Below the Waterline: Finding a niche in outdoor business

When I speak to folks about careers and their dream of working in the outdoor industry, I always talk straight. Finding a niche in an industry where jobs are scarce, pay is often questionable and security is always up for grabs means you have to walk in with your eyes open.

I tell my kids all the time, find something you love to do first and look at pay second. It is much easier to take less money in a job you love than get paid well in one you hate.

For some reason people see the outdoor industry as glamorous. They also believe it is easy. They are wrong on both counts. Passion does not always mean success, but a carefully laid-out plan with passion can get you started.

Whether working in the outdoor industry or being self-employed in another field, success is relative. Success in the job means managing your time, doing it right the first time and being adaptable to change at a moment’s notice.

I have a rule. For every minute I goof off or relax I put five minutes into work. For example, if I have someone drop by the office and shoot the breeze for 30 minutes, I make up that time at the end of the day or the weekend.

Time is money and wasting time is not an option. Conversely, I play hard when I play. The body needs replenishing and down time and I look at my job as a marathon, not a sprint. Being able to manage time for both my health and creativity is very important.

People need creative time and being outdoors allows me to contemplate and create. You can’t do creative things in a cubical or office all the time. Seek that space.

Just about every day I get emails or calls from youngsters, college students and even those already in the industry about how to attain success. In my mind there are four main ingredients:

• Long hours and some weekends are the norm.

• Lots of time and effort are required.

• You have to have a plan.

• You need to have down time.

I remember hearing friends talk about opening a tackle shop or working for a tackle company so they have time to fish or hunt more. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When you make that choice, be prepared to work more than you ever have. You may think you call the shots, but you don’t. Customers, events and staying on the latest trends drive everything and that means research, networking and listening. Know-it-alls really don’t and being adaptable is the key. You typically get out what you put into it.

Success can take time. Overnight wonders seldom have staying power and you have to work smart and be able to multitask. Myopic individuals will never make it and being flexible and resilient is crucial. Being able to adjust and admit when you are wrong also is very important.

Working smart doesn’t necessarily mean working the most. Being effective on your own means you have to have confidence in your abilities. Use resources of those who know more when appropriate and realize working in the outdoors should be fun, too.

The plan needs to have a beginning, middle and end. For some it’s a business model but others it can be the seat of your pants. Both work, but know when you have done everything you can do. Be loose in the execution of your plan and know going in there will be changes.

Accept new technology and look for advantages by using it. Kids have an upper hand here, but experience and wisdom are important, too. Embrace effort, seek rewards and look for proper goals. Grab opportunity, either financial or otherwise, and never be afraid of failure. It makes success better.

The outdoors business is where I have chosen to make a difference. Others may choose another path, but you will only get what you put into it. Live it, find the good in it and do everything you can to be the best at whatever you choose.