ICS Magazine

A Talent for the Game

September 18, 2007

Nothing will stay with a client longer than the first glimpse of your truck, the first look she gets of you on the front steps, the first words out of your mouth. First impressions: they’re what’s for breakfast.

It’s funny what sticks and where it leads you. I met Brad Woodward about a year ago at a campground in the Southern Sierras. Brad’s a Bakersfield, Calif.-based cleaner and an avid fly fisherman. If I remember correctly, he was getting a jacket out of his truck; I was nearby, staring at the jumble of gear in my trunk, positive I’d left my waders at a turnout somewhere between there and the bridge 20 miles to the north – no, wait, there they are. Anyway, I would soon discover that Brad was a professional cleaner, that he received the magazine and that he had generally nice things to say about it. But first things first:

“You out fishing today?”

“Sure was. You?”

“Absolutely.”

Hands were shaken, names exchanged and then, with a, “Hey, want to see something?” and the slightly manic grin common to English soccer hooligans and fly fishermen in the middle of a hatch, he reached back into his truck and came out with this ginormous (Merriam-Webster says it’s a word now; go figure) fly of his own creation.

It was something of a Wooly Bugger or Marabou Muddler on steroids, about as long as my thumb and black as pitch, with a few whisps of barely there glitter in the hackle. I remember thinking, only half joking, that if a trout took a swipe at this thing, he better mean it, otherwise he’d only make it mad. I stood there for another minute examining the craftsmanship and drew some conclusions: Brad knew what he was doing, he took pride in what he did and it showed. It would almost be a shame to get the thing wet. He said he hadn’t fished it yet, but was absolutely sure it would hammer them.

Of the countless cleaning pros I’ve met, those at the top of their game all seem to possess two qualities: an exacting attention to detail and an unshakable belief in a positive outcome. Whether you possess them or not is something your client will quickly pick up on. So it’s worth taking stock: do you approach your work with a cry of “Carpe diem!” or are your clients getting a feeling of caveat emptor?