one has its own importance. Missoula is the city I attend school in and happens to be one of the more Green cities in Montana. Great Falls is where I am originally from and I would love to see more of a movement in the recycling industry in my hometown. Billings has no special meaning to me personally but it happens to have the largest population in Montana. I would also like to touch on rural communities. Overall, I believe Montana has tons of room to grow in how they recycle and reuse.

Recycling in Montana

In most things Montana is a few years late to any party, but especially on the subject of recycling. In a recent article from the Missoulian, it stated this, “Montana generates nearly 66 percent more waste than the national average and recycle less of the waste than the average American, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality”, (“Montanans Generate”).

I found this shocking considering the number of people we have in the state, but that could also be the reason why. The smaller populations and mass amounts of land, leave a lot of rural areas without recycling centers and opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t available, it just takes time and effort to reach these places.

In Montana we have City-County transfer stations, recycling haulers and collectors, retailer of recycled materials, manufacturer of recycled materials, recycling processors, and producers-sellers of organic compost, (Portals) There most definitely is a market for recycling, that creates jobs and provides sustainability for Montana.

There are more than a 00 recycling collection points for materials in Montana. From these points the recyclable material is sorted, and prepared for the processing of each item. Some materials must be shipped out of Montana because we don’t have the resources to process them. Unfortunately in Montana there are no mills for recycling so products must be sent out of the state. Even though this is a short coming in the recycling system of Montana, we can reduce waste disposal cost if we substantially reduce the amount of waste we produce. It takes time, energy and resources but the benefits are worth it.

Let’s dive deeper into a few of the processes happening around Montana. Not only do I want to provide you information on where and how to recycle, but I encourage you to take the steps in doing so.

Glacier National Park, Cracker lake.


Missoula Montana, home of the University of Montana, hip, unique and cool as one may call it. It is full of outdoor activities, with mountains and a river surrounding the town, home of great startup companies and local businesses where the people are both genuine and authentic. Missoula also happens to be one of the greenest cities in Montana, where sustainability and recycling matters.

What recycling Missoula offers:

Missoula offers a recycling guide that shows exactly where to take products and what products can be recycled. From Curbside pick to taking items to the recycling center, most things can be recycled in the city of Missoula. Recycling works is the curbside service similar to waste management trash service. It recycles both glass and green waste. Recycling works has the only glass transfer station in Montana, which puts Missoula a little bit further than the rest of the state. There is also Garden City Recycling, which is about a decade old this year. This is another curbside recycling service for both businesses and residents of Missoula. It has a base cost of $20 dollars a month, or four coffees if were comparing prices. Then there is Republic services, anyone can sign up for in Missoula and pay $13 dollars a month, to pick up plastics, tine cans, aluminum cans, newspaper, magazines, phone books and other paper products. All three of these are curbside pick-up recycling services. But Missoula does not stop there, they also have drop off recycling which is more common in the state of Montana. Pacific Steel and Recycling, Axmen Recycling, and PETE’s recycling are all different types of drop off recycling places, each one takes particular materials. Missoula also has an organic waste curbside compost program between soil cycle and Missoula compost collection LLC. The list of companies, organizations and programs Missoula has for recycling seems to go on, but that is the important part, as a city they are trying to recycle and reuse. The cost may seem high at first, but the return on your investment may not be money. It will be the satisfaction of knowing that your future generations will be able to enjoy the environment we have created from recycling and reusing materials.

What recycling or action could be added:

Missoula nearly has every recycling option, but I also find that they would be a really great market to have a mill in. Considering Missoula is one of the cities in Montana that recycles the most, instead of exporting all of the materials out of the state, it could bring in a mill. A mill would be where all the recyclable materials in Montana go and get made back into reusable materials. The benefit of having at least one mill in Montana would be that it stimulates our state economy, provides more jobs and makes it easier for people to see the value of recycling.

One action that would be interesting to explore for each city, not just Missoula would be reducing the use of plastic. Either banning or limiting the use of plastic bags, water bottles and so on. The benefit of not using plastic is that there is no need to recycle something you can’t have. Missoula recycles certain types of plastic but not all, if there was a way to limit this it would reduce plastic waste. Second to this idea, there is also a glass transfer station, and Bayern beer company also recycles glass. Providing an incentive such as a dollar off the next purchase of Bayern beer if one recycles. People love incentives and eating some of the cost might help stimulate the thought to recycle.

Last, curbside pick-up seems to have a price tag with it, although this does not bother me, I know that it is not financially feasible for everyone. If the fixed rate of waste management was reduced, because there is less need for the waste services, the price of recycling could be compensated. This means lowering the price of waste management and transferring that discount onto the recycling services. In hopes that this would force people to recycle rather than produce waste.

Although all of these ideas are for the future it is something to consider for Missoula. Missoula is a great example of what all places in Montana should strive for when considering recycling and reduction of waste.

Great Falls

Great Falls was a part of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition. It is housed on the Missouri River, with different outdoor activities and a smaller population. Great Falls also houses one of the military bases in Montana. It is my hometown and I hope to see exponential growth in the next ten years.

What recycling Great Falls  offers:

Most of Great Falls recycling is drop off and not curbside. Different places recycle, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and gear oil, batteries, cameras, phones, laptops, all metals, oil, anti-freeze, copper, aluminum, and large appliances. However Montana waste systems pick up – cans, cardboard, magazines and junk mail. Pacific steel and recycling used to take plastic, but they have a problem currently where they cannot. There is not a place to take glass or plastic in the city of Great Falls which is very unfortunate. Republic’s services does curbside recycling for only additional two dollars to sanitation fees, collecting, cans, corrugated cardboard, newsprint, magazine and junk mail.  In Great Falls there are ways to recycle, they may take more time to deliver these items to recycling places, but there are certain companies that will do curbside pick-up.

What recycling or action could be added:

Great Falls has a lot of room to grow as a city and in the area of recycling. In comparison with Missoula they are definitely behind the eight ball, they lack the variety of curbside recycling options and the amount of materials to be recycled. One of the first things I would offer, is finding more places that want to do curbside pick-up services.

The second suggestion I have is to find a place that will either start recycling plastics or to transport the materials to another plant in Montana that does. Although, this sounds like a large expenditure I think it would be beneficial to the community as a whole. It might cost a little extra for people to recycle plastic but it is a need when considering the amount of waste.

Next I would also look into transporting the glass to Missoula where they are able to collect and recycle glass. Great Falls has limited resources, but expanding their operation and collaborating with Missoula would help both economies.

Last, all around Great Falls needs to implement more recycling incentives. There are places that pay for you to donate cans, but offering the curbside pick-up is even better. Sure it cost two dollars extra, but the can might provide those companies money to continue to recycle. All around there are many improvements we could do in the City of Great Falls, but tasking ideas in small segments would be easier to accomplish. Great Falls has resources that can be used and make this city both cleaner and more sustainable.


Located in Southeast Montana, Billings is right next to the Yellowstone River. Billings is known for the Rims, where you can both hike and get a great view from. Billings has the largest population in Montana with about 110,000 people.

What recycling Billings offers:

Billings offers both curbside and drop off recycling. One of their main campaigns to recycle in Billings is known as Earth First Aid, it is about $24 dollars per month that is billed quarterly in advance. They pick up every other week, three bins will be labeled, paper, plastic and aluminum. Earth First Aid is not limited to these services, they also collect, corrugated cardboard, plastic bags and glass. There are also companies and the city that pick up yard waste, electronics and hazardous waste. Although, they offer the services alto of these items end up in the land fill. Billings offers all different types of recycling, Bayern Brewing also does the glass drop off in the city of Billings.

What recycling or action could be added:

Considering that billings is one of the largest cities in Montana they have more of an opportunity to provide curbside and different options for recycling. Reading through the charts of what they offer, I was not surprised that is most things Missoula also offers.

One thing they could work on is adding more curbside pick-up options, even though they have Earth First Aid, offering more options would transform the cost. When there are more options, companies and organizations must have competitive rates, as Earth First Aid’s rates are slightly high.

Next, I am happy to see that Billings offers many options, but I noticed that many of the recycling options actually end up back in the landfill. I would encourage that do not actually recycle the materials, to not offer recycling but allow organization and companies that will recycle to the material to take those items.

Last, similar to the idea of cutting the cost of recycling, I think it would be valuable to work with waste management to lower the rates. Billings has a large population and if more people recycle the less need for waste management and the funds can transfer towards recycling. This would cut the cost of monthly recycling rate and change the waste managements fixed rate.

Billings is starting to do their part and it is really great to see, with a few more ideas and incentives I truly believe we can reduce our waste in one of the largest cities in Montana.

Final Thoughts

Personally I don’t find recycling to be hard, but I also appreciate the different sceneries in Montana. When I  am old I still want to be able to go around and see the same sunset and sunrises that I am able to see now. It is clean and I care about reducing waste in Montana. With simple ideas, such as adding curbside pick-up to towns, or more recycling services, Montana can reduce our waste. It is sad that as a state we have some of the highest percentages of waste, let’s do better. If it means paying a little bit extra a month to have recycling services that reach cities and rural areas, producing a mill and more transportation for recycling companies, so be it. I believe what we do today will matter not only tomorrow but in decades. Let us all remember our state in the same beautiful way. Keep the Big Sky Beautiful, recycle, reuse and reduce waste.


“Figure 2f from: Irimia R, Gottschling M (2016) Taxonomic Revision of Rochefortia Sw.

(Ehretiaceae, Boraginales). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e7720.

Https://Doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.4.e7720.” doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f.


Missoulian, ERICKSON. “Montanans Generate More Waste than Average, Recycle Less.” The

Billings Gazette, 6 May 2015, billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/montanans-generate-more-waste-than-average-recycle-less/article_9d954b5c-c198-5ab7-b189-097f8d2c94e0.html.

“Missoula Recycling Guide.” Make It Missoula RSS,



Tercek, Katie. “Hey Great Falls, Did You Know There Are Places to Recycle in Town?” KULR,

23 May 2019, www.kulr8.com/regional/hey-great-falls-did-you-know-there-are-places-to/article_134a2823-c83a-572b-b7b1-3b72fd4b6dd9.html.

“Missoula Recycling Guide.” Make It Missoula RSS, www.makeitmissoula.com/community/going-green-and-recyling/missoula-recycling-guide/.



The New Normal: Supporting Music in the Time of COVID-19

The last month or so has been a weird time. It’s been so hard on so many people, but one area it’s hit particularly hard and close to home for me is the music industry. I had never thought about a world where I couldn’t escape all of my problems at a live show, and now being thrown into that reality has left me with a severe case of whiplash. My Chemical Romance was supposed to reunite and save 2020, but now I’m here praying to the rock gods that this is over before their Boston show in September and not next fall like one health expert has said. Even as I’m writing this, I’m trying not to remember that I was supposed to be at my favorite local band’s show right this second.

An image from Facebook of a cancelled concert event.
Concerts across the world have been cancelled or postponed.

So yeah, this has been hard for music fans. But there’s no doubt that those working in the industry in any form have been hit twice as hard- not only losing their passions in live music but their jobs in it as well. From the biggest chart-topping bands to your neighbor who works security at one of the local venues, the effects of COVID-19 have been devastating. The music world is at a standstill. Shows that big-name artists, venues, and their teams have spent millions on are pushed back- or worse, canceled. Local artists and industry or venue workers are jobless, their limited opportunities to make a living deemed far from essential. So what do we do? How can we keep a little bit of life in the industry while things are shut down? And how can we make a smooth transition to normal? Or, a new normal?

Honestly, no one really knows. But I’m here to offer some tidbits that might help out someone somewhere.

Support Local

Where possible, do what you can for your local music scene. This could happen in a lot of ways. Did a group or artist just drop an album? Buy it. Maybe if you have the funds, now could be a good time to buy that cool floral hat of theirs that you’ve seen people wearing.  Can’t afford to purchase a copy or merch? Stream it and tell your friends. Give them some free promo on your social media.  

