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How My Past Success Killed My Fishing Season

By Joey Havens

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Every year, I passionately look forward to the crappie spawn (a freshwater fish also called white perch, sac-a-lait, speckled perch and even sometimes papermouth) which begins in February and usually tails off by late May or early June in the Southeast. This picture was one of my best days this year while wading on Enid Lake, MS. Wade fishing is absolutely my favorite way to fish during the crappie spawn. Every year, crappie transition from deep water to the 6-10 foot level and then they move and hold around 4-6 feet of water.  Eventually, the males head into shallow water to locate or build nests and they are quickly followed by females who might lay eggs in 12-18 inches of water!  I have seen crappie so shallow that you could see the dorsal fin on their back at times as well as the constant swirl of water. 

I realize that might be more than you wanted to know about crappie fishing. But as I reflected on my fishing season this year, I realized that I had a good year but it wasn’t a great year—in fact, it was very inconsistent. We had an abnormally high number of drastic swings in the weather—high winds came at the most inopportune times and huge local rains, all of which caused unreliable crappie spawning patterns. Every time I thought we would have a big day, we drew a blank. Now, I realize I that I simply did not change my fishing patterns to match what the fish were doing. I kept fishing where they were supposed to be—where they were last year at this time and certainly where I had experienced so much success catching them over the years.

Stubbornly, I kept relying on my past success and my desire to fish in my favorite spots and with my favorite methods. I was so focused on fishing on my schedule rather than theirs, offering my favorite jigs and colors rather than trying something new. Sometimes I stuck with a pattern of fishing because I did catch 1 or 2 nice fish and this led me to believe that although it was slow, the fish were coming to me. Other times, I caught smaller fish that kept me too busy to think about bigger fish. And all of a sudden, the spawn was over and it was the end of my (very mediocre) fishing season.

As I write about this year’s crappie spawn, I find myself laughing and realizing it is very similar to where I see our CPA firm and other public accounting firms as it relates to our “fishing” for business development and firm growth. Never before have we experienced such rapid change (literal transformation), high winds of resistance from younger professionals and “fishing” pressure from non-CPA firms using new techniques. 

Clients are staying in deeper water because they are not finding relevant solutions in their normal water levels. They are changing what services they want because their needs are rapidly changing. They are paying less because they do not see any real difference between the firms. They are buying less because they do not see relevant solutions to help them with new opportunities or new challenges. Like the crappie, they are skittish because they see more risk than normal. Some of them have moved on to other firms who are more anticipatory and sharing relevant insights. While our firms might be busy landing some small projects and clients seeking historical compliance help, we are not preparing to have a great season of growth.   

Maybe these questions will generate some conversations on ways we can have a great season. 

  1. How do we change our business development and client experience to generate significant organic growth?
  2. How do we become more relevant to serve our clients?
  3. How do we provide insights and value that generates profitable growth rather than chasing growth with lower and lower fees?
  4. How do we better understand our clients transitioning?
  5. How can we improve our messaging on value and impact?

Good luck with your fishing and make sure to fight off the tendency to rest in your past success and instead, try new things. 

One thing’s for certain, the weather is not going to let up.