Fishing and Friendship
October 31, 2019

Since starting in architecture over 40 years ago, I’ve seen a lot and learned even more – more than I could have possibly realized when first setting out to help clients by providing great designs. One of the things I’ve learned, and am fortunate to have witnessed, is the evolution of friendship from acquaintances, clients, and even family.

Even though I’m an architect, I also consider myself a fisherman, and every October for about 30 years, I’ve been going to the Pere Marquette River. A beautiful National Scenic River that feeds into the Pere Marquette Lake and ultimately Lake Michigan. It’s located just 85 miles north of Grand Rapids, Michigan and a great place to fish for salmon during their fall spawning migration. Through the years, these expeditions have grown from four to almost 20 friends, clients, contractors, and family members. But we are all first and foremost, friends!

This trip is nothing fancy but we always have high expectations. The goal is to fish, eat, drink, and be with people you really enjoy. And, it has never been a “bring the client thing” either. One year a while back, I invited my largest client. I had been telling him about my trips and thought he would enjoy it.

When I told my wife he was going she asked if I was paying his way on the trip.

“No…he’s more of a friend to me than a client, and this is a fishing trip for friends…” I said.

When we returned from the trip, I sent him a bill for $200.

(He paid it because after all, we’re friends.)

When clients become friends, it makes our work efforts more meaningful. And, when contractors, subcontractors, and others we work with become friends, our work-life becomes more open and honest.

Over the years, I, and many of my fishing friends, have been able to include our sons on our trips. Let me tell you, this makes the trip awesome! To have once snotty-nosed, rambunctious boys, grow up into responsible men, and to be able to expose them to our older, special friends is a life-changing experience. Probably the only thing that can top this would be to have my grandchildren join us – three generations of fisherfolk and friends on the Pere Marquette River.

Being able to watch my son interact with my friends, having a beer on the beautiful shoreline with the president of a construction firm, the president of an electrical firm, or the president of an architectural firm, easily being a part of the conversation is very comforting. It makes me proud. I know the other dads feel the same way about their sons when they fish with us.

I guess the bottom line is when clients and work-place contacts can become friends, it is a wonderful experience. If you have the opportunity to add your children into the mix, it is even more wonderful. Finally, if you can accomplish all of this along the shores of the beautiful Pere Marquette River, on a gorgeous fall day…the wonderful becomes magical!

I have tons of stories about what I’ve learned over the years. Who knows, maybe I’ll share another post sometime soon.

Wishing you well until next time,

Jim Kratzat, Founding Principal, MSKTD & Associates