By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor
BIG SKY – Established in 1988, Wild Trout Outfitters is a fully-stocked fly shop and guiding company located on Highway 191 half a mile south of the intersection with Lone Mountain Trail.
The owner of Wild Trout Outfitters, J.D. Bingman, has lived in Big Sky since 1973, fly fishing the Gallatin River and, eventually, all the surrounding waters in Montana, Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. In 1984, Bingman began his professional guiding career on the blue-ribbon waters of southwest Montana, and soon was certain that taking visitors on guided fishing trips was something he could do for the rest of his life.
The longtime business owner shared his thoughts with EBS on what it takes to make it as a small business owner in Big Sky.
Explore Big Sky: What has been the key to your success?
J.D. Bingman: Pay close attention to detail. Keep a positive attitude and lead by example. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Never ask an employee to do something that you would not do yourself.
EBS: What are the biggest obstacles to operating a small business in Big Sky?
J.D.B.: [The lack of] affordable housing for seasonal employees and guides.
EBS: How has the business landscape changed since you started out?
J.D.B.: Everything changes, nothing stays the same. I started out in 1984 as a fly-fishing guide at Lone Mountain Ranch. Fast-forward 34 years and everything has changed. There is more government in today’s world. Everyone wants a piece of your action.
EBS: What is it about Big Sky that compels you to stick it out through the hard times?
J.D.B.: All the years in Big Sky have been good for me. Some a little better than others, but all have been good.
EBS: Why do you think so many new businesses fold relatively quickly?
J.D.B.: It’s all about money. It doesn’t really matter how much you make; it’s about how much you get to keep in the end. If there’s nothing left at the end, then a new business will fold.
EBS: What advice would you give to small business owners just starting out in Big Sky?
J.D.B.: Pick a career or business that you love, and you’ll never have to work again.
EBS: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
J.D.B.: Don’t leave anything to chance and be good at what you do.
EBS: What do you think your business will look like in 10 years?
J.D.B.: In 10 years, Wild Trout Outfitters will still be providing quality year-round fly-fishing experiences for people from all walks of life.
EBS: What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had as a resident or business owner in Big Sky?
J.D.B.: Becoming 100-percent self-employed in 1988.
Wild Trout Outfitters – by the numbers
• Staff: 11
• Years in business: 30
• Longest serving employee: 22 years, Dave Williams