Focus on the Catch


When I was a teenager in rural Bear Creek, Alabama, my brother, father and I had a small fishing bait store near an area lake one Summer.  I learned several things about business that year that really applies to the world of communicating our ideas, products and services.

1. I found that 10% of the fishermen seemed to catch 90% of the fish.

It didn’t matter the weather, the season, the type of fish.   They knew how to catch fish.

The other 90% of the fishermen were successful on occasion but for the most part there was always something to explain their lack of fish… interestingly, it was often the weather, the season or the type fish…. but never the fisherman’s fault.  Since it was never their fault for not catching fish consistently, there was nothing for them to change, learn, or improve.

So they didn’t improve and, in their mind’s eye, it still was not within their control.

There are people that know how to get their idea, product, service or project sold and then there are those that occasionally make a “sale.”  And those with only the occasional sale often blame the weather (market), the season or the type of fish (clients).  All the while, there are people still selling in any weather (market), season or any type of fish (client).

And while those that don’t catch fish or get commitments continue to wonder when the weather and market will improve, those that continue to improve themselves, continue to catch the fish and deals and jobs… rain or shine!


2. Fishing lures were not designed to catch fish as much as they were designed to catch fishermen.

One fisherman would come by, see one of the expensive lures and tell his buddy that lure was a huge waste of money and to never buy it.  The next guy or gal would come along and buy all we had, telling us it was the best lure ever made and how many fish they could catch with it.  But it was NOT about the lure… it was about the customer and their experience and expectations.

I see some people that are basically lures…. and set themselves up to appeal to other fisherman (colleagues and bosses) more than fish (customers) or a consistent catch each day (connecting for sale or project).

They have forgotten that fishing is about catching fish and selling is about, well, making a sale (even if it is the sale of an idea).  They believe a good discussion or sales pitch alone is the end-goal and that is success.  If they can just get the right lure or right slogan or logo, everything else about the deal will magically happen… a buyer will appear or a fish will bite no mattter where or how bad you pull the lure.

They are working at being good lures, not good fishermen.


3.  In business, it is not just about hard work but about smart work.

Looking back, I found that for the opportunity of getting up at 4:30am to empty minnow baskets in the dark and sitting for hours in the summer heat in a small building with no air conditioning, I made an average of 50 cents an hour.  Granted this was a few years back but still even for that time, it was well below minimum wage.  So that was working hard, but not necessarily working smart.

Those catching fish were always teaching themselves, trying new things to see if something would work better, trying new places, learning from mistakes.  Working smart!

Everyone, even those that work for a big company, are effectively small business owners (even if that small business is just “You, Inc.” inside a large company).  Hard work is essential for success but not alone.  That hard work has to be smart.  Some of that work has to be each day about the market, the customers, the supply, the demand, the sales skills, the math and the people skills.


Are you selling your services or project regardless of the weather (market)?      Do you know what you are fishing for or just hoping to catch “something?”      Did you learn something today to make your efforts smarter?  What is your message?  Who is it for?

Don’t focus exclusively on the lure as it is only a means to an end.  Focus on the catch.


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly

© 2012 All Rights Reserved.  Glenn S. Phillips and Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.