Do any of your local venues double as bars, restaurants, or breweries? See if they’re offering takeout meals or drinks! This is probably their only means of income right now and is just as easy as UberEats or DoorDash, and ten times easier than going to a grocery store right now. If you had tickets to an event at a small local venue, maybe consider donating the ticket price to them so that they can stay afloat instead of asking for a refund.

Local economies are where the consequences of being on lockdown are being felt the most and will most affect people you know. Smaller bands and venues are the most at risk of not making it through the end of this period and could use the most love. This isn’t to discount what the entire industry is facing, but I guarantee your local band of college kids just trying to get through the last few weeks of online classes don’t have the same resources to stick it out that the band that was playing a soldout show at the closest arena to you (before it got postponed, that is.)

The Union Club Bar and Grill – Missoula, MT

In an emotional Facebook and IGTV video, Jackson Holte of Missoula, MT rock and roll band Jackson Holte and The Highway Patrol confessed “The best thing you can do for us right now is order a record and we’ll sell you one. We took a big gamble this time around on playing the shows and selling the record before it went up online in the hopes that we would incentivize people to actually buy the hard copy and now that’s not happening. Now that’s gone. I’m out six months of work, and- it feels unprofessional to say the number, but it’s a big ol’ number. It’s a ton of money, and … you know, I don’t make any money doing this. I have no social esteem, I don’t get free shit everywhere I go. I don’t get laid all the time. All I have gotten out of this process are these 10 songs, and all you can really do for me is listen to them.”

Josh Rhines of Fate’s Frontier echoed Holte’s thoughts, stating “The best thing everyone can do to help now is to search out new, upcoming, and independent artists. Find new music you love, and support those who make it. Share their Facebook page, buy their merchandise, tell your grandma about their new single!”

Though Rhines’ band operates remotely on a global scale to begin with and social distancing hasn’t changed their routine much, they still feel the effects of a crippled industry.

Support Your Favorites (Ohana means family.)

Former Vinyl Theatre singer Keegan Calmes said it well when he tweeted “I’m no longer a touring musician, but I feel for all artists who have had to cancel tours. Typically these tours barely keep the artists afloat until the next album and tour cycle. Stream their music, engage with them as best you can while of course taking care of your loved ones.”

Tweet by Keegan Calmes

When I asked if he thought there’s any way entities like record labels, streaming platforms, or anything similar could help artists, he replied “Everyone is tightening up their budgets. I would hope so, but in all honesty it’s looking like we need to take care of our inner circles as best as we can.”

There are so many bands that have made me feel like I’m a part of their inner circle- a part of a family. Badflower, Twenty One Pilots- they’re sure to make it known how much they care for fans. They wouldn’t be here without fans, and many fans might not be here without them. Like before, buy merch and music if you can. If you can’t, stream their music. Make your friends listen to them while they have nothing better to do. The more you’re able to support your favorite band, the better they’ll be able to bounce back with new music and tours.

However, the family is bigger than you and the band. The people who are hurting the most on the family tree are touring crews. While the bands themselves are probably able to get by on royalties and publishing once they reach a certain point, there is absolutely nothing coming in for crew members without tours to work.

To fight this, artists that have the exposure and resources to are releasing songs and specific merchandise that give proceeds or a percentage of them directly to crews. For example, when streaming Twenty One Pilots’ new single and widely proclaimed quarantine anthem “Level of Concern” or purchasing their Crew Nation hoodie, a portion of proceeds will go to Live Nation’s crew relief fund, Crew Nation. Similarly, Nathaniel Rateliff just released a t-shirt and sweatshirt with a design originally intended for his next tour that is on sale now. All proceeds from this purchase will go directly to his crew. Your favorite artist might be doing something similar, and this is a cool way to represent some limited edition merch and to give back.

Nathaniel Rateliff's Heart and Globe Tee
Nathaniel Rateliff’s Heart & Globe Ringer Tee- all proceeds go to his crew.

Livestreams & Innovation

For me, live music is an addiction. There’s nothing quite like the high of a particularly great show, nor quite like the strange low of a post-concert depression. There is one thing keeping me from completely going through live music withdrawals, though: livestreams. From your coworker at Barnes and Noble going live on Instagram with his ukulele to your favorite band performing straight through each of their albums, livestreams are giving artists chances to express themselves while giving listeners who can’t go to shows a way to pass the time.

Some groups, like Jackson Holte and the Highway Patrol, aren’t about it. 

“I don’t think we’re gonna livestream. At least not the full show. Performing artists, much like the Spanish Inquisition, rely on the element of surprise, and we’ve worked really hard on a new show. I’m not willing to give it away quite yet until we get a chance to book some rooms and play it out” Jackson says in his COVID-19 video. 

Which makes sense, it does. But with the possibility of the live music industry being KOed for up to a year, that’s a long time to go without performing. And a long time to go without interacting with your fanbase in the next closest thing to a live show. Which is why the overwhelming majority of musicians are streaming as much as they can get away with.

Badflower performing on stage
Badflower live in Spokane, WA

Many communities are finding ways to promote and monetize these shows in a similar way to concerts. Entities like the Montana Area Music Association (or MAMA) are creating local livestream dates and times and sending them out to their email databases with links to virtual “tip jars.” MAMA is also in the process of creating a weekend fundraiser, with live music all throughout Thursday, April 30th and Friday, May 1st. Donations they receive from this will be put back into the music community in Missoula, MT and throughout the rest of the state. 

The amount of digital music festivals springing out of nowhere has also been impressive. Block by Blockwest taking place on Minecraft and Stagecoach’s Stagecouch on Instagram Live and SiriusXM are just two examples of the extremely creative ways musicians have come together for fans. Many of these are accepting donations that are going towards organizations like MusiCares or the World Health Organization. Other forms of collaboration have come from bands like Deal Casino, who hosted the three-week “Quarantour” on their Instagram Live, performing and collaborating with bands like Badflower and The Wrecks

Margi Cheske, the president of Fantasy Records, has been blown away by the creativity and collaboration in and between musicians she’s seen come to light because of Coronavirus.

Fantasy Records, a member of the Concord Record Group with acts like Tanya Tucker, Nathaniel Rateliff, James Taylor, and Lukas Nelson, has certainly taken a hit along with the entire industry. Revenue from live music is obviously in the tank, and physical sales are hurting, but Margi remains optimistic. Before talking to her, she had just received an order from Target for James Taylor’s new album. She says their biggest challenge is figuring out how to market music without touring for maybe two years. This is especially difficult for her team, as the majority of her artists rely so heavily on touring. While they have to find new ways to do things, Margi said she’s excited to see what new innovations and ideas come out of this difficult time.

Lukas Nelson playing a guitar
Lukas Nelson’s “Quarantunes” stream three times a week.

Livestreaming is something that Margi’s seen her artists and friends take and run with. Lucius was mentioned as a group that she had noticed coming up with some really interesting and fun livestreams. Fantasy artists like Nathaniel Rateliff, Grace Potter, Lukas Nelson, and friends like Brandi Carlisle have been streaming as often as several times a week and raising thousands for organizations from amFAR to FarmAid.

Large Scale Relief

So now you’re thinking “but I’m just one person, what can I even do?” It’s all so much to process and we’re all just doing our best to adjust to this “new normal.” Luckily, there’s a number of larger organizations using their resources to help those in need that they can. If it’s easier to follow their lead or to use them as inspiration, I’d encourage you to do so!

Crew Nation

Crew Nation is the relief fund for touring crew members put together by Live Nation. It was created to help touring and venue crews who depend on shows to make a living. Live Nation is giving $10 million to the organization- an initial $5 million donation and then matching the next $5 million raised by artists, fans, and employees. To support Crew Nation you can donate, purchase merch, or support artists who are supporting Crew Nation like Twenty One Pilots. Visit their website for information on donating, purchasing apparel, or getting help.

Twenty One Pilots crew nation hoodie
Twenty One Pilots’ Crew Nation Hoodie


The Recording Academy’s charitable organization MusiCares is offering $1,000 grants to music professionals who have been impacted by COVID-19. Many musicians are raising money for this foundation, or you can donate directly here. You can also apply for a relief grant!

Sweet Relief

Sweet Relief is providing funding to music-industry professionals who need money specifically for medical reasons. Not only are they accepting donations, but they are selling merch and auctioning one-of-a-kind items to help reach their goals to help others. Check out their site here to donate, purchase merch, or apply!

Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Emergency Fund

For self-identified BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), the Arts Administrators of Color Network (AAC) is offering $200 to artists and artist administrators who have been affected by COVID-19. Donate or apply here.

Help Musicians

UK based Help Musicians has a comprehensive guide to helping musicians get through this, with links to every UK resource imaginable. While many resources won’t be helpful to US musicians, they still offer sound advice that would be worth checking out wherever you’re located.

Musically Fed

Musically Fed was established in 2016 by Maria Brunner of Insight Management in Scottsdale, AZ. On top of creating marketing strategies for musicians like Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and George Thorogood, Maria began gathering leftover catering from national tours with Musically Fed and delivering it to local veterans’ and homeless shelters, working on tours with the likes of Shawn Mendes, The Lumineers, and Fleetwood Mac. Now, they’re directing their efforts towards helping families in the music and entertainment industry. Their April 22nd benefit event served 30 families from Rhino Staging out of Tempe, AZ. Musically Fed was able to provide these families over 160 meals, along with 30 boxes of non-perishable food and produce. Musically Fed has been doing some really amazing things for the last few years, and they’re definitely an organization to keep your eyes on and open your wallet to if you can!

People sorting boxes of fruit under tents.
Maria (left) and participants at Musically Fed’s Rhino Staging benefit.

There’s so much help available out there. If none of these do it for you, check out these resources with a ton of organizations listed between them by NPR, Billboard, and Celebrity Access. If you need help don’t be afraid to ask for it, and if you can help don’t be afraid to do it.

Music has long been a tool to bring people together. As has disaster. While so much is in chaos in all of our lives right now, there are so many opportunities to grow together as music lovers, as local or national music scenes, and as people. We can grieve for lost art, but we can also be excited for the art and innovation that will come out of the forced creativity that COVID-19 has brought us. This won’t last forever. It might even be a little bit funny in two years when you’re standing on the barricade at a show while your favorite musician performs “Corona”- a song that they wrote while quarantined.

So once again in the words of Jackson Holte- “So long as there are shitty little dive bars that’ll let me put up a PA in the corner, I’ll be there. And I hope we’ll all be there together soon.”

I’ll be there. Hope to see you there, too.

Aeriel Martens

College Students: A Life Without a plan is not a future unknown.

Welcome to your next big step in life! Whether you’re embarking on your journey in a traditional sense (4 years, or JC) or you are embarking on your own path. Whatever your choice is, the most important thing is that you believe it is right for you. This is the most important aspect of your new journey, and it is essential to have a goal that you want to pursue. Not what others think you should do, for example, your parents or friends. While this goal could be extremely specific in the sense of a dream job, graduate school, etc. Your goals could be extremely broad as well, for example, just wanting to learn something new, being able to buy a house one day, or even just focusing on finding yourself. This is extremely important because if you do not have some sort of drive to keep moving towards your goal, it makes it very difficult to stay motivated. While this may deter some people because they “have no idea what they want to do and can’t think of any goals for themselves”. THIS IS TOTALLY FINE!! The whole point of this paper is to show you that no matter what you do, as long as you are following a path that you want to be on, it is the right choice for you. In today’s article, we’ll be looking at this idea from several perspectives. Those being someone who chooses to go to college either university of a junior college, and someone who is on an untraditional path.


There is a huge stigma around whatever major you choose in college is the path that you will follow for the rest of your career. This is so far off its almost laughable, after some research I came across an article on Insight Higher Education that shows just how wrong this statement is.  “the findings from a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which found that only 27 percent of college graduates work in a field related to their major”. This is crazy to me because we think of people going straight from college into their defined field of study. But this just goes to show, that your choice of major at 19 or 20 years old does not define the rest of your life… What a shock!


