“I pinch myself every day as I head off to work and look around me” Reed Gregerson says as he describes his life in Montana. “I have a great job and live in this beautiful place that’s a playground for the things I love to do. ” Reed is the President of The ZaneRay Group, a creative digital agency based in Whitefish that specializes in creating websites for companies like Patagonia, Buck Knives and Nixon.
Reed Gregerson first came to Montana in 1984 on a fishing trip with his dad. After that first visit and for the next 10 years, it became an annual pilgrimage to visit Glacier National Park and fly fish Rock Creek or the lakes on the Blackfeet reservation. “In 1994 I was living in California and I saw a Systems Analyst/Programmer job in Kalispell in a newsletter that came across my desk” Reed recounts. “ The job required a particular, somewhat rare skill I happened to have. How can you ignore that?” So Reed applied for the job, got it and moved to Montana. However, within a year the company moved out of state. Gregerson was offered a chance to move with the company, but instead remained in the Flathead and became a consultant, a vocation that eventually turned into ZaneRay.
“I have a great job and live in this beautiful place that’s a playground for the things I love to do.”
Reed’s initial strategy with ZaneRay was to provide sales automation and supply chain management solutions to the outdoor recreation industry. Today, ZaneRay’s primary focus is on building retail websites for strongly branded clients with unique or difficult requirements. The 21 member team provides full service site design, software development, and information systems consulting to clients from a broad spectrum of industries ranging from groceries, to metals sales, to outdoor clothing, to antiques. The business has grown 100% by referral.
Reed admits that ZaneRay is in the right business at the right time. “I remember when Lehman Brothers went under on September 15, 2008. I was worried about the impact. However, the opposite of what I feared happened: the phone started ringing more.” Smartphones, tablets, increasing gas prices and just the general acceptance of the Internet as a means to sell are all reasons why online business is good.
Reed says he sometimes refers to ZaneRay as a “vehicle for social change.” Reed explains: “Before moving to Montana, I worked at Patagonia, a company known for its progressive business practices. I learned that being flexible, having fair pay, and creating a great work environment are not only nice things to do, it’s just good business. “ To that end, Zane Ray is minutes from Whitefish Lake, Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort, and a short drive from Glacier National Park. If there is new powder on the mountain on a work day, employees might go skiing in the morning and then work late. Or come in early so they can fish or mountain bike in the afternoon. ZaneRay has twice made Outside Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work list (along with 6 other Montana companies). Reed sites: “As a consultancy, our success is dependent on our talent. We have little employee turnover and our customers appreciate the fact that who helps them today is there tomorrow. We get a lot of great resumes for positions. Being in Montana is probably our biggest asset when it comes to attracting the talent we need. Which is important, since competition for good web development people is high.”
While Reed feels fortunate in his work and surroundings, he says: “ We don’t take it for granted. First, I think part of our success is because all of us at ZaneRay recognize how fortunate we are, and work extra hard to hold onto that. Second, I’ve become increasingly vocal about how Montana’s accessible open space has a real, tangible economic benefit and the importance of preserving it. ZaneRay’s success is a perfect example of that.”