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4 min read

Lessons Earned: Service is everything

Phil Reid, owner of Reid’s Birch Island Resort, knows passion and customer service is crucial to the success of his business.

Phil Reid has been in the fishing lodge business his entire life. In fact, his family has been running fishing lodges for over 70 years, with Phil’s grandfather opening his first one in the 1940s. Since then, a total of 16 lodges have been run by a member of Phil’s family — now including his son, who is the fourth generation.

Their current location, Reid’s Birch Island Resort, is nestled amongst one of the many waterways stippling northwestern Ontario, just outside the small town of Minaki. The resort’s crown jewel, aside from its idyllic surroundings with wooded peninsulas and tranquil lakes, is the main lodge that was built over 100 years ago by a director of the former T. Eaton’s Company. “At our resort, people don’t have to travel as far, which is a better deal for our customers, and we also have multiple species of fish for great fishing in a more intimate location offering a five-star dining and accommodation experience.” says Phil, who is the current owner of the resort.

A unique feature of Birch Island is its accessibility. Only a three-hour drive from Winnipeg, and a short hop from the American border, the resort doesn’t require flying in, which means no chartered flights. This creates more savings and value for patrons and allows guests to have complete control on how long they’d like to stay. Regardless of how they get there, though, once guests arrive at the scenic getaway, it all comes down to good old-fashioned customer service, says Phil.

“What I’ve come to know for sure, after doing this my whole life, is that service is everything in this business,” Phil further adds.

“If you’ve got a decent facility and a good fishery, which is our primary business, that’s one thing but it’s the service that truly counts. Our customers are number one, and they need to feel very welcome, that they’re being looked after and they’re not just a number.”  Phil shares that most of his customers, even at his big resorts, have become his good friends. They are the ones who leave his resorts with a great experience, making them ambassadors for his business.

Building up this valuable clientele is one of his business’s main challenges, with it taking up to three to five years to turn a lodge into a profitable enterprise. However, Phil notes that once you’ve curated your customer base, repeat guests are what drives success. “Look for the repeat business,” suggests Phil. “We’ve been very fortunate over the years, as we’ve been able to run up to 80 to 85% repeat business, which is huge in any hospitality industry.”

For Phil, this business is all about passion, the satisfaction in seeing guests having a stellar day of fishing and the reward in bringing all the unique elements of his resort together for an extraordinary experience. He recommends to anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset to start a business in an industry that they love. “I think for any industry, you have to have the passion for it,” says Phil. “You have to have the desire to get up every morning excited about the day ahead while asking yourself what you accomplished as well as what you didn’t.”

A shared enthusiasm and drive for success is what originally attracted Phil to CWB, as he found in his account managers a fresh perspective and an attention to detail in regards to his business that he had never seen anywhere else before. “You really feel that you have a partner,” says Phil. “CWB isn’t just a financial institution where you’re putting money in and taking money out. It’s not merely transactional where you’re just a number. They’re hands-on, working one-on-one with you every step of the way and also looking out for your business interests as if they were their own.”

By thinking outside of the box and proactively offering financial guidance, CWB has been able to help Reid’s Birch Island Resort be prepared for success not only today, but in the future as well. “There’s ups and downs in every business, and to be prepared to have access to further resources for additions or growth is crucial,” notes Phil. “And CWB have that all ready for you — not after the fact, but ahead of the game — which is amazing.”

A strong relationship, along with highly personalized service, is important to Phil when finding a bank that’s right for him. And he now enjoys that kind of client care from CWB, where his calls are answered by staff who know his name and his business. “This is probably the best working relationship I’ve had with a bank that I can remember,” Phil remarks. “The guys we deal with aren’t just our bankers, they’ve become friends and partners. And they appreciate that what makes us better and stronger as a business makes them better and stronger as a bank.”

Interested in learning more about what CWB can do for you and your business? Contact us today!