Landowner Insights

Hire a Guide – The Value of a Live Water Broker

Most of us race through life believing that, with a little education and a Google search, we can do most anything we put our minds to. Is it as simple as getting on the internet and finding a solution? While this modern model often provides the feeling of success, the performance may be lacking something. We forget that there is still something Google can never replace, personal guidance and advice from a friend or a mentor. Throughout my life I’ve had tremendous guides, individuals who’d mastered their art, from fishing guides to business leaders to real estate brokers to school teachers —even the lesser ones. Curiously, I was not always aware of the lessons being taught or the company I was in at the time, but I am without a doubt the beneficiary of wisdom and lessons from others.

At an early age I developed a love affair with fishing — at four years old, in fact, my grandpa put a hook and a worm on a plastic pole, and I caught my first fish. The anticipation and thrill of a strike and landing the fish was exciting. As I grew older and became interested in other sports, fishing became less alluring. I would still make a point to get out a few times a year, usually backpacking into the Bob Marshall, Glacier Park, the Mission Mountains, the Swans, or other mountain lakes and streams: areas where the fish were so hungry they would bite on sticks! Technique was not a prerequisite for success, and back then we usually ate what we caught. As time went on I started floating rivers, fishing from drift boats and rafts. The scenery became as significant as the fishing. Later, children appeared, and fishing became untangling lines, changing flies and baiting hooks. To this day, I’m not a great fisherman, however the allure of fishing has returned.

A few years ago, my daughter–a far better angler than I am–met a fishing guide and outfitter, Dan Mahoney, whom she later married.  My new son-in-law’s passion for fishing has given him the knowledge and expertise to become one of the best in the business. He began guiding in 2004, and then started Missoula on the Fly in 2013. A couple years ago he took me fishing for the first time on the Bitterroot, and the experience was remarkable. There was little guessing because he took care of everything. I felt embarrassed when he fixed my tippet, changed my flies, told me where to cast, corrected my form and netted my fish. At first, I fought him, yet here was a professional, who knew precisely what he was doing. When I finally relented, the experience became incredible. I enjoyed the river more, the views, great company and cold beer, along with a full day of casting, watching fish hit my fly, fighting them as I played them to the net. I caught many fish without the frustration of changing flies and untangling knots. Truly a fantastic day, one on which I realized that most of us on the rivers are hobbyists — sorry, Norman Maclean — far outside the proficiency of our careers. But, thanks to an amazing guide I learned about angling that day.

Transitioning to Real Estate

In 1982, I started my first business, the Garden Bar and Grill in Bigfork, MT. I tell people to this day, “I started a bar, so I could learn to bartend”. It’s not an easy trade. I learned to always be prepared, listen, patient, answer difficult questions, make everyone feel welcome and throw out all the mean nasty people immediately, because they drive good customers away and will destroy your business. The first year I was blessed to have a successful businessman walk into the Garden Bar, who became a regular customer. He took an interest in my struggle, observing my operation, subtly making suggestions, or asking rhetorical questions, without being condescending, teaching me lessons in perceived value and marketing. If you promise something, you better fulfill your promise or don’t make promises. He became a close friend and helped me through difficult times. Humor being his greatest tool. I learned valuable lessons from all my customers; things I reflect on to this day.

In 1992, I sold an interest in the Garden Bar to my manager and began my real estate career. At first selling residential and recreational properties, then as my understanding of real estate grew, so did my reputation and my success. I represented every property you can imagine: multifamily, shopping malls, bar/restaurants, lake properties, timber properties and eventually ranches and farms. Having been around my grandparent’s ranch and then marrying a farmer’s daughter from Conrad, Montana, selling farms and ranches felt natural. I enjoyed traveling the State of Montana, representing buyers and sellers on incredible ranches and farms. One thing I understood early in my real estate career, if you don’t know the answer, you better admit it and quickly find out who can expertly and professionally answer the question. If you represent your client, do your research, and above all, protect your client’s interest above and beyond your interest in earning a commission, you will be successful. As my passion for real estate grew, I was drawn further into representing farms and ranches.

Guiding in Real Estate

After researching several ranch brokerage companies, I joined Live Water Properties in January 2017.  Live Water has a fantastic marketing platform, one which creates an amazing volume of business, especially for a relatively small regional brokerage firm.  As I researched the company, I learned that most the brokers were fishing or hunting guides in previous careers.  Now, even though I have 26 years of real estate experience, I couldn’t help feeling that I might be the odd man out—probably one of the few brokers at Live Water that can’t guide you on a fishing or hunting trip. To be fair, I could take you, but the experience wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding as a professionally guided one. As I faced down the reality that I could not hold my own with these sportsmen, I comforted myself knowing I had years of experience and was probably a better broker than retired hunting and fishing guides. I was welcomed into the company and met truly amazing and accomplished people, and ironically, some of the best real estate brokers in the business.

I learned that even though I’m not a hunting or fishing guide, I share many of the same traits with these individuals. We all understand being prepared and doing the work necessary to create the best outcome for the client. Guides possess intimate knowledge of their terrain, are prepared for anything, can answer the most difficult questions, are patient and instruct you while at the same time making you feel capable of participating in the process. Live Water Properties has a history of hiring fishing and hunting guides because they listen, give direction and make sure your experience is rewarding and successful.

These are the same characteristics necessary in the Real Estate world. When I bought my first property, I was intrigued by the complexity of a transaction. Fortunately, I had a broker that cared about my interests. He explained how location created value and pointed out all the deferred maintenance for each structure. He noted structural problems, electrical issues, HVAC concerns, property lines, easements, flood plains, water rights, well depths and flows, septic systems, title policies, property taxes and financing. After closing on my property, I decided I wanted to learn more about real estate to continue the path of property ownership. In 1992, I obtained my real estate license and since then, like a dedicated fishing guide, I make sure my clients fully understand the ranch they are pursuing. With every client, I put my quarter century of experience and intricate knowledge of real estate transactions to work, so that each day we work together will be productive and useful.


Live Water Properties Ranch Brokers

Live Water Properties often hires hunting and fishing guides, because they are prepared and genuinely love the land and the ranches they represent. Sure, you could do it yourself, but are you prepared for the process and to accept the outcome? Get a guide, your experience will be much more rewarding and prosperous. 

Download Property Brochure For Hire a Guide – The Value of a Live Water Broker