College is a time for you to explore different paths, and to have the ability to learn new things that you had not expected to be immersed in. While some of these new ideas may be very interesting and may have an effect on your choice of major, it is also there to show you what you do not like. The whole point of the first 2 years of college is to be able to explore new and different classes and topics that interest you, and this is very new for many students. Most schools have defined curriculum for students, putting them on a defined path for the first 12 years of education. While this has worked for many years and does make sense because of the milestone’s students need to reach, there should also be a chance for them to explore. Because of this sense of confinement to this specific path, it makes it difficult for students to branch out and explore these new topics. I have seen this first hand. Many students come into college with an idea of what they want their major to be. Because of this, people put themselves on the path to follow that major and end up either struggling through it in agony or just quitting altogether. This is a very common occurrence in colleges and universities all around the world, and there are several factors helping and hurting students surrounding this.


Many colleges are starting to enforce that freshman and sophomore students take classes in varying fields in order to give them exposure to different topics. Because of this, it is forcing students to not just stick with their journalism or business classes they think they want to pursue. It is making a student go out and explore classes and topics that interest them, giving them the ability to test out new ideas and see what they might enjoy. But on the other side of the spectrum are colleges that are pretty much doing the opposite. It is fairly common nowadays for universities to make students decide a major before acceptance, which automatically puts them at a disadvantage. Schools that do this accept students based on specific college attendance, rather than overall attendance. While this does make sense that these schools do not want to be over-enrolled, it does not make sense that it is very difficult for students to switch majors. Because of this, I have personally seen friends who have either struggled through school or just ended up quitting all together due to a lack of interest in their major. Because of this I heavily recommend that students do some research into the school and see what variety of majors that they offer, as well as what it is like to switch. While this goes directly against giving students the ability to explore, we cannot change how these schools are run. All we can do is go in with an open mind and have the previous knowledge of what it is like if that path does not fit you.


Now that we’ve looked into what it’s like from a traditional path perspective, we will now look at it from the other side. Now, this can be many different things, whether it is a trade school, straight to work, or anything else. There are many forms of an untraditional path of further education, whether this is through schooling or through hands-on experience. The most important thing is to be following a path that interests you and makes you want to learn more. While most people think of a traditional schooling path as going through primary, and then on to college and beyond. There is a huge population of people that never liked school, and do not want to continue following high school graduation. While these people may have not enjoyed traditional schooling, there are many other forms of learning that interest many people. For example, one of the most up and coming forms of schooling is a trade school. Which is focused on teaching and helping students perfect different trades and crafts. These schools are made to help students learn new crafts and be able to utilize these skills to grow their careers. Trade school are also different than traditional universities in the sense of time and what it means to graduate. “Program lengths vary, but typically, they can range from anywhere from eight months to two years. Unlike a four-year college, you don’t graduate from a trade school with a bachelor’s degree. Usually, upon completion of the program, you’ll receive a diploma or trade certificate acknowledging you successfully finished”. Trade schools give students the ability to expand their knowledge about something they know they already enjoy and gives them the path to a career. Because of trade schools, it is giving students the ability to start making money and building their career much sooner than college, and at a fraction of the price.


Trade schools are only one of the countless paths to figuring out your future, and now we’re going to dive into a few others. There are many career choices in the world today, and the way you go about obtaining a career for yourself is entirely up to you. While many people only see college as a way to pursue a career, there are countless other ways depending on what you are looking for. For example, most people who want to go into the medical and nursing field need to go through countless years of schooling and potentially a mountain of debt. But what many people do not know is that there are many different types of certifications and licenses that can be obtained in the medical field without schooling. Just a few would be, CPA, EMT, nursing home worker, and countless others that are very desirable and essential careers. While this is just one example of a field of career paths, there are many options other than college. With the age of the internet, it is giving students the ability to learn new skills from home. Because of this, it opens up so many doors for exploring what you want to do in the future and makes it possible to test new things out. Without the repercussions that come with potentially going to college for a major you thought you would like.


We have covered a lot in this article, but there are a couple of main takeaways that I want you to remember if anything at all. The number one and most important thing to remember when it comes to your future and being unaware of what you want to do is… do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life. I know it is super cliché and you’ve probably heard it a thousand times before but hear me out. Whether you decide to pursue a college education or go in any other direction that you want as long as you are doing something that interests you it makes it much easier to keep going. In my mind, it’s almost impossible to pursue something with passion and your full ability unless it is something that you are truly passionate about. Having the ability to know what you want to do is great, but we have also seen in this article how it is difficult for many people to find that path. The second takeaway to remember is that this is ok. Not knowing what you want to do with your future is totally normal, but what you do with it is what can set you apart. Instead of sitting in the agony of the unknown, take this opportunity to explore and try new things. This can be done in so many ways. Whether this is through a gap year where you travel the world or as little as watching some videos on YouTube. It is your opportunity to go out and explore what the world has to offer and to see what you want to offer the world. The world is pretty damn big and has a lot to offer to those who go out and get what they want. With this in mind, it is always important to remember that you are your own person. No one can tell you what to do with your life, and you have the ability to make that choice for yourself whenever you feel ready. If you are able to keep this in mind, and not compare what others are doing to yourself. It will give you a very different perspective. Life is all about finding what interests you and what you are truly passionate about. Finding this should be of the utmost importance if you are unaware of your future. So, I will leave you with this. You are never lost, you are just unaware.






How Companies are Marketing During COVID-19

Right now, our world is facing unprecedented times, the likes of nothing we have seen since World War II. People have had to adapt to a “black swan” event, caught nearly completely by surprise; with a near total meltdown of society, economies and ways of life. People had to quickly change their everyday routines; working remotely from home under stay-at-home orders.
Businesses had to adapt to these changing times as well. Advertisers quickly recognized that traditional self-promotion approaches were not only ineffective, but often in bad taste, and disconnected for the seriousness of the moment. Thus, advertisers have approached the marketing environment with more sentimental, sympathetic and patriotic themes, while steering clear of blatant self-promotion of their products. Others have attempted to lighten the mood and inject a little light-heartedness. Yet others recognized that masses of quarantined people glued to their mobile devices created a new opportunity for fun, noncommercial, digital based promotion, encouraging their customers to provide genuine testimonials and share their own self-created media.

For my 10x guide, I will examine how companies changed their marketing approach during these challenging times, and I will illustrate some of the different tactics and messages they are using to reach consumers. Most of these companies have executed their promotion through traditional television ads, others have done it through social media. I will examine all these different approaches below. From a 4-P’s perspective, most of the examples illustrated in this paper focus on only changes in their promotion strategies. A few also have adjusted pricing strategies.

The COVID-19 crisis did not just create a health crisis, it created an economic crisis. Recognizing the economic urgency, many companies are offering financial assistance or relief to their customers and they are promoting these efforts in their television advertisements. Three of the best examples of this that I found are in three television ads by State Farm, Acura, and Budweiser.

State Farm
State Farm is returning $2 billion to auto insurance holders for staying off the roads and staying at home. Putting checks into the hands of people who need them most right now. All auto policy holders will receive a 25% auto credit between March 20 and May 31, 2020 (via YouTube bio).
When evaluating State Farm from the 4 P’s, the biggest change for this company is promotion. They are promoting themselves showing their agents at home and urging their customers to stay home and receive a credit for not driving and doing their job to flatten the curve. The ad also strikes a sympathetic theme with their customer, using visuals that the stay-at-home public recognize from their daily lives in this new reality.

This campaign is entitled the “Good Neighbor Relief Program” and the company plans to return $2 million to customers, because their insureds are not driving nearly as much, and thus State Farm expects to pay out less in claims. You can see the full ad here:

Anticipating the economic downturn and consumer financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Acura is also providing financial relief to customers. In a recent television ad that hit the screen on April 3, 2020, Acura announced they would be offering special payment options, as well as payment deferrals and offering late fee waivers.

For people who are looking to purchase a new vehicle but may be uncertain during the COVID-19 outbreak, Acura is offering a 90-day payment deferral and special Annual Percentage Rate (APR) offers. Acura also announced that all service departments will remain open with special service valet for convenience and safety. By adjusting the APR, Acura is lowering the monthly payment for consumers. This is a change in their pricing strategy, because for many consumers the price is not the sticker price of the car, it is the monthly payment.

For some consumers, the 90-day payment deferral may be more attractive than the special APR rates, because many workers are experiencing short-term employment disruptions due to COVID-19. Payment deferrals may provide some consumers with the confidence they need to commit to a purchase. You can see the full ad here:

This ad also speaks to the emotional feelings of the moment. Recognizing the financial anxiety and health worries, Acura is trying to speak to both, and trying to put consumers mind at ease when they consider a major business transaction with Acura.

Budweiser, a company known for marketing excellence during the sports season, has taken a new approach: providing a form of general public assistance. They have enormous appeal to sports fans, but in a new ad released on March 25, 2020, Budweiser sends a new message “One Team”. In the ad, Budweiser announced that they will shift their sports marketing investments towards helping with the coronavirus pandemic. Budweiser is using professional sports stadiums all over the country as they team up with the American Red Cross to host blood drives needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic (via YouTube). Blood donations are currently critically low because the COVID-19 outbreak has discouraged people from venturing out to donate blood. By hosting these blood drives, Budweiser intends to help make blood more readily available to people who still need blood after an accident. The ad sends the message: let us all work together as “One Team” to help fight this pandemic and save lives. The sooner we do this, the sooner sports stadiums can get back to their main purpose, hosting games with all of us cheering and rooting for our favorite teams.

This ad is an example of corporate good citizenship. It also helps Budweiser stay present in the mind of their consumers and maintain top-of-mind awareness at a very challenging time for marketers.
You can see the full ad here:

Brand Awareness
Of course, nearly every industry in the world is feeling the effects of COVID-19, but perhaps none more than the sports industry. With sports at a literal halt right now, with no projected start anytime in the near future; college programs, professional athletics and the sporting public are all feeling the effects. What does an all sports entertainment channel, such as ESPN, have to televise right now? Well the answer is not much, at least nothing live. ESPN’s production department has gotten very creative with virtual Madden NFL tournaments and NBA 2K tournaments with stars from the NBA and the NFL squaring off against each other. They have even resorted to replaying past big-time sporting events. Sure, this may be fun to watch the first couple of times, but after a while it gets boring and only makes you want to play the game yourself.

ESPN has had to get creative with their content they are providing, but that has not stopped them from keeping up on their brand awareness, core value, and what they are truly about. Recognizing the impact of no sports on their loyal viewers, on March 30, 2020, ESPN released the following ad telling the feel-good stories over the last year as all sports fans, including myself, are reeling with the effects of no sports. Keeping up on their brand awareness is about all they can do right now from a promotion standpoint, but they will be back in a big way once sports return.

As this ad demonstrates, ESPN is doing a good job of finding creative, sympathetic ways of keeping up on their promotion during a difficult time for its viewers. The ad encourages its viewers to hang in there and gives hope for a return to normalcy. With no sporting events on right now, pumping out ads like this on television and across all social media platforms is getting peoples attention, and will encourage them to tune-in once sports get rolling again. The NFL Draft just wrapped up on ABC and ESPN, and I saw this ad multiple times. This is good for promoting themselves during the only live “sporting event” that has been on in over six weeks and keeping their audience hungry for the return of the sports they love.

Words of Encouragement
Perhaps the ultimate sports bombshell fell on March 24, 2020 when the International Olympic Committee announced the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The postponement of the games became the first ever peacetime delay in Olympic history with the announcement in late March. NBC and team USA released the following ad on Twitter on April 2, 2020 sending words of encouragement to athletes and fans.

With this ad seen on NBC and on Twitter, NBC has officially began the process of promoting the 2021 games on NBC next summer. While this certainly was an unprecedented announcement, this ad does a good job of promoting the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and reminding people to tune in to the games next summer. With themes of “stay safe” and “same dream new year.” NBC recognizes the urgency of the moment for everyone and the unprecedented significance of the cancellations.

