Terry Freeser's many talents are now largely focused on building and enhancing the work of Elk River Systems, Inc. In business on Central Avenue in Harlowton for five years, ERSI began as a provider of ticketing software. “The core of the business is the computer software and that's what drives everything. The Harlowton office handles ticket production which comes directly from the software. Customer service is also handled here.”
“Originally when Mike and Becky Yinger created the company in Big Fork, it was just software. People liked the software but couldn't find paper. They asked us to find paper for them. Then, many customers told us, ‘I want tickets but I don't want to print them. Will you print them for us?’”
So now, Elk River Systems divides its business between selling ticketing software and perforated paper (also used for invoices, shelf and inventory tags, etc.), and producing tickets which are shipped all over the country. This is reflected in their three websites: elkriversystems.com, perforatedpaper.com, and ticketprinting.com.
Terry Freeser is operations manager for ERSI. She seems toeffortlessly move from one task to the next, ”Every machine in the building had an issue this past week.”
Terry's desk is strategically located on the first floor in front of the production line. The production of tickets and paper takes place on the main floor. The basement of the old Staley's Drug building holds the customer service department which is managed by Joe Kalgren of Lavina.
Elk River has 14 employees at its Harlowton location and three people, plus owner Mike Yinger at its Tech Ranch location in Bozeman. The Bozeman group handles the company's order management system, business development and marketing, and software develpoment.
When the Yingers came to town and were looking for help, “it was time to do something else.” After 18 years with husband Jim at Harlowton Auto Parts, there wasn't much room to grow. So, Terry moved across the street for a new fulltime job with Elk River. There were five employees at the time, including the owners, and Terry began in accounting and moved into customer service.
“When I started in August of 2002, we weren't printing tickets. We were just doing software and paper. The business returned to printing tickets the following year. It was a slow printer and we had no cutter. Jerry and Audrey Miller at the Times-Clarion let us use their cutter. They got us started back into the printing business. We would haul tickets down to the newspaper office, cut them, and haul them back. It was quite a job.”
In its short time of operation, Elk River Systems has gone through many phases. “Change is not our middle name. It's our first name. You just never know what's next. You have to be very creative and flexible to meet everything that comes up. We stretch our employees to the limit and help them pull through. We have so many people in a tight place. It takes a lot of working together and cooperation to meet deadlines and provide good service. We have an incredible group of people that can really pull together.”
Somehow, that works for Terry and ERSI. The business hires multi-talented people and Terry Freeser is the prime example. ”I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none. I will try most anything once.’
Terry and Jim Freeser bought the NAPA Auto Parts store 23 years ago. When they began, it could take up to two weeks to get parts from their distributor. Now, they get parts trucked in from Billings every night. Terry spends a few hours a week on the business's bookkeeping.
Along the way, Terry went to college and got a degree in education. She taught Special Ed for a year while Jim was doing diesel mechanic work. Then, the Freesers bought the NAPA store and started a family. Kim and Joni are attending MSU and Cole will be a junior at HHS.
In the midst of all her other activities, Terry took up metalworking five years ago, “Just as a hobby. I do a little once in a while and offer it at the Made in Harlo Shop. It's hot and hard work, and I have to yell at Jim, ‘I need you,’ from time to time. That's a partnership, too. He supports all my work and does the wood work and helps me with the welding piece of it.”
There's more. Terry does the lighting for the annual Kiwanis Show. “I made the passing remark, ‘That looks like fun,’ and it went from there. Jim Beley had done it for years and was looking for a replacement.”
Freeser is “always on a couple of boards.” She is finishing her first term on the Wheatland Memorial Healthcare Board. “It's been a huge education with a steep learning curve for me. We have limited numbers on the board, but we are dedicated and involved.”
Mrs. Freeser is also secretary of the Wheatland County Economic Growth Council. “In a small town you have to pick a couple things you can do and try to contribute.”
It should be obvious by now that Terry Freeser has picked more than a couple things to do and has the talents to do all of them. She does take time for a few hobbies and interests. “Cole has us watching NASCAR, and we have been to a couple races. The latest thing I have been trying is golf- and I do mean trying!”