Like the Miller men before him, Steve Miller had made his way through the mountainous terrain of Montana by sawing down trees. Paid by the tree, he could mow down many in a flurry of activity.
He’d been raised around this. Hunting, fishing, and logging were what he knew best. It was a family legacy he was carrying, after all. But things changed in 1980.
A logging accident ended it all. He’d suffered a broken back, and his logging career was finished.
“It was the worst experience of my life and the best experience of my life,” Miller said emphatically. “They told me I could not lift a chainsaw or saw logs anymore, and I said, ‘What the hell am I going to do? I’ve got two kids and a wife.’
“I cleaned theaters in Kalispell (Montana). I helped out a friend who owned a cleaning service, and I went on food stamps.”
While dragging himself through that muck, Miller ran into a family acquaintance, Chuck Brashear, a man who used the services of Miller’s father, an elk hunting guide in the Montana mountains. Brashear owned Rocky Mountain Miracle-Ear, a franchise in Kalispell, and Miller’s life was about to change.
“He said he could teach me how to fit hearing aids, but I needed to train under his license for a year,” Miller said. “I’d never done anything but saw logs. I didn’t have a college education. He said, ‘I just had my knee operated on, so if you’ll drive me around for three weeks, I’ll pay you $300 a week.’
“It was the best offer I had.”
And it worked for the next 12 years of his life. He was a top salesman, then was promoted to the regional manager for Dahlberg Electronics in Southern California, the parent company for Miracle-Ear. Within four years, he was promoted to director of sales and marketing for Miracle-Ear and was based in Minneapolis, and the course of his life had changed dramatically.
What he didn’t know was that it was only going to drastically improve. A self-proclaimed lumberjack hillbilly, he still had a hankering for being outdoors and involved in something completely different. Looking outside his seventh-floor office, he decided it was time for a change.
“I was roping, but I had my horse in a stable 50 miles away,” Miller said. “I never got to ride, no place to rope much. I put out my resume to everybody I thought I might like to work for in the Western industry, and I’ll be damned if Dennis Potzman with Montana Silversmiths liked what he saw and hired me.
“I ran their sales rep force, and I put together one of the best rep forces in the country. That will be almost 28 years ago. I’ll be two months short of 28 years when I retire.”