This week Mammoth Mountain Ski Area Chief Executive Officer Rusty Gregory announced his new executive management team in a series of meetings around town, from the Mono County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, to MMSA employees, the local press and the Mammoth Lakes Town Council on Wednesday.
The team consists of:
CEO – Rusty Gregory, Chief Operating Officer – Greg Dallas, Chief Administrative Officer – Ron Cohen, Chief Marketing Officer – Erik Forsell, Chief Finance Officer – Mark Clausen, Chief Operating Officer of Hospitality – To be determined.
Dallas, whose role as COO will cover both Mammoth and June Mountain Ski Areas, sat down with The Sheet Thursday morning to more clearly define what the new leadership structure really means for the company going forward.
Contrary to some talk, Dallas said he would not be the new Rusty, and even shied away from the title of being the number two guy of the organization.
“With the executive management team we have a small set of number two’s,” Dallas explained. “Mark Clausen is an Executive Vice President, so technically by title he’s number two.”
He did, however, confirm that with the title of COO he would be taking on the day-to-day operations of Mammoth and June Mountains that Gregory is stepping away from to focus on investment opportunities and external affairs and allow a fresh perspective to develop within the company. Gregory will remain CEO and Chairman. Dallas will run the company from an operating standpoint.
“I had been involved in a lot of these things already,” Dallas said. “I was facilitating the capital process and the business planning process. I wasn’t making decisions but I was deeply involved in the core things that Rusty was doing.”
In terms of how the executive team could really expect to change things at MMSA, Dallas explained that the team would help to change the “decentralized” nature of the company at the planning level.
“Mammoth has never had an executive team of just five people. Previously too many people were in charge so we’re tightening it up,” Dallas said.
Dallas’s role as COO will be to bring operations together in a more centralized way when it comes to planning and running the business.
“I’ll be taking over the things that nobody owned before,” Dallas said. “This way we can centralize the basic business functions under one person.”
As far as latitude in decision-making (will he and the other members of the management team still be expected to have things approved by Gregory?), Dallas said, “The executive team is savvy enough to know what decisions are in their scope of responsibility and which aren’t. As the COO I have a huge amount of latitude to do things differently, operationally.”
Dallas added that Gregory was good at supporting his management teams.
“He’s not a micromanager,” he said. “He’ll still give input but he will let us make very risky decisions.”
That being said, Dallas said the executive team would be very tight.
“We’ll be meeting every week and we’ll know what the other is doing,” Dallas said. “So it won’t be like I’m out there making decisions all on my own.”
Dallas described his management style, and that of the executive team, as one of making informed decisions.
“I want to hear your input, but I’m not afraid to make a decision,” he said. “You may not like the decision, but I’m going to tell you why I made it.”
His style comes from the way his life experiences have woven together to this point. Prior to joining the team at MMSA in 2001, Dallas, now in his mid-forties, accomplished many things that set him up well for where he is today.
“I grew up in Glendale, Calif. and through the Eagle Scouts and Boy Scouts I developed my connection to the Sierra,” he said. From a young age his life was focused on academics, scouting and sports.
He got into hockey at a young age and joined a local group of talented athletes that dominated the rink. He went to the national championships while in middle school and his California team beat out teams from well-known hockey states such a Minnesota.
“It was unheard of,” Dallas said.
At age 15, he left home for a hockey camp at the University of Michigan. From there he was recruited to the American Junior A hockey league.
“It was like being a ski team kid,” Dallas said of the non-traditional, independent study tied into his 80-game hockey schedule.
Academics remained paramount to Dallas, so when he began to be heavily scouted and recruited for the National Hockey League and was about to go into the draft his path veered. At the urging of his family, Dallas considered, and ultimately went into, the Air Force Academy.
While he played within the New York Rangers organization on a limited basis, he never stepped on NHL ice.
Dallas went into the Engineering Sciences program at the Academy, which was a conglomeration of all the hardest disciplines. With an emphasis on Astrodynamics, Dallas studied a lot.
“I originally wanted to be a helicopter pilot, but my eyes went bad,” Dallas said, perhaps from the intense studying. When he says bad, they went from 20/20 to 20/40. Not a huge deal, but at the time the Air Force was looking to reduce pilots any way it could and wouldn’t allow him in the program.
He ended up in the space program where he worked as an engineer on classified satellite programs.
“I started on the orbit side of operations and was then recruited to the launch side where I was in charge of a $300 million defense contract,” Dallas explained.
From there he was recruited into the intel world and it was at that time that he had to decide whether to stay in or get out.
“I’m someone who likes new challenges and I had seen a lot of business in my work and it intrigued me,” Dallas said. “I wanted to control my own destiny so I got out of the Air Force and went back to school for my MBA.”
He studied at University of California, Irvine, where he met his wife, Petra with whom he now has two young children. After receiving his degree in business with a focus on accounting and technology, Dallas went to work for a consulting company. It was here that he first met Gregory and Clausen.
Later when he was planning to leave the consulting company and go travel the world with Petra, Gregory got wind of the move and asked him to come work and play in the Eastern Sierra, instead.
Which is how Dallas landed at MMSA in 2001, first as Technology Manager, then as Executive Director of IT, and then Senior Management in 2002 where he slowly took on more and more responsibility, which led to the COO position today.
“The challenge for the executive team is going to be putting a lot more color into the resort,” Dallas said. “At our core we are ski area operators, that’s our strength. But what we need to do now is animate all segments at one time. We need to create a vibrant and social environment.”
Personally, Dallas said his greatest challenge would be to “manage through a disciplined process. Success to me is if I were to go away, the company would still run just as smoothly.” He said he has to perfectly balance short-term execution with long-term (six months to a year) planning.
And what about remaining senior vice presidents such as Bill Cockroft and Pam Murphy.
“To be determined,” Dallas said. “The reorganization is ongoing and will be solidified in the next few weeks. Right now I am launching into three days of discussions to gather and evaluate input from all of our vice presidents and managers to determine how best to organize things to achieve all of our goals.”