A Relationship Story – We All Fish

October 2008

My friend Donn Rohrs and his son Matt have an extraordinary passion – they both love to, and live to fish. The fisherman seems to enjoy a sort of peace, a patience – fishing seems almost like an existential experience more than a pastime. I remember how much my Dad loved fishing too – however, he could never “hook” me. Really, I have never felt a lot like a fisherman.

Then I remember 6 years ago when I got started as an executive search consultant with McDermott & Bull – one of the key images offered up as a truism of building a successful consulting practice was the need to plant a lot of seeds. If you don’t plant a lot, then not enough will grow. This made sense, and it also applies to everyone in one way or another – most of us are trying to build new relationships, our networks, and our spheres of influence – in consulting, in our jobs, and throughout our lives.

But really, I don’t feel a lot like a farmer. I have found the image of planting seeds to be unfulfilling. Yes, planting them and watering them will yield growth, but there has always been a missing dynamic about this that has nagged me.

Recently, I have come to believe something new about fishing and farming. You see, I have discovered a more powerful image for building a network in consulting or any other world – instead of planting more seeds, I believe the objective needs to be putting more baited hooks in the water. It seems to me that planting seeds is just too linear – every outcome is a direct outcome of just one seed.

The “missing dynamic” in farming is the absence of the network effect. As I see it, by putting more and more baited hooks in the water, we can create an opportunity for both direct outcomes (a fish bites) and indirect outcomes that results from the inevitable interaction and network effect of all of our individual baited hooks being in the same pool.

In the case of my business, those baited hooks include both relationships and tools. The most powerful of these are relationships – the interaction among all the people who are touched can create unexpected opportunities. As our firm’s business coach Vance Caesar says, what’s most important is who knows you and also tells positive stories about you.

For me, such relationships include current and potential retained-search clients, other companies that come to understand me and our firm and could be referral sources, service providers of all kinds who know potential clients for our services, people who I get to know volunteering in the non-profit world, candidates in search projects who (hopefully) have a good experience working with me and our firm, and other people who I get to know in the interest of assisting them in building their careers.

Writing these stories and distributing them to a broad cross-section of the business community is an example of the tools side of this concept, just as is bringing people together and making connections for people who may get network-effect value from knowing each other.

Now think about yourself – I believe that most of us are trying to build new relationships, our networks, and our spheres of influence – whether it’s in consulting, in our jobs, or in many other aspects of our lives. The image of a pool full of appropriately and consistently baited hooks can also be a path for you to reach your goals.

I believe that we all fish, even if we don’t realize it. Maybe the passion of Donn and Matt is something that I actually do share, and maybe even a little of the peace and patience can rub off too. That’s a nice thought. I hope it is for you as well.

As a bit of a postscript, when I asked Donn about using his story as my example, he reminded me of a key fisherman’s adage – “You need to fish where the fish are”. Another good thing to remember. As always, please let me know if there is any way I can be of assistance to you.


Jeff Black
Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search
Cell: (714) 356-1949 Office: (949) 753-1700 ext. 310
2 Venture, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92618
black@mbsearch.net www.mbsearch.net http://www.jeffblackmcdermottbull.blogspot.com/