Destination Missoula and Glacier Country Tourism
We have also seen some really good brand awareness ads from companies and groups here at the state and local level in Montana. Destination Missoula, a community based tourism and marketing entity specializing in getting people to visit Missoula, released the following ad on Twitter and Facebook on March 31, 2020 with a message to the people of Missoula about their response to coronavirus and how they will be back and better than ever “when the dust settles”.

This ad does a very good job of promoting a place, therefore place and promotion both tie into this ad. Destination Missoula is reminding people of this wonderful place to play in and visit, but you must wait just a little bit longer. The ad reinforces the urgency of the moment, while reminding the audience what they love about Missoula and keeping them hungry for more. This is good promotion, and advises people that for now, to change their place to their house and stay inside.

Glacier Country Tourism also put out a similar ad on April 3, 2020 on their Facebook page saying they want people to stay inside and take a break from Glacier National Park and the rest of beautiful Flathead country. The underlying message is to “Love Montana from the Inside Out”.

Just like Destination Missoula, this is a very good ad at analyzing place and promoting its “product”. For the people of Montana, Glacier Country Tourism wants people to enjoy Montana from the comforts of your homes. The day will come when we can all explore the wonders of Montana again, but for now, shelter in place. Glacier Country Tourism does a nice job of promoting place and keeping its audience hungry for more. Both ads send a sympathetic message but also inform the public that now is not the time.

The final type of advertising I have seen for COVID-19 is engagement posts on social media, primarily Facebook. These types of ads are just a creative way to stay connected with customers and to keep them interested in your product or experience, without blatant self-promotion. That way, when everything settles down, customers will have top-of-mind awareness and hopefully will be lining up when the businesses start opening again.

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
One of the best examples of this approach that I have seen is at the local level in southwest Montana. I work at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort as the Assistant Director of Marketing. Our Marketing department has been very creative employing social media at this sensitive moment. We decided to interact with our customers and offer resort packages as prizes through different contests we have been running on Facebook to inject something fun into their day. The goal is to take advantage of the opportunity to connect with the public, that are currently home-bound and glued to their mobile devices, just to kill time. An overarching goal is to utilize the contests to connect, inject a little fun and let the guest reminisce about their last or most memorable stay. The results are hundreds of guest testimonials, and photos that can be employed to attract new customers through photos of genuine guest experiences. In essence, we are employing our past guests to promote the resort through their own stories and media. Here are just two of the contests we have ran:

This post and related guest comments and photos can be seen at: https://www.facebook.com/fairmonthotspringsmontana/posts/10163540779400051

This Fairmont Facebook post can be viewed at the following link, along with the guest comments and photos. https://www.facebook.com/fairmonthotspringsmontana/posts/10163589190495051

These are just a couple of the contests Fairmont has been doing help keep people engaged. Overall, this is a difficult time for Fairmont, with state orders preventing the opening our pools until phase 2 of the reopening process. The least we can do is get people excited to come back once we get back to full operations. For now, the hotel is still open, and our restaurants are able to reopen on Monday, May 4, 2020, but pools will remain closed, until the Montana Governor brings the state to Phase 2. Until then, we have to promote the resort in creative ways during a crisis we never envisioned, but our marketing staff has adapted to the new advertising environment and done a very nice job of promoting, hoping there will be a line around the door when the resort is back to full operations.

Quinn’s Hot Springs
I have seen a similar strategy employed by other hotels and resorts. One example is Fairmont’s long-time competitor Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort. Just northwest of Missoula in Paradise, Montana, Quinn’s employed the idea of engaging with their customers on Facebook as well. Here is one example of what Quinn’s Hot Springs has been doing to engage:

Quinn’s is also doing a photo submission contest awarding 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes for the best submissions of the Quinn’s Hot Springs area. They are awarding free one-night stays in some of their nicest cabins on the Clark Fork River. This is a great way to get customers excited as they approach their re-opening date.

A second Quinn’s Hot Springs promotion is of their new pool complex. Currently under construction and expected to open sometime this summer, Quinn’s has people excited with an entire blog keeping people updated on the progress of construction. This is another form of feel-good promotion and engaging with customers to keep them excited, and hungry for more as they project an opening date of May 1, 2020 for the resort.
Overall, these are two very good examples for creative promotion on social media at a very sensitive time. Upbeat, fun promotions from both Fairmont and Quinn’s is great to see, as the hospitality industry is facing devastating times, while their customers contemplate an uncertain future. I am very impressed with how many local businesses have engaged and adapted on limited budgets during these times.

Marketers and companies have had to get very creative during these challenging times. The response has been incredible. Companies have quickly adapted and been stepping up to the plate big time helping their customers while promoting their brand at the same time. I hope with the examples I have provided; I was able to shed some context of how our world as marketers has adapted to the COVID-19 outbreak.

No one has the answer to how long it will be before we get back to normal. As marketers, and as human beings, we hope that we can get back to the way life was before COVID-19 sometime soon; but for now, so many companies have done an incredible job of changing their marketing strategy to find ways to resonate in the minds of consumers and frequently give back to their communities. We are all in this together, and we will all get through this together.






ADHD Stimulants: A Blessing or a Curse?

What is a Study Drug? Brief History?

The term Study Drug has been coined by society as a nickname for ADHD stimulant medications that are repurposed with the intention of enhancing a person’s ability to study. This generally applies to college students that are taking drugs like Adderall or Vyvanse without prescriptions during Midterms or Finals week.   

History of ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Over the years the name of the disorder has been changed many different times. Initially in 1968 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Version 2, also known as the DSM-2, the disorder was called the Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood. By 1980 in DSM-3 the name was changed to Attention Deficit Disorder – With or Without Hyperactivity. Then, by 1987 in DSM-3R (Revised), the disorder was shortened to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. After this, in 1994 in DSM-4 the disorder was more clearly coined Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder with the need to Specify Inattentive, Hyperactive/Impulse, or a Combined Type. Finally, we have the modern name of the disorder; in 2013 in DSM-5 the disorder was specified as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, specify Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation, or Combined Presentation. This final definition is what people mean when they refer to the commonly used term ADD or ADHD.


What is ADHD?

ADHD is a genetic brain-based syndrome that stems from unnatural regulation of a particular set of functions and related behaviors within the brain. The disorder currently only has one known cure/treatment which is the use of ADHD stimulant medication that works to normalize the chemicals, or neurotransmitters, affected by this disorder within the brain. The most common stimulant most people recognize is Adderall.


History of Adderall?

Adderall originated from a drug created in the early 1900’s. In 1920 an American chemist named Gordon Alles was trying to find a treatment for asthma which resulted in him synthesizing a substance related to adrenaline that was known to aid bronchial relaxation. He created a chemical known as an amphetamine. By the 1930’s the drug named Benzedrine, a brand name amphetamine, was taken to elevate mood, boost energy, and increase vigilance. The US military distributed this to soldiers, and they were known as “go pills.” After the war the drug was slightly modified, and the brand name drug Dexedrine was released. Dexedrine was prescribed to treat depression. Obetrol was another brand name amphetamine released around the same time as Dexedrine and it was used mostly by women because of the side effect of appetite suppression so it functioned as a diet drug. In the early 1970’s around 10 million adults were using amphetamines within the United States which prompted the Food and Drug Administration to step in with strict regulations causing the amphetamines to fall out of common everyday use. Twenty years later a pharmaceutical company executive named Roger Griggs decided to revisit the forgotten drug Obetrol. He tweaked the formula a little bit and named the new product Adderall. This new drug was brought to market for children and teens who doctors believed had ADHD. Finally, a few years later a time-release version of the drug was released that provided a prolonged delivery to the blood stream and was supposedly less addictive.


Other Medication?

Many different versions of ADHD stimulants have been created and used for different cases over the years. The main difference is slightly different chemical compounds which change the conversion in the blood stream but Vyvanse and Adderall appear to be the most common currently. On top of these two drugs some other options include: Concerta, Focalin, and Ritalin.


Chemical Alteration?

The ADHD stimulants work by altering the way that chemicals work within the brain. The drugs alter the way that dopamine and norepinephrine act within your brain. Dopamine is considered to be the “reward” neurotransmitter and regulates the pleasure, motivation, cognition, and movement within a person. Norepinephrine is what people think of when they think adrenaline rush. This affects the arousal, attention, and movement of someone which can be more clearly compared to activating a fight or flight response. These two different neurotransmitters normally leave one neuron and enter the synapse where they will bind with a receptor and this is where the noticeable reaction or change of emotion occurs. What the ADHD stimulants do is block the reuptake or absorption of these chemicals once they have binded with receptors and also increase the flow of dopamine into the synapses. This is essentially taking an adrenaline rush and a chemical motivation and forcing the body to extend the duration of the positive effects throughout the duration the drug is functioning in someone’s body.



In a normal person’s brain these chemicals are already in balance so the drug creates a sort of high which I will talk about later but in the brain of someone that suffers ADHD the drug is attempting to normalize the chemicals. This essentially is leveling the playing field when it comes to motivation and alertness being compared to someone that doesn’t have the disorder.


Other Uses?

Adderall and other ADHD stimulants have been repurposed by many people over the past decade or so and have become increasingly popular among college students. The drug is not only being used to treat ADHD, but many people are purchasing these drugs illegally in order to study more effectively or to take before they go to a party, concert, adult venue, or even to workout.



Forms of Abuse?

The effect of the drug differs from person to person and is also based on the dosage that people take but in general the illegal uses of the drug include using it as a study drug, a party drug, a drug causing a euphoric high, or for athletics. When using this as a study drug, students are hoping to increase alertness, focus, and memory consolidation which are all different effects of the drug. As I explained earlier the drug is designed to raise the level of Dopamine and Norepinephrine levels in the brain at a given time, so, when someone who does not have ADHD uses the drug, the effect is similar, but the results seem to be much more intense. The user will experience a heightened state of functioning and an increase in motivation and energy. This allows the user to study for hours on end without feeling any sense of tiredness or lack of motivation. The second common form of illegal use is the use of ADHD stimulants as a party drug. These stimulants are taken because they increase the energy and confidence/motivation within the user and also seem to increase the tolerance to alcohol. This increased tolerance and confidence is what a lot of users want at parties because they no longer fit the stereotype of a “lightweight” and they are very talkative and confident. Essentially it allows them to become the life of the party in their eyes. The third form of abuse is for a euphoric drug high. This is not as prominent as the other uses but in a high enough dosage the stimulants are capable of giving similar highs to other amphetamines like cocaine or methamphetamine and are described as “wild and crazy highs.” The final form of abuse is for athletics. The stimulants increase the norepinephrine in the body so that in turn increases the endurance, energy, pain tolerance, and focus of the user. Many people playing contact sports or working out use them and they act like a very strong pre-workout.


Ethics of Abuse

I think that it is ethically wrong to abuse the drug because it has been specifically designed for the treatment of ADHD and in some rare cases narcolepsy. Using this drug to enhance studying or enhance some other aspect of your life is unfair to those who suffer from ADHD because you are essentially achieving a high functioning state they will never be able to achieve chemically, and it is also highly illegal. Until these drugs are altered and not marketed as ADHD treatment, I think it is completely immoral to misuse them and even if a day comes where a new stimulant for everyone is released, I still do not think it will ever be an ethical choice to use the drug.


Short Term Effects of Use/Abuse

In the short term when taking the recommended dose as prescribed by a doctor no negative effects have been discovered yet. However, many negative effects for people illegally abusing these drugs exist in the short term. Many people do not require the chemical changes that these drugs cause, so they experience a drug high every time they take them for whatever purpose they have. The drugs are highly addictive so experiencing a sense of euphoria and extreme confidence or motivation increases the chance of addiction and the eventual possibility of overdose. When using stimulants as a party drug most people don’t realize that it doesn’t just magically increase your tolerance to alcohol but just counteracts the effects alcohol has on your body to give the appearance of a high tolerance. The bodies blood alcohol content is still increasing at the same rate and it is actually incredibly dangerous to drink while on a stimulant. The reason it is so dangerous is because you can have consumed several drinks and feel relatively sober and then a few drinks later you could develop alcohol poisoning because the stimulant is just a façade hiding inebriation, not combatting it. Finally, when using this drug for athletics it can commonly cause people to overexert themselves and upon coming down from the drug high, they will realize they are in far more pain and have completely exhausted their body past a safe level of exertion.


