Lessons from the Bering Sea

Lessons from the Bering Sea

I’ll admit it. One of my guilty dalliances is the show “Deadliest Catch” on Discover channel. If you’re not aware, it’s a show about the what is undeniably one of the worst jobs in the world – crab fishing in the Bering Sea. Just brutal, what these Captains & crews go through for their payday.

I try & build some of the same mentality into what we do at First Klass – especially during the grind & drag times like these — when we’re ‘on the crab’ — 5 to 6 days a week, heat, humidity, bugs, sweat, dirt, and a relentless schedule that never seems to have a light day. Schedule back-ups because of weather days, waiting lists, training new hires (greenhorns in D.C. lexicon), and on it goes. I keep prodding, cajoling & trying to keep the crew motivated through these times, “we need to ‘turn & burn’ (more crabber talk), we have to ‘push through to the payday’, etc. Sometimes it works, sometimes I think I may be facing a mutiny. But the jobs seem to work out, it all gets done & the crew gets paid. Paid well.

One set of contracts we have held for the past 15 years or so is a 184 condo development in June, followed by a 112 apartments in the same complex in July. The June set I analogize to the King crab season. First big, BIG job, manhours, material & cash flow wise. This is GRINDER work – we have 2 on waterfed poles, 2 jumping onto patios and at least 2 on ground work with hand tools – it’s long, arduous work in unrelenting weather – quite the opposite of Bering Sea weather, but if you’ve ever worked Wisconsin in the summer – it brings its own special trouble. We get hot, dirty, sore, hurt, cut, poked, stung and wore out. Thunderstorms from nowhere while you’re on a ladder or holding a WFP. That said, it is a great paying job for the crew and the company, much like a good King Crab season is for a boat.

Just like in Deadliest Catch, where the captains need to motivate the crews to come back for the Opilio (Snow) Crab season the following month, I need to gear my guys back up for our “Opie season”, the second half of this gig in July. They know what’s coming – more humidity, heat, relentless mosquitoes, bees, & pain. But to the credit of my crew, they face it head-on & come back to get the job done.

This year, the FV Northwestern had her Engineer, Edgar Hansen quit. Interviewing the captain of the vessel, he said it would be really hard to replace Edgar. He ran through about half of what Edgar does on that ship, and it was legion. That got me to thinking about my “Edgar”. I would have to say my operations manager, Ryan is my Edgar. he knows almost 100% of the ins & outs of First Klass, and we would be hard pressed to replace him. It would get done, but it would be a struggle. Every company, once you get employees, needs an Edgar. When you’re a one man show, you truly are ship, captain & crew. But as you grow, you’ll recognize traits in someone on your crew that separates them from the others – and you’ll find your Edgar. Train them well, compensate them well, and always keep an eye out for the next Edgar coming onto your crew. You wouldn’t want to be out to sea without one, would you?

Jeff KlassLessons from the Bering Sea

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