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Fishing versus catching — a lesson in business

This past week I went out fishing with my good friend Ken “Bear” Cole.  Ken owns and operates Fishing With Bear, a fishing guide service for the Portland Metro Area.  Over the past several months I’ve helped Ken with his website and business blogging effort and I’ve gotten to know him as a friend, but I’ve also learned a lot about my own business through our relationship.

Fishing is a LOT like running a business.  Everything from the type of fishing line, the type of rod and reel to the hook and bait make a difference on your being able to catch.  Also, hooking the fish doesn’t mean you’ll close the deal.  Sometimes the fish fights back, leaps from the water and spits out the hook; leaving you to start over again after expending effort.  The last time we went out fishing I hooked 13 fish, but only got 8 in the boat.  Still enough to feed my family, but those five fish that got away will never bite on my hook again.

How do we react, as business owners, in the same situation?  We invest money in fancy web-sites, expensive trade show displays and slick marketing materials and end up in a dance with our prospects that sometimes ends in miserable failure.  We justify the loss with sayings like, “you can’t win them all” or “every no leads me closer to a yes.”  Most of the time we fail to learn from our mistakes only to doom ourselves to repeating them over and over again.

While on the boat, after having lost my third fish off the line, Bear gave me some great advice, “don’t fight the fish too hard, let him have some line and reel him in slower.”  I was over pulling the line and ripping the hook right out of the fishes mouth.  I pull my line back in the water and almost immediately hooked another fish; this time getting it into the boat.  Ken held up the fish with the hook in his mouth and pointed out that I was actually hooked on the outside of the fishes mouth.  Had I pulled hard, the hook would have pulled through.

Sometimes we catch our customers with a slick campaign but misunderstand success to mean the program works, when in reality the hook wasn’t set and the customer never does business with us again.  Business, like in fishing, requires a solid connection with the customer.  Building a trusting relationship requires time and patience and that always costs money.  Targeting a single sale with any one client isn’t building a long term relationship, making sure the hook is set in the right place will make for a stronger connection and a better bond with the client.

Business blogging through a Personality Based Approach gives the customer a better insight into you as a person.  Knowing “you” is an important product or service differentiation.  If your client is presented with two competing opportunities to fill a need, but likes your views and believes, you will have the long term advantage.

The moral of my fishing experience with Bear is understand why the fish got away and you’ll be better equipped to bring the next one into the boat.  I also learned it is good to get away from the office from time to time and see my business from a different perspective.

Ed Bejarana

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