Long Term Physical Effects of Use/Abuse

Using the prescribed dose, the long-term effects that may result include a dependency on the drug and possibly long-term ADHD symptom relief. No negative effects have been found yet, but the drug also hasn’t been proven to be 100% safe because it hasn’t been around for more than a few decades.

Using more than the prescribed dose can result in many different issues. These include insomnia, heart disease, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and dulling of neurotransmitters and therefore emotions/feelings. Sometimes these negatives are reversible with proper lifestyle changes, but sometimes they remain permanent.

One more thing to mention is that people with underlying heart issues should be very wary of this drug because of the increase in norepinephrine could result in a spike of the heart rate that to someone with a heart arrhythmia or another underlying disease could result in a heart attack or death.


Personal Opinion/Experience

I wanted to end this post by talking about my personal experience with ADHD stimulants and specifically Adderall. I was first exposed to Adderall in my Senior year of high school. My mom has her PHD in Psychology and is currently self-employed as a Clinical Psychologist. She told me multiple times throughout my high school experience that she believes I suffer from some version of ADHD based on her observation of my study habits and occasional impulsive decision making. I discounted this information at first because I didn’t think these issues were really much of a problem to me even if they did exist but by Junior year in high school I became curious what it would be like to not procrastinate so much and actually feel capable of sitting down in one place and focusing for an extended period of time. I started doing my own research on Adderall and all of the different pros and cons of the drug and after I absorbed all the knowledge I felt necessary, I told her I was open to trying the drug. I didn’t want to use the drug everyday like some people do because I didn’t feel that I needed the increased level of focus on a day to day basis so I only used Adderall when I had a lot of work and needed to study for a long time. After a few years of on and off use of Adderall I have come to the conclusion that I do not like the drug, and I do not intend to take it in the future. I believe that I have a mild enough form of ADHD that life will be very manageable without assistance from Adderall. I do not like how I feel after I take the drug and I never look forward to taking it. I think that it is an amazing option for people that have severe cases of ADHD and need to be constantly relieved with the normalization of chemicals but in my experience, it is not for me.



Why Starbucks is the Perfect Place for a Part Time Job in College

When I started at Starbucks a couple months back, a common question I got from my family and friends was, “Why don’t you work at a local coffee shop?” My family has  been very supportive of local businesses ever since I can remember. The actual reason I initially applied at Starbucks was because I was laid off and just needed a job to pay my bills until I graduated. I never thought I would experience such an amazing company in the amount of time that I have spent there. In the following I will describe what makes Starbucks such an amazing company to work for during college.


Background on Starbucks 

The very first Starbucks opened in 1972 in downtown Seattle, Washington. This was a single store in the historic Pike Place Market. In 1981, the now CEO Howard Schultz walked in for the first time and was instantly drawn to the cafe, and wanted to be a part of this company. This was the beginning of a coffee revolution. Starbucks set out to be a different kind of coffee company. One that not only celebrated coffee and the rich tradition, but that also brought a feeling of connection. Their mission turned to inspire and nurture the human spirit, by one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time. 

Starbucks Coffee building during daytime


Free Online College

Yes, you read that right. Starbucks will pay your tuition to attend ASU online and earn a bachelor’s degree in over eighty different programs. This includes programs from business, engineering, teaching, computer science and much more. There are only two requirements an employee must do to be eligible. The first is one must be an employee of at least three months. The second is one must work twenty hours a week. I wish I would have known this before taking out student loans to attend the University of Montana. I will be paying off my student loans for quite awhile, especially with my industry crashing after the Covid-19 pandemic.


Starbucks launched this program, Starbucks College Achievement Plan, about six years ago. The CEO stated that over 70% of his employees did not have a college education, and wanted to change that. College seems out of reach for a lot of people, mostly due to how expensive it is. Only half of Americans who begin college today will actually finish according to the U.S. Department of Education, largely due to financial and work and life barriers This program gives their employees a greater opportunity to expand their education and career goals. You can work at Starbucks for four years for a tuition free education and leave, and Howard Shultz is okay with that! 

grayscale photo of person using MacBook


Focusing on Health, Including Mental Health 

As an employee of Starbucks, you are given the option to opt into a health coverage plan. This includes coverage for medical, dental, and vision.  Along with health coverage, your benefit options at Starbucks include life insurance, disability coverage, vacation, tuition reimbursement, employee assistance, commuter benefits, adoption assistance and more. The benefits that Starbucks offers to their full time and part times employees is amazing. There is a program that Starbucks created themselves called the CUP Fund. When an employee gets a discounted drink when they are off, they have the option to round up to the next whole dollar. These pennies that are donated add up fast and are put into a large ‘CUP Fund’. The CUP Fund is a financial assistance program that helps Starbucks partners who experience a financial crisis resulting from an illness, the death of a partner or family member, or natural disaster or other extreme circumstances. The employee is eligible at any time to apply for this financial assistance.


Starbucks also offers their employees, and a friend or family of the employee, ten free therapy sessions of therapy a year, each. This wellness program provides tools and information to help partners learn about their health and wellness and offers suggestions to maintain and improve overall health. Employees can go to any therapist in the network for free. Starbucks believes that mental health is a very important thing and gives the employees an opportunity to focus on their mental health.

Kimberley Bishop

Perk for Partners 

Starbucks gives their employees plenty of perks while on and off shift. While you are working, you can have up to four free coffees a shift and any(1) food item of their choice. Employees are also eligible to receive a free coffee or tea “mark-out” every week. Each week, one may select one pound of whole bean coffee or tea, for free. When employees are off shift they get 30% off all store purchases including drinks, food, and store merchandise. 

Starbucks Coffee Beans As Low As $3.99 a Bag at Target ...


The Political Environment

Starbucks is a welcoming community for all, especially the LGBTQ community. The company has been very outspoken about their views and have become a very large ally in the community. They can contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to foundations that call for equal treatment. Starbucks has a 100 out of 100 for the first time on the 2015 Corporate Equality Index, an initiative administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on corporate policies and practices. They are also one of the largest contributors to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. 

Born This Way Foundation" se une a Starbucks en un refrescante ...


Handling a Global Pandemic 

Starbucks has been great to work for, especially during this pandemic. Starbucks truly values all their employees. During this pandemic of Covid-19, they have been nothing but helpful to their employees. One of the biggest things Starbucks offered their employees was one of two options. The first option is taking a paid time off for the remainder of this pandemic. This means the employee would receive their bi-weekly average for the remainder of this unknown time. The second option is continue working with a three dollar an hour raise. Many employees did not feel safe or comfortable at work which was fine with the company, and they compromised in the best way possible with such short notice.


Another great way they are handling this pandemic and help their employees in by expanding the meal and drink perks. Instead of just free food and drink while on shift, they have now offered one free meal and drink while off shift. They also extended the discount of the rest of the order to 60% off. This was an incredible way to help employees with these hardships.


The last and one of the greatest ways Starbucks has expanded their employee benefits is with the therapy sessions. Starbucks is now offering twenty, double than before, free therapy sessions to employees and one friend or family of choice during quarantine and lockdown orders. They also expanded their therapy sessions to online sessions, so you do not have to leave the house. Starbucks recognized the mental struggles that people go through when you cannot leave the house and wanted to reach out and help. You can now apply online through the employee hub for virtual therapy sessions.

two person holding papercut heart

Extra: Upstanders Program

Upstanders is  a collection of short stories that asks what it means to have courage in today’s America. Produced by CEO Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Upstanders help inspire us to be better citizens. One of the stories was focused on a Missoula project that helped save Syria refugees.  Mary Poole, a Missoula native, was taken about by the civil war in Syria and wanted to help the refugees seeking safety. Her persistence made Missoula the first city in Montana to participate in the state department resettlement program. These stories that Starbucks feature help shed light on courageous people that went above and beyond for others. This foundation donates $25,000 grand to each story they cover, including Mary Poole’s Soft Landing Program. 

Upstanders: Starbucks Original Series Screens at The Wilma ...Starbucks "Upstanders" Docuseries Screening Featuring Mary Poole ...

Starbucks Today

Starbucks currently has over 30,000 stores world wide. It currently has a $22.38 billion revenue figure which is almost 7.5 times that of the nearest competitor, Tim Hortons. Starbucks is now a world icon and you can recognize its logo instantly. A third of its locations are currently located overseas. It was growing so fast that it is estimated that between 1987 and 2007, Starbucks opened an average of two stores every day!

black ceramic mug

Starbucks continuously lands itself on Fortune’s Top 100 Companies to Work For list. Starbucks values each employee and realizes each barista is the reason their company is so successful today. When I work at Starbuck, I feel like a valued part of the team, not just another number. I have never worked for a company that wants to give me so many opportunities and skills to grow myself outside of the company. Next time you drive by a Starbucks, know that the money you spend there is also being filtered back into the employee benefits.

Looking For a Fun Outdoor Activity in Missoula – Disc Golf

Disc golf or as my friends and I call it, folf, is a great sport for people looking to get outdoors. All you need to enjoy the game is a frisbee since every course is usually free to play on. The game is similar to golf except you are throwing a disc instead of hitting a ball. The same rules apply. Try to get the disc to the basket in as few throws as possible. Just like golf, a round can be filled with many highs and lows. The challenging part about folf is maneuvering around the trees and bushes that can get in the way on any given hole. It really is a fun sport that is very easy to learn. Plus, it allows you to get outside, breathe in some fresh air, and see some great views. Essentially, its hiking while throwing a frisbee.


If you are a beginner, then this next part is to help you learn about the basic parts of disc golf. For more advanced players, scroll down and I’ll be writing about the different courses in Missoula.



Before jumping into playing disc golf, there are some certain things that players should be aware of. First off, purchasing a disc that is made particularly for folfing is going to be the first step. A regular frisbee isn’t going to get the job done. Most discs can be purchased at a local sports store for $10-$20. Before buying, it is important to understand the different types of discs and what the number on the discs mean.


Types of Discs

There are three different kinds of discs; driver, mid-range, putter. Each of the three are made to fly a certain way and used for different distances. A driver is the disc that is going to go the furthest but can be the hardest to control. The sharp, heavier edges of a driver help the disc cut through the air while traveling at high speeds. The driver is usually used for your first shot off the tee box. Since drivers need to be throw at a high speed to fly right, they may not be the best disc to use for a beginner. A mid-range disc may be a better option because they require less strength to throw and are easier to control. Mid-range discs won’t go as far as drivers but can cover a lot of distance if thrown properly. The main use of these discs are for shots approaching the basket. The last type of disc is a putter. Putters are designed similarly to your regular frisbee. These discs are used when shooting at the basket. Putters fly very straight and are more predictable. Many pro disc golfers like to have a bag full of 10-20 discs, so they have a variety of options for any occasion. If you are just starting up though, I would recommend buying a mid-range disc to try out because they don’t need to be thrown at a high speed to fly right and require less technique. They can fly almost as far as a driver and can be used as a putter. To this day, one of my friends still only uses a mid-range disc when we go out, and he is the best of the group. Then, I only choose to use a driver and a putter. It really doesn’t take a much to get started!


Disc Measurements

The other thing to be aware of when buying a disc is the numbers listed on them. These numbers are measurements that indicate how a disc will fly.

This is what the measurements will look like on the disc. From left to right, these stats are speed, glide, turn, and fade.

Speed- how hard a person must throw the disc for it to be thrown properly.

Glide- how long the disc can stay in the air

Turn- how stable the disc it, how it will fly at high speed

Fade- how the disc finishes once it slows down at the end of its flight


Throwing Styles

There are also a few different throwing styles that can used by folfers. This is mostly preference so go with whatever feels the most natural for you.

Backhand -This is the most commonly used throw. Most professional disc golfers use this. Typically finishes to the left.

Forehand (sidearm) -Not as common but can be just as effective. This is the throw I use because I feel like it is less stress on my body. Finishes to the right.

