Guides Should be Clients too!

Guides Should be Clients too!

I’ll never forget my first time being guided. It felt pretty weird if I’m being honest, mostly because I’m so accustom to being the guy that does everything. I bring the gear, I drive the boat, I tie the knots, and I am the so-called expert. Having someone else rig my rod and unhook my fish was a new and strange experience for me, but I’ll mostly remember my first guided trip because it provided a brand new perspective that I hadn’t even realized I needed until that day.  

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Here are some things I learned:

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Hi’s

One of the first lessons I learned was just how important the morning greeting is. I’ve had guides that barely say hello, and I’ve had guides that were very enthusiastic about the day ahead. Your greeting sets the tone for the day, so take it serious. Sure, you can comeback from a slow start, but why put yourself in that position? When greeting your clients for the first time, be excited, professional, polite, and make sure they know that you’re absolutely stoked to share the day with them!

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Goodbye’s

Do you like repeat business? If so, not only do you need to start with a strong greeting, but perhaps even more important is how you part with your clients. After what was an epic day of fishing the Florida Keys several years ago my guide basically left without saying a word. He had been paid, so I suppose to figured he could just head out… I was left with a sour taste in my mouth after what was otherwise a banner day, and guess who didn’t get a call the next time I returned to the Keys?

Take a little time to chat with your clients after each trip. Not only is it a great way to reflect and let the memory sink in, but it’s also your best chance to ask them to come back and see you again!

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Attitude is everything

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised at how many guides let their own bad attitude ruin the entire vibe of a fishing trip. I’ve witnessed guides grumble about the weather, the number of other anglers, their dissatisfaction with their deckhand, the way their fishery is being managed…. No matter what their gripe is, when it becomes the focus of their conversation it has a tendency to all but ruin the day.

On the other hand, a great guide seemingly has the ability to turn all the lemons into lemonade. They remain optimistic, upbeat, and positive no matter the circumstances. Whether you catch a boatload of fish or not, it’s amazing how a client walks away much more satisfied when the guide has a great attitude.  

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Tips and Tricks

One of the more obvious benefits of being a client is to learn some new tips and tricks from other guides. I’m not necessarily talking about fishing tips & tricks (although those are fair game as well) but instead I’m talking about learning new customer service tips & tricks. For example, on an afternoon fly-fishing trip in Colorado my guide showed up with a bag of elk jerky to share. It was a simple gesture, but there was something special about having snacks that came from the local area. Since then I’ve made an effort to bring along some smoked salmon or anything local that I can offer my clients. This is just one of the many little things that can make a huge difference in the overall presentation and quality of the experience on a guided trip.

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Perspective

By far the most valuable thing a guide can learn by being a client is perspective. No matter how great you think you are as a guide, if you’ve never put yourself in the shoes of the client, you can never be the best guide you can be. Experiencing a guided trip from the client’s perspective allows you to understand what they go through at an intimate level, and it’s important to keep that in the forefront of your mind on every future trip you guide. Being a client can be intimidating; clients don’t have all the background knowledge of the area, they aren’t experts in the fishing techniques of that particular place, and they want more than anything to do everything right. Knowing that, you’ll have a better sense for the amount of attention each client wants and needs, and you’ll become a more thorough and patient teacher.

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Above and Beyond

If you’ve ever had a guide that you can tell is simply going through the motions, you’ll never forget it for all the wrong reasons. It feels horrible, and you will feel like you threw your hard earned money away on someone that could care less whether you were provided a quality experience or not. After going through such an experience, I was motivated to treat every client and every trip like it was my money that was being spent. Clients want their guides to go above-and-beyond when it comes to their preparation, effort, and attention to detail. Anything less feels like a waste of their time and money. If you refuse to bring this attitude, another guide happily will.  

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Since my first time being a client I’ve made it a point to book myself on at least one guided trip every single year. I’ve fished with guides from Belize to Homer, and every time I learn something new and invaluable that I can apply to my own operation. Book keeping, marketing, fishing techniques, customer service skills… there are so many ways to improve yourself in your profession by learning from others. If you’re a guide of any kind, I’d highly recommend being a client too. Not only does it support your very industry, but if you pay close attention, it’ll also make you better at your job.

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