Teach Your Business to Fish: Business Lessons From A Fly Fishing Great

Michael Rager, Business Guide and Founder of Teach Your Business to Fish, translates three key business lessons inspired by the teachings of fly fishing instructor Chico Fernandez. Learn how these concepts can help your organization apply principles from business and fishing to become a REEL Success.

Lesson 1: Communication is Key to Successful Connections

I have had the pleasure of learning about fly fishing from the great Chico Fernandez. His communication style was so polished that he made sure everyone in the audience (about 25 of us) felt like he was talking directly to us. I had the chance to get a few minutes with Mr. Fernandez, and I shared with him my concept of teaching basic business practices as it relates to our passion of fishing. I must say, I got a confused look from him.

Keys to Successful Leadership

One of my favorite topics to teach is “Everyone Communicates and Few Connect”. In this book, Dr. John C. Maxwell outlines the keys to successful leadership through intentional persuasive communication.

These keys are:

  • Communication is All About Others
  • Communication Goes Beyond Words
  • Communication Always Requires Energy
  • Communication is More About Skill Than Natural Talent
  • Communicators Connect on a Common Ground
  • Communicators Do the Difficult Work of Keeping it Simple
  • Communicators Create an Experience Everyone Enjoys
  • Communicators Inspire People
  • Communicators Live What They Communicate

During this event, Mr. Fernandez hit every point that Dr. Maxwell teaches. One of my favorite stories of the evening was about his passion of catching large barracuda on the fly. The first way he communicates is finding a guide who knows where these big cuda’s live. He told how he would befriend the lodge's cook, to find out which guide was best at this type of fishing. He would then find out what that guide's favorite adult beverage was and would bring it to them to work on building that relationship so it could be leveraged later.

Chico explained that when he fishes for large cuda’s, he typically uses a loop to loop connection. This type of connection is typically not the strongest, but it allows him to quickly change flies when he has a finicky fish. If he had to re-tie a new knot, the fish could turn off and not readily feed again. He was willing to give up strength for flexibility in order to be successful. In business, we understand the need to evaluate processes because we need to do things regularly in order to be successful. There are times when we need strength and times when we need flexibility.

Consider: Where have you given up to go up?

Lesson 2: We Need to Do the Right Things, Not the Things We Think Are Right

Most of us who have fly fished have seen the movie “A River Runs Through It”. All of the posters and trailers for this movie showed Brad Pitt’s character fly fishing with these tremendously beautiful long casts. And of course we desire to duplicate that ... what a boost for the ego to effortlessly cast a fly one hundred feet. Unfortunately, those casts are rarely called for in the world of saltwater fly fishing.

Chico explained that when you are fishing flats for bonefish, redfish or tarpon, there are many times you rarely see the fish when they are a hundred feet away to cast to. Usually they are within fifty feet and never straight out in front of you. He then asked the question that stunned us all. Why do we practice long, straight casts since this rarely if ever happens? We knew we all did it, and the answer was really ego. He told us that, to be a really great fisherman, we needed to practice what we may actually encounter on a trip, not what made us feel good.

So you are probably asking yourself, okay Mike, what does this have to do with business? I have a friend that is a business coach in Minnesota. One day she shared the story of an auto body repair shop she was coaching. This shop like all others in the areas was constantly marketing to repair cars that were totaled. These were very high revenue jobs, but once a deep examination was completed, they were not really all that profitable. The owner and the coach then studied the numbers on the small dents, scratches and dings. These were very low revenue jobs when compared to the totaled out cars, but the profit margin was significantly greater. So much so that the owner started sub-contracting out the high revenue projects in exchange for the low revenue, but highly profitable scratches and dings. His competition thinks he is crazy and he is. Crazy with profits!

My challenge to you is to look at the things you think are very important. Are they really setting you up for success in your daily business life? Think about a time when you realized you were doing the wrong thing and then changed to practice the really important stuff.

Lesson 3 - The Fish is the Fish, Because of its Environment

(Above: Everglades Guide Services, Chokoloskee, Florida)

There seems to be so much debate with what is more important, the Journey or the Destination?

I happen to believe it is both. Without having a great destination to travel to, there is no reason for the journey. But for unlimited success to abound, the proper environment must be in place.

As a fisherman, we all have our dream destinations:

• The Great Barrier Reef in Australia for 1000lb Black Marlin

• Guatemala for a shot at double digit Sailfish releases on a fly

• Alaska to catch the mighty Tyee Chinook Salmon

• The Bahamas and Belize for their pristine Bonefish flats

• The rivers of British Columbia for the legendary Steelhead

Scotland to fish in the birthplace of fly fishing

• The Amazon River for record Peacock Bass

• And on and on...

The places where the fish of our dreams live are generally some of the most beautiful places in the world. Every one of these fish becomes much more memorable because of the particular environment where the fish is found, and each one takes a journey to get there.

When Chico Fernandez spoke about his favorite fish to catch (redfish and snook in the Everglades), all he could talk about was the occasional struggle to get to some of his favorite fishing holes deep within this brackish swamp. He told the story of poling his son through cuts that were so narrow that their canoe could barely fit. But once they reached their destination, the mangroves parted and a fishing oasis appeared.

These back ponds are areas that rarely see fishermen, and the fish have seldom if ever seen the flies he and his son would present. The fish may not be the biggest of their species, but the journey to get to the particular environment / destination was crucial for success for both the fish and the fisherman.

In business, we need to provide environments where people want to work and do business. We want young bright minds to set out on a journey to work with us; we want clients to seek us out because of what we can offer.

Tony Hsieh has created such an environment at Zappos. People compete for jobs like no place else and clients do business with them to the tune of $2 billion/year. Tony created an environment that became a destination for both customers and employees.

I challenge you to create an environment of success and watch people flock to do business with your and your team.

If you would like a complimentary, one-hour environment check-up, process analysis, or communication consultation, please book a time slot here and mention FISHER GUIDING in your message to Michael.