Tomahawk -A throw that isn’t used very often. This is used to throw over obstacles when stuck in a lot of trees.

Courses in Missoula:

Disc golf is an up and coming sport that has started to gain more traction here in Missoula over the years. There are a number of courses in the surrounding area for avid players looking to get their folf fix in or new players looking to get their feet wet. It’s hard to get worn out from playing when there are so many options in the area. After the description of each course, there will be a link to a YouTube video showing pros playing on the course from the ZooTown Open. Each year Missoula holds the ZooTown Open where locals get the chance to watch pro disc golfers come to play their hometown courses.


Blue Mountain

The first course I have to talk about in Missoula is Blue Mountain. This is the course that I am most familiar with and is definitely my favorite. The course is located on the southwest side of Missoula. There are plenty of parking spots near the bottom of the mountain that allow you to start on Hole 1. Then there is also an alternative starting spot that is further up the mountain allowing you to start on Hole 13. The Blue Mountain course is made up of 18 holes that provide a variety of both open and tight fairways. The course has plenty of elevation changes that gives folfers quite the hike. If you don’t stay in the fairway on a couple of holes, your round can end up being a little rough and wild navigating through the trees and brush. Keep reading for descriptions of the holes I love and dislike on the course.

To begin the course, Hole 1 presents the challenge of splitting a narrow gap of trees to get to the other side of the ravine (pictured below). I have definitely started many rounds by hitting a tree, making me take my second shot from the bottom of the hill so don’t get discouraged if that happens to you.

Moving on to Hole 2, the basket is set on a hill sloping right to left. It can be an easy birdie with a good throw, but if your disc doesn’t land soft, it could get “wheels” and roll all the way down the hill. Fast forward a couple holes to my favorite hole on the course, Hole 4. Not only is it my favorite hole, it also provides the best view from the course. From the tee box on Hole 4, you can see above the trees all the way across Missoula to the “M”. Because the hole starts at the top of the hill and ends at the bottom, it makes for a great folf hole. A person can huck their disc out there and just let it ride to the bottom. The two following holes are played out on flat land with fairly open shots at the basket. Hole 7, my least favorite hole on the course, is straight up a monster of a hill. Usually at the end of this one I need a few minutes to catch my breath. I guess without walking up that huge hill, Hole 10 wouldn’t be possible. Hole 10 (pictured below) is another one of my favorites on the Blue Mountain course. From the tee box, you have to throw over the road and down into the wide-open field waiting at the bottom. Usually, it takes me three throws just to get near the basket. That’s why the video link I provide at the end is so cool to watch because the pros only need one throw to get all the way down near the basket.

The following two holes are pretty wide-open after that. That leads us to Hole 13 which is another of my least favorites. The biggest reason why is because the hole isn’t great for my throw. Since I throw forehand, all of my throws usually end with a sharp right curve, and on this hole, that’s the last place you want to go. The right side is full of trees and bushes so throwing that way is an easy way to lose a disc. These last handful of holes are back into the forest and present quite a few obstacles. Speaking of obstacles, Hole 16 is full of them. Before you take on this hole, there is a perfect little rest stop to sit. My friends and I call this “the spot” because there is a big, comfy log bench there. Back to Hole 16, which some call “Merkwood” because of all the trees off to left of the fairway. This hole can really ruin a great round of folf if you get stuck in there! Once getting past that hole, the last two holes go by quick, and just like that you’ve folfed Blue Mountain!

I hope you enjoyed reading along as I described how I felt about my favorite course, Blue Mountain, here in Missoula. If you were having trouble following along or want to see how the course looks, watch the pros play it at last years ZooTown Open!

Pattee Canyon

Across town on the southeast side of Missoula, there is another disc golf course in Pattee Canyon. This course provides a good combination of both short and long-distance holes. Unlike Blue Mountain’s elevation changing terrain, Pattee Canyon’s course is pretty flat throughout. The majority of the obstacles blocking the goal at this course are going to be trunks of pine trees. I would say most of the holes are straight shots which can sometimes be hard for beginners since discs have the tendency to finish hard left or right. But overall, this is a great alternative to Blue Mountain since that course can become crowded. Here is course map to follow along with. Plus, there is a video at the end showing what the course looks like.

When driving up to the course, there is a sign says “Disc Golf Parking” so it’s hard to miss. From the parking lot to Hole 1, there is a long walk, but it is well marked as well. The first two holes are wide open except for the occasional tree and the long grass. That’s the exact opposite of what you’ll see from Hole 3 and Hole 4. Both these holes have a very tight window between two rows of trees. It’s going to take a very straight throw to get through them and reach the pin. The next few holes are in the forest but still provide a good folfer with lines to hit. Hole 7 is one of my favorites on this course because it’s so short. It gives you a real chance to hit a hole in one and there’s no feeling better than that. The next two holes, 8 and 9, are in the dense forest. Both are covered with trees which can make them pretty difficult. Hole 10 is more of the same from the tee box, but then opens up as you get closer to the basket. After that is another one of my favorites. Hole 11 is another of the more open shots on the course. It provides a good chance at getting a birdie. The next few holes are more of the same, shooting through a tunnel of trees. Hole 15 can be a little deceiving considering it starts with a shot from the tee box that goes into a wide open field. What makes this hole tough is usually the second shot is going to need some luck getting through the guardian trees blocking the basket. The last three holes of Pattee Canyon are each unique and provide shots of all different distances. Hole 16 is a short open hole that gives a chance at a birdie. Next is Hole 17, which is another long, straight window through the trees. Then to finish off, the last hole has the first change of elevation on the course with a shorter, slightly downhill hole.

Pattee Canyon provides another great option for disc golfers in Missoula. Unfortunately, the ZooTown Open doesn’t have a video on YouTube of the pros playing this course. I did happen to find a video of a guy playing all 18 holes. This is a chance for you to see how the course looks and plays.

Sky Ranch

About 20 miles outside of Missoula, just past Clinton, there is another disc golf course called Sky Ranch. It is a private ranch course that is open to the public but asks folfers to pay $5 at the dropbox located on the course.  Sky Ranch is complete with a practice basket and measured driving range! I have not been able to try this course out yet since it is further away, but I intend on going as soon as I can get a group together to go out. I did watch the video of the pros playing it during the ZooTown Open, and the course looks awesome.

The course has a mix of holes in the trees and then a couple that are wide open as you can see from the map below. It’s always fun to see who has the biggest arm of the group on holes with nothing blocking your way.

Linda Vista

Sadly, this is another course that I have not gotten the chance to play. The main reason being it is usually only open from November to February. During the other months of the year, Linda Vista is home to a golf course. To play the course, it costs $5 at the golf course cafe. I thought this course may have less obstacles in the way than others since its on a golf course. After watching the pros play the course, it seemed like there was always a big bushy tree blocking the basket though. To bad we can’t play this course at the moment. It looks like a great change of pace from the forest courses.

Give it a Try!

I know many of you are trying to stay safe and keep your distance from others in this pandemic. Disc golf is a great way to still keep your distance while being able to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful weather we have been having here in Missoula. We are lucky to live in a place that has a variety of options available. This leaves players, like myself, wanting to go out and experience all the courses. I really hope this content makes some of you want to pick up a disc and go try out folfing! If you’re looking to give disc golf a shot, these are the best locations in Missoula to do it!

How to be a responsible AR-15 owner

So, you just bough your first AR-15 and you have no idea what to do now. Well, this is where I come in. Just as an introduction, I first want to talk about being a responsible gun owner. I fully support people’s rights to keep and bare arms, but I fully condemn irresponsible, negligent, and careless ownership of any weapon.

Politics aside, guns are dangerous. Even the smallest of calibers can kill someone. By the end of this introduction, I hope you will share my respect for firearms and understand my demand for gun safety. So, what do I mean by “responsible ownership”? Simply put, if you own a gun, you are responsible for whatever happens with that gun. You are responsible for every shot fired, for knowing where the gun is at all times, and, heaven forbid, you are responsible in the event your gun is stolen.


Part 1, Firearm Etiquette

When my dad taught me how to shoot for the first time, he said “make sure you point your gun where you intend to shoot”.  Self-defense scenarios aside, never, ever, EVER point a gun at another person, regardless of whether or not it has a magazine in it, the bolt is back, the safety is on, you know there is no ammo in the gun, you have a breach flag in it; never point a gun at anyone. If you are shooting for the first time, make sure the muzzle of the gun is either pointing at the ground or down range. If it is a public range, and the range master, the guy who controls what happens at the range, calls for a “cease fire” or says the “range is cold”, then clear your gun and back away. Do not, under any circumstances, approach the firing line until the range master says, “going hot”. This is to ensure that people who walked down range do not get shot.

Just as a side story, when I was 10 years old and at the range, the range master called a cease-fire. At this range, you were supposed to open the chamber so the range master could make sure there was no ammo in the gun. I decided to go to the gun and open it up but people where already down range. Suffice it to say, I spent the whole cease-fire getting chewed out and had it in my to never do that again. The moral of this story is as follows, intentions don’t matter if someone gets shot, what matters is that you follow the rules and do everything you can to make sure everyone around you is safe, even if that means doing nothing at times.

Safety is about more than just where you point your gun or what to do when people move in front of the firing line. Safety also includes making sure your gun is properly maintained, making sure you are using the right ammo, and making sure you know what other people are doing around you.


Part 2, The Other Guys

Unless you can legally shoot on your own private property, you will most likely wind up shooting with other people. Some you might now and others you have never seen before. When in this scenario, it is important that you pay attention to those around you. They don’t know what you are thinking or what you plan to do. It’s possible they might think it’s safe to walk down range when you are just reloading. Or maybe you are at a range that, for whatever reason, has traffic go near the targets. Regardless of what happens, you must pay attention to everything. Bullets won’t decide to not hurt someone just because they made a mistake, though it would be nice if they did.

I have spent a fair amount of time already talking about making sure you make good decisions. Unfortunately, even if you give 110% to following the rules, accidents can still happen; specifically other people responsible for said accidents. I can’t even begin to count how many times I have gone to a public range and some guys drive by to dump a few hundred rounds as fast as possible. They would shoot as fast as possible and occasionally hit the hill behind the targets. For starters, don’t be like these people. But keep an eye on them. It is hard to control a gun when it is shooting fast, even the measly .223 or 5.56. if someone does this around you, stop shooting and back up. If something happens, it doesn’t matter that it is their fault; the bullets don’t care. You are just as responsible for your safety as well as the safety of those around you.

Lastly, let’s not forget that getting shot isn’t the only safety issue. When you go to shoot, make sure the people around are already wearing eye and ear protection. And if your are shooting steel close up, make sure they are out of the way of ricochets and splash-back, though ill elaborate more on that later.

To sum everything up in part 2, you are just as responsible for other people’s safety as you are for your own safety. Living by the golden and silver rules is very important; those being “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” and “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you”. Oh, and if you are going to shoot something really loud, be nice and let other people know.

The last thing to keep in mind is other people off the range. If you have children or friends who are unfamiliar with guns, you are also responsible for anything they do with your guns. A gun safe is tried and tested. Big, heavy, reliable, and having been around for centuries, gun safes are hard to beat. If you do not have the room or the money, there are a variety of gun locks you can use but they only make sure people can’t shoot them, it will not stop someone from steeling them.


Part 3, Gear and Environmental Hazards

In part 2, I told you to make sure everyone had eye and ear protection. If you don’t already know, guns are loud. Most guns can cause permanent hearing damage just by firing 1 shot. Earplugs are nice, and there are other types of hearing protection that go around the ears. I’ve had friends use pistol rounds as well but I would advice against that. Any construction grade earplugs will work for the most guns but if you are going to shoot larger calibers like .308, then you might want to do some research on something better.

