A few weeks ago, I found myself seated next to a stranger at a local fundraising dinner. We chatted through the usual topics, eventually sharing what we do for a living.
“I’m retired,” he said. “I’m also an angler.”
A very particular and precise way to describe oneself, I thought, and I asked him to tell me more.
I discovered that he is a successful fly fisher and ties his own flies, a hobby he has turned into a small business. As he was joyfully showing me pictures of his detailed and intricate work, he began to describe why some become anglers and others remain fishers. Now he had my attention!
“Do you know that fish in rivers have a keen sense of their environment, and they recognize the types of insects naturally present in the water shed?” the angler asked. “Did you know they also recognize the way insects move across the surface of the water, and the cycle of life they are in?” He went on to say that fish also recognize things that are foreign to their environment.
Understanding these variables is what separates the fishers from the anglers.
A fisher who drags their fly across the tide and natural flow of the river will always be frustrated. But an angler who studies the streamways, knows the habits of local insects, and works to drift their line in a recognizable pattern will put more fish to net every day of the week.
The next day, I considered his comments in a different light.
It turns out fly fishing has a lot in common with the development and implementation of a successful and proactive business engagement strategy. If you lack actionable information regarding the environment you are operating in and details about the businesses you are trying to engage, you risk being perceived as something uncharacteristically scurrying across the natural workflow and your engagement efforts will fail.
Instead, think like an angler. Do some homework, gather pertinent information and actionable data, study the flow of things and know the environment – and then cast your line. You are certain to be more successful.
What about you? As a business engagement professional, are you an angler? Or do you “just fish”?