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StrategyOct 21, 2015

Consulting Lessons from a Bass Fisherman

Pete Gekas

I love to fish when I have the opportunity.  I’m not talking about sitting in a boat watching a bobber and waiting.  I mean sport fishing for largemouth bass.  It’s a great challenge to analyze variables such as water temperature, water clarity and weather patterns in order to determine the best location, depth, bait, color, and presentation to increase the likelihood of catching fish.

During my summer vacation this year, I had the opportunity to spend some time fishing with my father-in-law (Pop Pop) in South Texas.   I generally agree with the adage that “a bad day on the water beats a good day in the office”, but I’m also a pretty competitive person.  After a few humbling trips on the water with Pop Pop, I asked myself this question:

Why does Pop Pop consistently catch more and bigger fish than me?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the answer to that question actually applies to a lot more than bass fishing. The secrets of his success on the water are very helpful to me in my consulting career and provide good reminders to anyone in the business of serving clients.

1. Skill and technique matters– As much as my pride doesn’t want me to admit it, Pop Pop is a better fisherman than me. He casts farther and with more accuracy. He can make the impossible cast to place his bait between tree branches in twelve inches of water where a fish is most likely to be found. He is passionate about his craft and he has invested a lot more time practicing than me.

At Credera, we encourage our young consultants to find their passion and put in the time and effort to become excellent at it. Good consultants and great consultants each have talent and potential — the great ones are continually working to get better.

Tip – find your passion and always be growing in your craft.

2. There is no shortcut for experience – Pop Pop has logged a lot more time on the water than I have. Every time he goes out, he gains experience that he files away for the future. Every decision he makes is informed by his accumulated knowledge and experience.

In the consulting world we sometimes refer to that type of experience as “seasoning.” Every project, client and role provides you with experience you can apply in the future. We add value to our clients because we combine smart, highly effective teams that apply their experiences to create new, innovative solutions. Seasoning is critical and only comes through a variety of experiences.

Tip – embrace the importance of seasoning and actively look for opportunities to add to yours.

3. Persistence and work ethic is a differentiator – Pop Pop has an incredibly high “work ethic” on the water. No matter how slow or frustrating the fishing is, he doesn’t stop working. He keeps casting, experimenting, and problem solving. He knows there is a solution to the “problem” of getting the fish to bite and he is not going to rest until he solves it.

Similarly, in consulting we know that we are going to face adversity on our projects. We are going to face difficult problems and the solutions will not be obvious. We establish credibility with our teammates and our clients when we exhibit an uncommon persistence.

Tip – when you find a problem that needs solving, be like ‘a dog on a bone’ until you find a solution.

4. Confidence creates courage – There is no doubt in my mind – Pop Pop has extraordinary confidence on the water and truly believes that he is going to catch a fish with each cast. I lack that confidence and, as a result, I lose focus. Invariably it’s at that point that I get the bite I was waiting for but am too slow to react and miss the fish. Pop Pop expects the bite because he has such confidence in his technique and experience. He is ready to set the hook and he rarely misses.

In consulting, I’m reminded that it is hard to be innovative and truly helpful to my clients if I don’t have the courage to ask hard questions and make bold suggestions. I won’t have that courage if I don’t have confidence in my knowledge, skill and experience.

Tip – Confidence is the fuel source for courage – it is very difficult to have the latter without the former.

The keys to my father-in-law’s success as a fisherman are helpful to me in my consulting career and other aspects of my life. I’m going to keep working on my career craft as well as my fishing craft.  Let me know what you think and give me a shout the next time you head out on the water to wet a hook.

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