Secondly is eye protection. Guns work by utilizing a controlled explosion to propel the bullet forward. The problem is that any un-burnt powder or contaminants in the powder can blow back into your face and into your eyes. Usually this causes severe eye irritation but it can blind you in worst-case scenario. Also, the muzzle break has a tendency to throw a shockwave towards the ground that can throw dust all around and into your face. Lastly, depending on how far you’re shooting, it’s possible, and in some cases inevitable that shrapnel will come back. Sharp copper jackets and pieces of atomized lead hurt when they imbed themselves in your skin, I shudder to thin what will happen to the eyes. Eye protection is fairly easy. There are shooting glasses, but workshop glasses, sunglasses and even prescription glasses will work to protect your eyes, just keep in mind they might get scratched.

The last bit of equipment is the most fun of them all: targets. Paper targets on cardboard backing are the least expensive and most practical. They also have a 0% chance of sending shrapnel and ricochets back at you. The main drawbacks are that they’re boring and can be unstable in the wind. Cans and clay pigeons are also fun to shoot, but they leave a mess. If you use these, please clean up after yourself. Another huge problem is that you have to rest them somewhere. Do not set them on or near rocks as you are just asking for a ricochet to come back at you. You can also shoot fruits and vegetables, but they can explode and make a mess, specifically, on you and your equipment. There are also rubber targets that are made specifically for shooting. They work well but have a short lifespan.

Lastly are steel plates. These are my favorite to shoot as you can see and hear the impact, and they have an indefinite lifespan to them. The problems with shooting steel are that you must use a solid lead projectile. Copper jackets will work but they can dent the plate and that jacket will come back to you at short distances. Large calibers and steel core will severely hurt the steel plate and if you get large craters in the steel, shrapnel is a guarantee. They are also relatively expensive and terribly heavy. If you shoot steel, you may want to consider wearing pants, a long sleeve shirt, and gloves.


Part 4, Know Your AR-15


I have been rambling on and on about general safety that applies for all firearms but I believe you should never forget the basics. Lets get to the fun part, the AR-15. For starters, AR-15 has become a rather vague term nowadays. Think of the AR-15 as being just as vague as a car. There are a lot of different types of Ar-15’s, each with it’s own purpose, it’s own caliber, everything.

The simplest way I can think to describe an AR-15 is that it has an upper and lower receiver that can easily be split. The AR-15 is a civilian model of semi-auto rifle that is based off of the original Vietnam era M16, and later the M4 that, I think, is still in use. There are a ton of variants just in the military side of the market that I can’t even keep track. Fortunately for us, you can’t have those so my life is a little easier. The AR-15 was originally chambered in the civilian .223 Remington but was later chambered in 5.56×45 NATO. To clarify the difference between these 2 calibers, one is civilian and the other is military. Also, if you rifle is chambered in the 5.56 you can shoot .223 out of it. If your rifle is chambered in .223, you cannot shoot 5.56 out of it. Most, if not all, modern rifles have the caliber printed on the barrel of the gun. That is the most reliable way to check.

Unfortunately, it’s not just those 2 calibers. In recent years, everyone has been trying to put every caliber under the sun into these rifles. The original was the AR-10, which is a bigger version of the AR-15 chambered in .308 or 7.62×51 NATO. And just like .223 and 5.56, one is military the other civilian, and the 7.62×51 can shoot both. Nowadays, you can build an AR-15 chambered in .450 Bushmaster, .450 SOCOM, 6.5 Grendel, .50 Beowulf and about 50 others. The most common variant is .300 Black Out but they even created a whole new AR-AK hybrid so you can shoot the Soviet 7.62×39 cartridge out of it.

Chances are, if this is your first and you bought it at the store, it’s either .223 or 5.56. Just look at the barrel if you aren’t sure. Fortunately, most of the lower receivers are the same. Trigger assembly, buffer tube, spring, weight, and mag well, the works. There are two different ways any AR-15 variant will cycle; DI or Gas Piston.

DI stands for Direct Impingement, but technically it isn’t a direct impingement. I don’t full understand the techy definition but just know this; there is a hollow tube that runs from the middle of the barrel back to the receiver. This channels the same gas used to propel the bullet forward back into receiver to operated the bolt carrier group also denoted as the BCG. The other way is through the use of a gas piston. This is very similar to soviet style barrels, where gas comes out at the same spot it would a DI system, but instead of going down a tube into the receiver, it hits a metal rod that pushes against the BCG. Okay, so there is a third system; direct blowback. This is for those wonky looking AR-15 variants chambered in pistol calibers. There isn’t enough pressure from the pistol cartridge to operate a DI or gas piston so Newton’s third law takes over here.

I lied again, there is sort of, technically, kind of a fourth system; bolt action. I don’t actually know if there are AR-15 variants that work off of this, but there are bolt action rifles that use the same lower receiver but a bolt action upper so I’ll count it anyways. Why does any of this matter? Well, if you don’t have an AR-15 yet, this is useful to understand depending on what you intend to use the rifle for.

DI pros and cons: The direct impingement system, that technically isn’t, is lightweight, has less moving parts which means less places to fail, and was the original design for the rifle. The cons are that it is made out of very thin metal, which, under sustained fire, can easily explode. Just look up any AR-15 meltdown video on YouTube. The other problem is that gunpowder does not burn cleanly. All the soot, carbon, and other powder contaminants gets blown back into the receiver and can gunk up the bolt and bolt carrier group. This is the standard operating system for the AR-15 and it works seamlessly. Recommended for people who don’t mind cleaning, do not shoot a lot between cleanings, and who do not shoot a lot of ammo in a short period of time. Ideal for carrying around while outdoors and for precision shooting.

Gas piston pros and cons. I prefer this system and have a strong bias in favor of it, though I do use both variants. The pros are that it is durable, clean, heavy duty, and is the base for the infamous Soviet AK series of rifles. Because it does not blow the gunpowder residue back into the receiver, the bolt and bolt carrier group remain clean and wont jam as easily. The cons are that it is heavy and there are more parts that can fail. In my experience, this system is recommended for those who shoot a lot, shoot a lot quickly, who intend to use the rifle in less than clean conditions, and who don’t like to clean their rifles frequently.

The last thing to look for is mounting options. First comes optics. Optics mounting is solely done with the picatinny rail system. Fore grips, lights, lasers, etc. can also be mounted with picatinny. While I prefer the picatinny rails, there are other options. M-LOK is the newest system and is what most people find to be the best. The other is KeyMod, though we don’t talk about that. This is just a personal preference, for most, picatinny is hard to beat.


Part 5, Maintaining Your Rifle


It is important that you take care of your rifle. This is to reduce the likelihood of misfires, jams, squibs, and even preventing your rifle from exploding. The first thing you do should be the last thing you do before leaving the range or outing your rifle away; check the chamber to make sure it is empty. Slide the BCG forward and turn the safety to ‘safe’. Press the rear takedown pin and pull it out until it stops. There are small retaining pins in in both takedown pins to prevent them from coming out all the way. Fold the gun forward and then remove the front take down pin. Once that pin is out, the upper receiver will be completely detached from the lower receiver.

The lower receiver is the easiest to clean so I’ll start there. Just take a paper towel and wipe down any dust or oil on the outside, the face that leans against the upper receiver, and the mag well. Now do a visual examination of the trigger group, making sure that everything looks normal. Go ahead and turn the safety to ‘shoot’ or ‘semi’ and pull the trigger. Keep your thumb on the hammer and guide it forward to avoid any damage to the receiver. Push the hammer back into place and return the safety to ‘safe’. Next, check the mag release functions properly. You can insert a magazine just fin to help. If you decide to put a mag in the lower, insert it fully until its seated, then pull down on the mag to make sure the mag catch functions properly. Remove the magazine and set the lower off to the side, it’s finished.

The upper has a lot more to do. Start by pulling the charging handle back about an inch. Then pull the BCG up and out. Once the BCG is out, remove the charging handle by pulling it all the way back and pulling up. Set both off to the side. If you have optics, take this time to cover the glass to avoid getting anything on the lenses. Start by applying bore solvent or a barrel cleaner to a bore brush; make sure the brush is attached to a cleaning rod. Run the brush back and forth several times and let sit. While the cleaner is doing its job, wipe down the charging handle with a paper towel.

Here is where I get nitpicky. I like to do a full takedown on the BCG every time I clean my AR-15. This should be done at least every thousand rounds but it doesn’t hurt to do it more frequently. The bare minimum would be to wipe down the BCG. If you don’t want to do the full cleaning, skip the next paragraph.

To clean the BCG, start by removing the retaining pin on the side of the BCG. This will allow the firing pin to slide out. Once the firing pin is out, you can pull out the cam pin. These usually involve you rotating them 90degrees once that is out, the bolt will be able to slide out. Spray gun cleaner on everything and wipe them down. Take this moment to check the bolt. Take a round of whatever caliber the gun is for, ideally a spent cartridge but a live round is still safe. Press the round against the bolt making sure the extractor grabs the case and the ejector pin works. The ejector pin should be fairly stiff and hard to press against. Press the round until it fully seats with the bolt, then pull the casing directly away from the bolt. If you cant pull it out, then everything works. Apply a small amount of oil on everything that was inside the BCG and the interior of the BCG. Reassemble the BCG by following the disassembly steps backwards.

Now that the charging handle and BCG are clean, set them aside. Go back to the upper. Run the brush a few more times, through the barrel. If you have a breach brush, apply the same clean and begin cleaning the breach. Mae sure you get under the teeth of the breach, as that is the area that actually matters. Use a cleaning cloth and the corresponding attachment for the cleaning rod and run it through the barrel until nothing else comes out. Use multiple patches as needed. Ensure the beach is also wiped down.

Apply a small amount of oil in the breach, to the breach face on the bolt, on anywhere there is signs of contact on the BCG, on the teeth of the charging handle, and on a cloth and run the cloth through the barrel. Reassemble the upper. Now reattach the upper to the lower. Aim the barrel of the gun in a safe direction, ideally towards to floor, release the safety, and pull the trigger. Do not sore the rifle with the hammer or the BCG back. Doing so will strain the springs and make the rifle less reliable.

When it comes to oil, I don’t believe you can use too much. If you do, the next time you shoot you will see a large white cloud of oil and that’s all. Sometimes you can over oil the bolt and it could jam, but that hasn’t happened to me yet.


Part 6, Storage


Now that your rifle is nice and clean, put it away to gather dust. Storing it in a safe not only prevents people from stealing it, but it will reduce the amount of dust will land on it. Do note that iron and iron compounds will rust over time. If you know the rifle will be stored for a long time, then put some oil on a rag and wipe down the barrel of the gun.  You can also get dehumidifiers for the safe and reduce the amount of humidity in the safe. If the rifle sits in the safe for more than a year, you will need to clean it again before you use it again.

In my experience, some oils do evaporate over time, and the dust can cause the rifle to jam. This does take at least a year to be a problem though. As stated earlier, make sure the hammer and BCG is forward. Do not store springs under load or they will fail over time.




And that’s it. If you listen to, and apply what you learned here, then you will be a safe, responsible, and worthy gun owner. If there is only one thing you takeaway, it is gun safety. Accidents happen. There are even times where the impossible happens. There was a time when, after returning from the gun range, there was a rifle that had a live round in the chamber. I thought I had cleared the gun 3 times before going to put it away but I noticed something strange. The safety for my rifle only engages when the hammer is back. I almost pulled the trigger but decided to check the chamber anyways. I would have hurt my ears really bad if I didn’t think twice, but because I did, I saved my ears, and my ego too. Good luck and happy shooting and enjoy your new AR.


Lastly, if you would like to learn more about guns in general, consider checking out these channels.





How to Choose a High-Performance Luxury Custom Home Builder in Montana: A Definitive Guide

Created by Nicolas R. Ream
Luxury Home Exterior at Dusk
Luxury Home Exterior – Montana Heritage Home Builders, Inc.

How to Choose a Home Builder?

The question of “How to Choose a Home Builder?” does not adequately get to the heart of determining a home builder. If one says, “How do I choose a car?” – there are many aspects that one must first consider. To consider the question of how to choose a home builder, one must first decide where they want to build, what market-level of home they want to build, and what features they want to build. Once a person establishes those factors, one can start determining a home builder. Thus, this guide focuses on “How to Choose a High-Performance Luxury Custom Home Builder in Montana.” This guide is for someone who wants a high-performance home, that is luxury, and is a custom-built home.

