Are you a leader just because you run a small business? No. But you need to be. Without leadership, the ship that is your small business will aimlessly circle and eventually run out of power or run aground. Anyone who has ever been in the lodge business knows this oh to well. The lodge owner is the captain of the ship and the type of leader they are reflects the service they provide. Ultimately it is the owners actions that will cause him/her to succeed or fail.
These are the 4 types of fishing lodge owners that one will come across.
“The drunk lodge owner”
The 80’s were the hay day for fishing lodges, and many of the owners had a celebrity like status. Back than, the marketing was all done via sport shows, cold calling and mail outs. The success of the lodge was reliant upon the owners ability to socialize and sell to the public face to face. Forced to constantly be ‘on’ in a social setting, many owners turned to the old liquid courage found in a bottle of scotch. They were drunk at the shows, drunk at the dinners, and plastered from the start of the fishing season right until the bitter end. They provided outlandish entertainment for the guests with masterful orchestras of story telling during dinner. It was a sight to behold. On a good night everyone would disperse to their rooms with wonderful memories of a fantastic evening of story telling. However every so often the booze would take its toll, and the inevitable disaster would ensue. This type of an owner made for some fun times, but was often to unpredictable for the paying guests and the employees. Reliability was sacrificed. This once was the most common type of lodge owner, they are now a dying breed in the fishing world.
“The Dictator Lodge Owner”
The dictator is the opposite of the drunk. The dictator micro manages every detail of lodge operations. They often implement the “no fun policy” which means no staff should be seen smiling in a public place. Everything is all business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is a volatile place to be. The staff are kept in line by intimidation and constant firings. Any true lodge dictator has to fire at least 2 people early in the season to set the example that a negative action has a subsequent consequence. I witnessed a 4 month period where 21 staff members were fired or forced to quit at the helm of a dictator. The upside of the dictator is that the lodge will typically run like a well oiled machine. Fear is a great motivator. Mussolini is even credited with a great economy. The core of this type of leadership is being reactive rather than proactive. Boundaries are formed and if you cross them you will feel the wrath! This may not be the best place to work, however it does offer a comfortable security that everyone is held accountable for there actions.
Getting employees to work their hearts out for the company is a tall order. Years back workers seemed more willing to follow the strong, demanding, even coercive leader who patterned himself on the models he had seen in the military. Something must have happened in the last ten or twenty years. Most employees no longer are willing to endure that military-style leadership. Today’s successful lodges structure themselves differently, and their owners and managers use forward-looking leadership styles.
“The Irrational Maniac Lodge Owner”
The next owner is a rare breed but a real treat to see in action. It is the complete irrational maniac owner. These bosses are power mad and think that they are the return of Idi Amin. This is the worst case scenario for an employee. This owner can fly off the handle at any given time with no reason at all, and they can never find ways to keep their disruptive emotions under control. However maniacs are certainly not without their charm. They typically have an innate sense of timing, and know when to pour on the charm to get what they want. Charm is what helps this owner with bookings, and they are typically quite successful until people catch on that they are really just a maniac. An irrational owner is akin to the tasmanian devil, wherever they go they leave a disaster in their trail. Anyone who is in the path is effected, from guides, to food distributers to accountants, eventually all ties are severed. They can treat people very poorly, and unfortunately it does not take the guests long to see this. This type of owner tends to start off very successful, but after dealing with an extremely low repeat customer percentage, they often fall by the waste side. Why would anyone work for someone like this? because a zen attitude to the pain and suffering of working life is often more productive than active emotional engagement in the ongoing pageant of madness. Although these people are indeed carriers of the virus of misery - they pay well and a jobs a job!
“The entrepreneurial Shark Lodge Owner”
The old world of fishing lodges is giving way to an aggressive new group of entrepreneurs. “The Shark” is someone who finds lodges that have all the potential in the world but have failed for some reason or another. They slide in with fresh ideas, great staff, and acquire the existing lodge at a bellow value price. I use the term shark only for their aggressive nature to search out, and conquer potential opportunities. This seems to be the fastest growing demographic for lodge owners in recent times. They are not pioneers like their predecessors, however they have a much better understanding of what people want out of a trip. The sharks usually have investors or silent partners, where as in the past, lodges were run by the original creators. The Sharks come in many different skins, however they are typically young, motivated entrepreneurs with fresh ideas and a desire to be successful. Most Sharks have multiple projects on the go and have very good management skills. They tend to hire people to run the lodges day to day operations and oversee things from afar. By creating a less hierarchical, more democratic structure the shark empowers workers to determine their own responses to customer needs. This results in increased productivity, and allows the staff to provide a quality product in a fun workplace.
All these types of lodge owners have there own styles of leadership. I have worked under the tutelage of all these owners at one time or another and survived to talk about it. Fishing lodge popularity is a relatively new phenomenon and thus is evolving just like anything else. More lodges have changed hands over the past 10 years than ever before and it is interesting to watch the fishing world slowly turn over to the new guard. The love of fishing and business is what characterizes the new guarders. They do what they do for the excitement and satisfaction. They talk about their work the way writers or artists do – and they seem to lose themselves in the pleasure of creating new things.