When Mike Owens talks about a plot of tall, silky oats he planted on his Central Texas game ranch, he can’t help but smile.
“It’s a huge reward for me,” he admits, “but it’s all for the good of the land. We’re really blessed to be chosen to be responsible for this land. I feel any landowner is responsible for the shape that land is in and the animals that are on it.”
It is a philosophy that extends into his professional life as well. As the owner of Game Management Solutions (GMS), a wildlife management software company, he provides landowners, deer farmers and commercial hunting operators across North America with a tool to successfully manage their operations.
A Mission of Land Stewardship
“Our mission is to help people become better stewards and managers of God’s land and resources,” Mike says. “We have a tagline that says ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure.’ If you don’t know what you have and where everything is at, how can you manage a property? So the measuring focus is our software.”
GMS is designed specifically for white-tailed deer management. It can be used to record, track and analyze pertinent data from the time a fawn is born until it dies. The program is customizable for each landowner’s specific use and operation — whether it be a commercial hunting operation or a deer farm.
Mike says that growth in the deer-farming industry has led to a need for better record keeping. “Before 10 years ago, sales were done on a handshake and a ‘this deer came from this deer’ explanation, and deer weren’t selling for that much money,” he says. “Then the industry peaked and deer farmers started paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for one animal. The average buyer is becoming wiser in the questions they are asking. If you don’t have the right answers, and pretty quick, you might lose that sale.”
The more educated buyers of today frequently ask questions ranging from whether an animal has been DNA-tested to what kind of antler scores it has produced — all information that can be tracked by GMS software. In addition, Mike notes that the industry has become more highly regulated over the years, and GMS can easily record information required by a landowner’s respective state government.
The Making of One of the Industry’s “Most Innovative New Technologies”
While GMS is widely used in today’s deer and wildlife industry, Mike says the program was not originally intended to be a commercial venture. As a longtime executive at The Dwyer Group, a large franchise conglomerate, he had been instrumental in helping to develop two software programs for franchisees. With that experience, he worked with a programmer to develop a personal program for a hunting operation. Once other ranchers discovered its capabilities, they wanted to buy it. Thus, with his 21-year career with The Dwyer Group winding down, Mike launched GMS, and refining and marketing the new company became his primary job in 2003.
“We started with the basic package for the hunting side that would keep all of the records needed for a hunting operation,” he says. “It turned out that a lot of these commercial hunting operations are also deer farms that only had cattle or horse management software to work from. So I thought this was a good way to expand the business, and started talking to more breeders, going to shows and joining organizations.”
Randy Ranier, manager of Parsons Whitetail Ranch in Valley Mills, Texas, has used GMS for his record keeping since the program launched and says that it’s a tool he could not live without today.
“I have one place to house information, instead of having papers and pedigrees and file cabinets — it’s all condensed down to a laptop, iPhone or iPad,” Ranier says. “Most deer farmers spend most of their time taking care of the deer, and I have information at my fingertips while making my rounds.”
Mike works to roll out new features every year and to grow the company as the industry grows. Those efforts have been recognized nationally. Earlier this year, GMS received the Wildlife Industry, Leadership and Development (W.I.L.D.) Award for Most Innovative New Technology from the American Deer & Wildlife Alliance.
GMS Software Put to Use on Owens Family Game Ranch, Too
In addition, Mike uses GMS to manage the wildlife on his family’s game ranch in Central Texas. An avid outdoors enthusiast, he has spent most of his life hunting. After a decade of sharing hunting rights on a high-fenced preserve with 50 other owners, he wanted his family to experience the benefits of land ownership. In 2011, Mike and his wife, Dina Dwyer-Owens, began looking for their own property.
After deciding on a parcel of land a little more than an hour from their home in Waco, Texas, the family — which includes daughter, Dani, 21, and son, Mikey, 17 — went to work making the place their own, adding roads, clearing cedars and high-fencing the ranch. Mike says they also took out all of the native white-tailed deer, and replaced them with genetically superior deer.
Spending time at the ranch is a passion for the entire family, as Dina grew up in a family that loved the outdoors and riding and showing horses. As the chief executive officer and chairwoman of The Dwyer Group, the parent company of seven trade-service brands including Mr. Rooter, Glass Doctor and Rainbow International, Dina also likes the privacy that the ranch allows.
Texas Land Bank Offers Top-Notch Customer Service, Patronage
Because of their professional backgrounds, the Owenses say they appreciate the detailed customer service that Texas Land Bank provides. The couple used the rural lending co-op to finance their ranch purchase.
“We’re in the business of customer service, so we pay attention to it,” Dina says. “Texas Land Bank is an easy referral to give people, and working with them has been such a great experience,” she adds.
Dina says they also have enjoyed additional perks such as sharing in the bank’s ownership and the lender’s patronage program — both benefits of Texas Land Bank’s cooperative structure.
“Dina and Mike are great customers, and with their busy work schedules, I know that they enjoy the downtime that the ranch offers,” says Justin Wiethorn, regional president in Texas Land Bank’s Waco office. “I’m pleased they chose Texas Land Bank to help make their goal of landownership a reality, and I see that their land is in extremely capable hands. They set a wonderful example of how to properly care for and manage property in Central Texas.
For more information about GMS, visit wildlifemanagementsoftware.com.
Dina Dwyer-Owens stars on episode of hit reality show “Undercover Boss”
Dina Dwyer-Owens and her husband, Mike Owens, have both had long careers at The Dwyer Group, where Dina is CEO and chairwoman. She oversees a holding company that has seven service-based franchise organizations and more than 1,600 franchises in the United States and Canada. Her father, Don Dwyer, started the company, and she took over after his death in 1994. The impact he made in Dina’s life is obvious, and she strives to stay true to the principles on which the company was founded. In an effort to see how the group’s Code of Values — a trademark set of universal guidelines that all Dwyer Group employees follow — was upheld throughout the franchises, Dina went undercover in her own company last year as a star on CBS’s hit television show “Undercover Boss.”
Each week, the show features an executive who goes undercover in his or her own business to examine the inner workings of the company and work alongside a handful of current employees. The episodes end with the executives revealing their identity and highlighting their experiences with the featured employees.
“It was coming up on the 30th anniversary of The Dwyer Group, and I really wanted to dig in about our Code of Values on the show,” Dina says of the guidelines, which ensure every customer gets the same service and experience no matter where they live in the country.
During Dina’s week as “Faith Brown,” the show set out to depict the story of a woman working in a man’s world, and showed her mowing lawns, replacing a water heater, installing commercial exit signs and repairing a broken stove.
“It was such a rewarding experience,” Dina said of seeing things from a new angle. “I tried jobs that I’ve never done before. I walked in the shoes of our service professionals and I did some incredibly hard, but overwhelmingly rewarding, things. I have a newfound respect for what our service professionals do each and every day.”
When it came time for Dina to reveal her identity to the employees she visited, she chose to bring them to her father’s ranch, which she says she enjoyed as it tied her dad’s legacy, their business and her family’s love of the outdoors together.
Dina’s episode aired on Jan. 22, 2012 — against NFL league championship games — and was watched by 10 million people.
To learn more about The Dwyer Group and its franchises, visit dwyergroup.com.