Travis vs. Alaska: It takes a team

If you give a man enough time, he can do anything.

I come back to those words every time I start a project solo.  I think, like many other entrepreneurs, “I can do it all and control the quality and keep the budget low!”

Unfortunately this thought process tends to hurt you in the long run.  Time is money and when you spend too much time on one facet, you:

1) get burned out fast and end up with tons  of half-finished ideas
2) overall quality lacks and you never meet your deadlines
3) You spend, on average, over 8x the amount of overall time (Time is your most valuable non-renewable resource)
4) Won’t get the desired results at the speed you need

So what does this have to do with commercial crab fishing in Alaska? Learning the importance of team work.

I’m on a boat, mother f#$ker!

I am lucky enough to be part of an elite group in a very small and specialized industry.  Only 60 boats in the world participate in harvesting enough King Crab to feed the world.  Only one of those 60 can be the top producer, the highliner.

I come from a group of highliners, the best of the best, the world champions of our industry and I learned a few tricks along the way.

In our derby style fishing years we would have 48 hours to make $1,000,000 USD with no guarantees and no back up.  So, how did we do it?

Before we begin our job of catching our product, we first prepare.  Starting our prep work one month before the season helps insure that everything is in order and working properly.  We make sure our machines are greased, our crab pots (traps) are in perfect order, our fuel is good, our food is on board, our crew is warming up and our harmony is getting closer to perfection.

Once that bell rings and the season begins, there is no turning back without huge financial consequences.

500 miles out into the world’s roughest sea and we’ve got all our chips on the table; it’s all or nothing.

A crab boat will generally have 5 people on board that take care of 10 positions and over 200 unique tasks per day.  Our harmony is our dance.  If one person forgets their footwork in that dance, everyone falls down.  Just like in other business, this is why team work is so important.

On a crab fishing boat, you must trust every person with your life.  Luckily when you’re in an office (or parents basement, in some cases) you’re not going to get your head smashed by a 800 pound steel cage.

If we get our harmony from the beginning and our team works together, with only 5 people we can do enough work in 48 hours to feed the world.  It takes practice, persistence and it takes you to say, “I cannot do this alone, but I will make it happen.”

There are a lot of similarities identified and skills that can help you be successful and grow your business.

First, identify a time line.  How much time do you have and how much is your time worth?

Next ask, what is the potential gain of doing it yourself?  What do you lose if you miss your deadline?

Prepare yourself and your team.  Get your tools together and spend the time up front to find the people you want with you.  It will save you gobs of time in the end!

You are your team, so playing god will only hurt you.  Know that your crew, your team, will be looking to you for direction but trust them with their work.  You don’t need to micro manage everything!

I guarantee, it is possible for a single person to pilot a boat into the Bering Sea and haul up crab all by himself.  Does it make sense to do that?  No, that’s why we don’t.  The same applies to business that grows.

It’s true, you can do it by yourself.  Will you spend more money?  Yes.  Will your health be affected?  Yes.  Will your quality lack?  Yes.

It takes a leader to delegate and see the vision.  Even if you can do every job better than everyone else, there is only one of you, and you have limited time.

A helping hand

Want to know what I use to manage people and projects?

For project management and job delegation, I use Freedcamp.  Freedcamp is basically a free version of Basecamp, which is the #1 used project management software in the world.  Freedcamp lets you manage projects and delegate tasks to people in your groups, among a lot of other cool features.  I love it and use it all the time, the best part is, it’s free!

If you are looking for help in a specialized area, whether programming, graphic design, etc.  There is no better place I’ve found than Elance.  If you find one, let me know!  Before you hire anyone off of Elance, make sure to check their previous work and get some references.

For doing more general tasks, you can use virtual assistants.  Virtual assistants are usually people overseas in firms that are designed to remotely assist you, just like any other assistant.  They can do research, write keynotes, presentations, the list goes on!  The price can be very reasonable, some less that $5 USD an hour with professional results.  I recommend checking out Odesk and

I also use Gmail and Google calendar to sync our schedule to our phone.  That way if a meeting date is made or a deadline is created, my assistant inputs it into the calendar and magically it appears on everyone’s devices.



What I tell our team in Alaska every season; we all met up on a frozen rock in the middle of the sea for a single purpose.   We are now a single unit, a specialized team, and we must work together as so to complete the coming tasks.

Do you have any tips that help you manage projects?

  1. helen kelso August 18, 2013 at 2:15 am

    I loved your book,”Deadliest Waters.”The photography is awesome.I didn’t realize when we went to the dinner last night how accomplished you are in other areas.What fun it was talking with you and getting some first hand stories(referring to the dinner at Chinook winds on Aug. 16th.Thanks for a great book and evening’s entertainment.Sincerely,Helen and Gil

  2. Travis August 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Thanks Helen! I hope we come back and do it again, I had a lot of fun with everyone!

  3. Ivi September 4, 2015 at 2:40 am

    It’s a real plaesure to find someone who can think like that


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