Servant Hearts

A year ago this time, as we entered the final month of the upland bird hunting season at Joshua Creek Ranch, I wrote about the challenges of that season, having endured a drought of historically severe proportions.  Thankfully spring rains blessed us in 2012 and the resilience of the wildlife habitat was nothing less than miraculous.  We entered the 2012-13 upland bird hunting season last October in good condition in every way:  restored habitat, hard-flushing, strong-flying birds, well-trained pointing and flushing/retrieving dogs, enthusiastic hunting guides, seasoned cooks, and conscientious office staff.

And it’s a good thing we had so many things working in our favor because even though we didn’t anticipate it at the time, we were entering our busiest hunting season EVER.  As wonderful as that sounds from a business perspective, it’s not without its challenges.  I’ll tell you about a few of those.

Right off, it was determined we’d need another person in the office to assist with reservations.  But where would he/she sit and work?  Although we’re long on outdoor space, we’re really short on office space.  But the reconfiguration of a single office area and the addition of built-in modular furniture yielded two additional work spaces.  Problem solved.

It’s one thing for an expanded office staff to get a rein on reservations, but services still must be delivered when the time comes.  Turns out, we would need another full-time hunting guide…….and he would need a place to live and a string of bird dogs, and a dog trailer and dog collars, etc., etc.  More logistics to wrap our arms around, but we got them done.

And if we’re taking more reservations and guiding more hunters, then we’ll have to feed more guests, as well.  Yikes, we’d need to hire and train new food service staff, too.

Then came the toughest part: hiring the right people to fill the roles in our growing organization.  We get a lot of applicants who love the work environment we have to offer and the fact that we have clients who are happy to be at our establishment (unlike the auto repair shop or the dentist’s office).  The guide applicants give elaborate descriptions of their personal passion for hunting and fishing, the office applicants expound on their experience with various computer software and organizational skills.  But the most important attributes we search for are “a servant heart” and attention to details.  We want people in our organization who truly care “with all their heart” about our guests’ enjoyment of every aspect of their experience at Joshua Creek Ranch.  And because we customize itineraries, we must also have employees who pay very close attention to every detail.  Such folks aren’t easy to find, but they’re out there, and we’re fortunate to have them throughout our staff at the Ranch.

As conscientious as we try to be, we do have a hiccup once in awhile.  It happened last week, and here’s how a staff truly dedicated to client satisfaction handled it.  I mentioned that every itinerary is customized.  This requires us to listen carefully to our clients’ preferences for his trip to the Ranch, develop a detailed itinerary in timeline form, send it to the client for approval and confirmation, then put it into the Ranch calendar for all the staff to plan their appropriate services, i.e., hunting, dining, lodging.  In this particular case, the client and 15 guests arrived mid-day for two days of hunting.  Though not on their itinerary, they thought they were having lunch upon arrival at the Ranch.  We were not prepared with staff or inventory to deliver that.  The reservations/guest services supervisor called a nearby restaurant, ordered lunch entrees and sides, then called our executive chef who organized some kitchen staff.  The food was picked up, brought to the Ranch, plated for the guests and served to them on the patio.  The host was delighted and relieved.

Our staff had prevented any inconvenience or embarrassment to our client.  That’s what “servant hearts” do.  They think about the experience they are paid to deliver, but they think about it from the client’s perspective, asking themselves, “What would be appealing and gratifying to this particular client?”

Another recent example occurred when my husband, Joe, was making his evening drive around the ranch.  Right at dark, he came upon one of our hunting guides building a make-shift deer blind for a hunter who was arriving the next day.  The guide had seen a good axis trophy buck in the area so he’d come to prepare a blind after he’d finished guiding his bird hunt for the afternoon….all in an effort to give the deer hunter a good opportunity to harvest an axis buck.  Although we have many other blinds around the ranch, it’s the time of year when hard-horn axis trophy bucks are rare and he wanted to be sure this hunter had a good opportunity to harvest a trophy.  That’s a servant heart at work for the satisfaction of our client.

I tell you about the nature of these dedicated employees because the volume of services that have been delivered to our clients during this hunting season of record high demand could not have happened without their commitment to the high standards we’ve set.  They keep in mind that each client has a sense of excitement and adventure in anticipation of his experience at Joshua Creek Ranch.  And each and every day this team of “servant hearts” delivers on those expectations. 

I’ll confess there have been a few days this past season when even I have looked at the week that loomed ahead and wondered how we’d deliver what was on our schedule.  But we’ve planned, strategized, improvised, and relied on one another.   Sometimes I’ve been the one needing assurance from our staff that it’s indeed do-able.  “Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered” said one…. ”We can do this,” assured another…. “Done and done,” from another…. “We’ll handle it,” stated another.  

And in the end it’s been done.  And done to our clients’ utmost satisfaction I might add.

Ann Kercheville is President of Joshua Creek Ranch. Located in the renowned Texas Hill Country just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes southwest of Austin, Joshua Creek Ranch occupies a uniquely diverse terrain including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime upland and deer hunting habitats. You can visit their web site at


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