You know the basic category of the home that you want. You know you want to build a home in Montana. However, you do not know what to look for in home builders, certainly not where to look for home builders. Many people experience this step – you are not alone! Determining a home builder is an important step, and going with the wrong home builder can be a costly experience. Let us work to make your home building experience be the best it can be!


Before you consider a home builder, make sure the builder has liability and builders risk insurance. A builder who does not hold liability or builders risk insurance may seem less expensive at first. However, the choice may be more costly in the long-term. Also, make sure you check how much liability insurance the builder holds. You do not want to cut costs on liability and builders risk insurance!

Memberships and Affiliations

Home Builder Associations


Montana Building Industry Association Logo

To start the home builder searching experience, you should search for a home builder who is a member of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). NAHB members in Montana are members of the Montana Building Industry Association (MBIA) and the local association, such as the Missoula Building Industry Association (MBIA) or the Flathead Building Association (FBA). The NAHB is the premier trade association in the United States for home builders. Through choosing a home builder who is a member of the NAHB, clients have a certain level of guarantee that these organizations are the craftsmen, the problem solvers, and the innovators of the home building industry.

Business Associations

Is the builder a member of business organizations? Membership in organizations such as the local chamber of commerce, for example, the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce or the Columbia Falls Area Chamber of Commerce can help ensure the home builder is not a fly-by-night operation. Another organization to check is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB is an independent organization that works to advance marketplace trust by giving business ratings, having customer reviews, and showing customer complaints. A builder who is a “BBB Accredited Business” with an “A+” BBB rating is a good choice to ensure dealing with a business that has high customer standards.

Certifications and Designations

The NAHB has certifications that can be held by home builders. Professional certifications that are important for a high-performance luxury custom home builder to hold are Certified Graduate Builder (CGB) and Certified Green Professional (CGP). The CGB designation shows that a builder has received NAHB training. The CGB has excelled in exams showing mastery in homebuilding. Click here to see builders in Montana who have the CGB designation. The CGP designation shows a builder has received NAHB training and excelled on tests to showcase comprehension and mastery in green or energy-efficient home building practices. Click here to see builders in Montana who have the CGP designation. One can also check if the builder attended an accredited college. While a college education can show a builder has “higher education,” one should see how the education connects to the home building industry. Does the builder have a college degree with NAHB certifications? If the builder has a college degree but no experience in the home building industry, then the builder may not be the best choice.

Luxury Home Kitchen
Luxury Home Kitchen – Montana Heritage Home Builders, Inc.

Project Supervision

The person who is going to supervise the job should have extensive industry experience. The home building firm may be large, with many employees or small with few employees. Make sure to ask the home builder who oversees the project. The owner of the business may manage all the projects, or the firm may have Project Managers or Superintendents. Oftentimes a high-performance luxury custom home builder has much of the company working on the project.

Luxury Home Living Space with Fireplace
Luxury Home Living Space with Fireplace – Montana Heritage Home Builders, Inc.

Ability to Complete Job

Make sure to ensure the builder can complete the job. For example, a respected builder who specializes in timber frame may not have the expertise or desire to build a log home. If you do find a builder who does not specialize in the project type that you desire, then you can ask for recommendations of those who do specialize in the industry. Since you should be choosing from builders who are members of the NAHB, a member is likely to recommend another member that does high-quality work with a different specialization. Make sure if you want an architect to design the home, the builder has experience with architects. Plus, if you want the builder to design the home, make sure the company is a design-build firm. When you are choosing a home builder, it is necessary to ensure that you are comparing all factors of the home builders. A home builder that does not work with architects may be a problem, or a builder that is not a design-build firm can be a serious issue if that is what you are looking for in a contractor.

Luxury Home Timbers
Luxury Home Timbers – Montana Heritage Home Builders, Inc.


Determine the timeline of when you want the home completed. It is essential to start the process as soon as you are interested in building. If you find a home builder that will work with a realtor, then you can have a smoother process through having the builder begin the process with you of planning for the home while looking for land. An important aspect of choosing a home builder is making sure your timeline aligns with the timeline of the home builder. One thing to keep in mind is that often a builder has a period of time before a project can start. A builder works with its subcontractors to plan a project. A builder who is busy is often a good sign that the builder has many projects – make sure though that the builder does not just have many projects because the homes are less expensive due to lower quality build.

Connections to Suppliers, Tradespeople, and Subcontractors

When hiring a home builder, you will want to choose a general contractor. A general contractor deals with suppliers, tradespeople, subcontractors, construction management, and project management. The general contractor is the one involved with the project from start to finish. If you do not have a general contractor, then you will have to deal with hiring the plumber, the electrician, the framers, and all the different aspects of building a home. A general contractor oftentimes receives better prices on all aspects of a job than the customer would if they did the project themselves. A general contractor makes sure the quality of the subcontractors, such as framers, electricians, and plumbers, aligns with the quality the homeowner has signed up for with the contractor, per se. When choosing a high-performance luxury custom home builder, make sure to choose a builder that has connections, relationships, and partnerships with those in the industry. If you choose a home builder that does not oversee the hiring of trim carpenters, for example, then you may end up with a high-end luxury home with starter home trim. Starter home trim and starter home trim carpenters have a place. However, unless you want a style of starter home trim in your home, then you should have luxury or premium quality trim.

Luxury Custom Living Space
Luxury Custom Living Space – Montana Heritage Home Builders, Inc.


Can the home builder provide references? If the home builder refuses to provide references, then that may be a bad sign! A builder may have more references then they put on their website. Not all clients want their information published, but they may be willing to speak to potential clients or even let the potential clients come to see the home. Google and Houzz are two places you can look at reviews for home builders. No reviews on a site is not necessarily bad! Just make sure the builder is willing to give you access to reviews and references from past clients.


High-performance luxury custom home builders have different processes and systems in place.

Questions to Ask:

  • Do you use a construction project management software program and app?
  • Do you help build a design that is within the budget that helps fulfill our dream?
    • Make sure to choose a home builder that will help work through your budget with you, to help build a project that is your dream, while keeping you within budget.
  • Do you have ways to communicate remotely via video?
  • Do you send daily updates?
  • Do you allow for change orders?
    • With custom builds, it is often a good idea to choose a builder that will allow for change orders. However, change orders do usually add extra costs to the project.
  • Do you allow for visits to a job site?
    • It is essential to make sure you can visit a job and receive tours from the builder.

The following video shows what a program such as Buildertrend can do. Ask the builder for a video or directions for how to use the construction project management tool they use.

What Makes the Contractor a Montana Home Builder?

A contractor that is a Montana home builder is based in Montana. Choosing a home builder that is based in Montana for a build is a good idea for many reasons. Construction has different laws from state to state. In high-performance home building, a builder must have experience in a state to ensure the home is built for conditions in a particular state. For example, a home in Montana will need more significant structures to stand up to snow in the winter than a house in Texas.

What Makes the Contractor A High-Performance Home Builder?

Builders may have differing views of how a high-performance home differs from a non-high-performance home. A high-performance home takes many features into account. A home builder can partner with the United States Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home program to certify homes that are high-performance homes. A true high-performance home allows for a superior homeowner experience.

Features of a Certified Zero Energy Ready Home:

  • Provides $10,000s of utility bill savings over the life of a mortgage
  • Takes comfy and cozy to a whole new level
  • Breathes better with a comprehensive package of indoor air quality features
  • Includes the peace-of-mind that comes from complete top-to-bottom water protection
  • Works and lasts better with ENERGY STAR® products throughout the home
  • Ensures quality with independent verification, testing, and diagnostics
  • Is future-ready with construction that meets and exceeds future codes

House certifications are a clear way to see that a home builder is building homes to a high set of standards. However, many home builders in Montana do not have certified homes because of a lack of inspectors and validators.

When talking to potential builders, ask them what technologies they use to determine what are the best features to create a high-performance home. Does the home builder use techniques and tools, such as UCLA’s Climate Consultant, to accurately determine the local climate? Does the builder consider a high-performance home strictly focused on energy savings, cost savings, comfort, advanced building techniques, or design? A builder who takes a holistic approach to design and building the home will allow for a more exceptional experience in the short-term and the long-term for the homeowner.

When talking with a home builder, ensure that they will add or remove features, such as energy-efficient aspects, as the homeowner can afford. For example, some features may be more advanced techniques, but may not be in the budget for the homeowner.

What Are the Builder’s Definitions of Custom and Luxury?

Luxury Master Bedroom
Award-Winning Premier Level Master SuiteMontana Heritage Home Builders, Inc.

When finding a home builder, make sure that you understand what the builder means when they say they are a custom home builder. Some builders suggest they will allow the home to be fully custom, while other home builders mean the color of the walls can be changed. Determine if the builder is a true fully custom home builder or if the builder is a semi-custom home builder. Both fully custom and semi-custom homes have their place. However, if you are comparing home builders, you will want to be sure that you understand what you are getting from the different builders. If you hire a fully custom home builder, then you will be able to customize the home entirely. However, if you choose a semi-custom home builder, then you will not have a fully custom home. Also, when meeting with potential home builders, determine what the builder means by luxury. Does the home builder mean fully luxury with energy, fixtures, finishes, and the entire home, or does the builder mean one aspect is luxury, such as fixtures? A home that is built entirely luxury is much different from a house that is made with only some luxury aspects. Also, in the phase of determining what the builder means by custom and luxury, determine if the builder is willing to build a smart home. Some builders may not advertise smart home technologies. However, they regularly put smart home technologies in the homes per the request of the homeowner.


Make sure the builder you are hiring is within your budget. A builder priced at a certain market range may not be building products within that range. Compare and look at all aspects of the builder to determine what range of homes they are building. The builder may have prices in the luxury range but is building starter home quality homes. Alternatively, the builder may have a little lower price but is building high-quality homes. Make sure that you can afford the home builder’s price. You do not want to take your time and the builder’s time spent planning for a home that there is no way you can afford. Be upfront with what you can afford. A good builder will be honest with you if they think they can build a home in that price range. Although choices in the finishes, for example, may make the price of the home change much. You need to find a builder that explains the processes and prices. Nevertheless, also, be willing to change your plans and finishes to build a home in your price range.


Choosing a high-performance luxury custom home builder is a significant life event. A home is something that one calls home for many years and has many memories. Choose a home builder that “fits” with you, plus meets the criteria set out in this guide. Choosing the wrong home builder can be a costly mistake. However, one can take a little longer selecting a home builder to ensure they choose the right home builder. Make sure to choose a holistic home builder who has a 360-degree view of the built environment. A home builder who is viewed as a thought-leader in the industry is oftentimes a superb starting place. Always look for builders who are a member of the NAHB. There are many builders in Montana, and choosing a builder that is a member of the NAHB helps ensure you select a home builder that has high quality and standards.

Choosing a High-Performance Luxury Custom Home Builder in Montana Chart
Tool of Questions to Ask Potential Home Builders

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Photo of Nicolas Ream
Nicolas R. Ream
About Nicolas R. Ream:

Nicolas R. Ream, the author, is studying Marketing, Management, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and Pre-Law at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. Nicolas works at Montana Heritage Home Builders, Inc., a high-performance luxury custom home builder in Columbia Falls, Montana. Nicolas is a member of the National Association of Home Builders, the Montana Building Industry Association, and the Flathead Building Association. Nicolas works to be future-focused with his writings to ensure someone can use the information in the future; for example, Nicolas recommends using Houzz (a digital tool) as a resource for researching home builders.

Connect with Nicolas: Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn

References and Sources: See hyperlinks, also personal experience and knowledge.

Photos have been used with permission from Montana Heritage Home Builders, Inc.

This guide has been created in the BMKT 440: Marketing Analytics class with Professor Mario Schulzke.

Have questions for Nicolas?

Post them in the comments below. I will be checking them, and responding as soon as I can. Thank you!

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