Balancing careers

Last week I asked for questions. A couple of the ones I received center on how I balance running a business and a professional fishing career. I’m not sure my strategy will help everyone but I’ll be happy to share my thoughts.

First, I planned early for a fishing career. I knew when I was a kid what I wanted to do. I also knew I had to plan carefully if it was going to be successful. I don’t come from money. This is a tough business.

As a kid I didn’t do much of anything but fish – even in high school. I didn’t have a serious girlfriend, didn’t attend many social functions and I didn’t go to the prom. I worked part-time and fished.

When I bought Signcom, I did it so that I could fish. I worked hard at my sign business, paid off my debts and lived a very frugal life. It wasn’t unusual for me to bring my boat to work on a Friday, work all day and then drive all night so that I could practice or compete in another part of the country. When I was fishing, I lived in my truck and ate mostly bologna sandwiches.

I stayed single into my late 30s and don’t have any children. That helped me through the tough times. I’m not saying you can’t survive and have a good career with a wife and family. I’m saying I couldn’t do it. I needed to concentrate on one priority at a time.

Signcom is successful now because I put the time and effort into it in the early years and because I have one heck of a good group of employees. And I married well. Tracey is a great wife. She’s able to handle the home front when I’m on the road and she understands the professional fishing lifestyle. That’s indispensable.

Even with those advantages, it’s a struggle. When I’m in Columbus, I usually work 14 hours a day, seven days a week, to make up for when I’m gone. On the road, I typically get up at 4 a.m. and work on my computer until I launch. I do that in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens, the Elites and I did it during the Classic in 2008. I actually wrote a bid the night before the first day of competition on Hartwell.

There are other ways to go about this life; I’ll be the first to admit that. Some of the younger guys are rolling the dice and hoping for the best. I’ll not criticize them for that. Everyone has to be comfortable with the decisions they make. But you asked me how I did it, and how I do it. This is my answer. It is, and was, total commitment.

And speaking of going to work, I need to get back to Signcom. The St. Johns River Elite tournament is next week. I have bids to figure, contracts to review and tackle to organize. We’ll talk next week when I’m in Florida.

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