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I want to start my own guiding business. Where do I begin?
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By Bill Wa
Mar 5, 2014

Hi all, I have been climbing for quite a long time (20 years), and now decided to start my own guiding business. I don't have any certifications, only experience. I own a commercial vehicle and have a commercial insurance on it (if it matters). I would like to find out how to go about getting certifications necessary for the business, but as a tax write up.
I will be guiding mostly rock, single pitch. Ideas for an awesome name and logo will be appreciated!

P.S. this business will be my "side job". I already have a full time job. So, if i take some losses in the first couple of years it's just water off goose's back. I just need to get started somehow. Also writing off a bunch of climbing gear would help me personally to acquire more gear and possibly to write off the gear I already own. I am all about saving a buck, if it helps!


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By Kevin Craig
Mar 5, 2014
KC on Fields (medium).  Photo (c) Doug Shepherd

Assuming this is a troll and/or joke since the OP joined about 15 minutes ago, I'll kick off the snark-fest....

The secret to making a small fortune in the guiding business? Start with a large one.

-firing up the popcorn maker-


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By FoamFinger
From Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mar 5, 2014

Hi there, you are certainly thinking big! So to start a guiding service generally you need to get a permit for whatever State Parks you are hoping to guide in. If you are hoping to guide in National Forest, BLM, or National Parks you can forget about it. It takes YEARS to get approved by the federal govt for a commercial outfitter permit.
Once you have your permit (or more likely before) you'll need to get some liability insurance. Generally the going number in the industry is somewhere in the neighborhood of a $1 million dollar policy. No, this is not a joke. Some Parks require a $2 million dollar policy. Having worked as a guide for a handful of companies myself I can tell you that this is standard.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having at the very minimum these two things because if you are (a) caught Pirate guiding without a permit you can be fined A LOT of money and (b) sued for everything you own even if you don't have any accidents. Heaven help you if you do and don't have any kind of liability insurance!
Hope this helps get this thread going for you.


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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Mar 5, 2014

You've been climbing twenty years and don't know who to contact about certifications? Instead, you ask MP? Not a good sign...


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By Max Forbes
From Burlington, VT
Mar 5, 2014

FrankPS wrote:
You've been climbing twenty years and don't know who to contact about certifications? Instead, you ask MP? Not a good sign...


This was my first thought as well.. The AMGA certification process is not a cheep or speedy undertaking, even if you plan on guiding single pitch rock..


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By Roots
From Tustin, CA
Mar 5, 2014

"Suit yourselves and be dicks about it if you wish."

Well you gave them an inch...now you'll get a mile of it.



If not going for certs then you'll have to guide at places that don't require it. There are plenty...good luck with your new endeavor!


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By Roots
From Tustin, CA
Mar 5, 2014

oh and all the tax write offs you have planned for those gear purchases aren't exaclty going to work out because when you claim those you'll have to file an income tax return for your biz...and all that lovely equipment will have property taxes due on it.(this is a separate return).


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By Matthew K
From Charlottesville, VA
Mar 5, 2014

AMGA certifications can be expensive and a slow process to obtain, but they will be well worth it. Not only is it a great point that you can promote, but their courses and certifications will help you make the transition from a recreational climber to a climbing professional. The two are not the same! If you are looking at just guiding in a single pitch environment, AMGA's SPI course and certification together are only about $800-900. Additionally, if are as experienced as you say you are and have some mock instructing experience, you can take the course and exam back to back and be SPI certified in a few weeks, depending on scheduling. Please be responsible and get the proper certifications.

You and whoever is reading this thread might find this link help/interesting. Guiding's Professional Problem


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By PRRose
From Boulder
Mar 5, 2014

You should review the "hobby loss rules" with your tax advisor before you start.


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By Peteoria
Mar 5, 2014

Bill Wa wrote:
how to go about getting certifications necessary for the business, but as a tax write up.


AMGA fees could probably be deducted as an American Opportunities tuition tax credit on your personal return. I don't think the fees could be deducted as a business expense since the course qualifies you to work in a new profession.

The business could likely take losses as long as it doesn't look like a hobby - since you haven't proposed any stellar ideas of how to attract clients & aren't making any money. This loss could be used to offset your white collar income.

Professional athlete information:

You could market yourself as a professional athlete. A pro can deduct the cost of business such as gear and massages. Temporary housing (rent) is deductible if seasonally living somewhere to perform.

Rookies can sometimes deduct expenses associated with entertaining veterans in order to fulfill their job.


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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Mar 6, 2014

The land managers for a given chunk of land will let you know what's required of you to guide on that land. Call your local BLM, nps, and usfs office and ask.

Fwiw, if you think spending $800 is pricey, you may want to reconsider. I'd suspect insurance costs (and other fees like permits, licenses, etc) will be much higher. I'd also suspect that amga cert will get you a decent break on your rates.


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By Mark Ra
From Mid-Atlantic/CO
Mar 6, 2014
Poking around at Coopers

Bill Wa wrote:
This company we are cooking up will not be so much profit driven as it will be more for fun and to be able to get pro deals and write offs for new gear, vehicles, mileage, hotel stay, etc. etc.


You'll need to at least make it appear profit driven. The IRS hobby loss rules are based on the idea of a "profit motive". Without a profit motive it is a hobby. A profit motive would also entail a business plan, growth strategy, separate bank account and credit card, etc...


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By Trav W.
Mar 6, 2014

Bill Wa, $800 is fairly inexpensive in comparison to what it takes to get higher certifications. It is becoming common for guides to pay the equivalent of a masters degree for their training and continued education in their field. Many of those are now IFMGA certified guides. I am not saying that you need to dish out that much and become a full mountain guide with the AMGA if you only want to guide and instruct single pitch climbs.
Aside from the certification, the SPI curriculum will give you tools so that your potential future clients will be rewarded with a better day. I know that if I was a client I would want to get the most for my money. Having taken the SPI course and assessment, I know that you will learn those skill and also learn quite a bit about the industry of guiding including insurance practices (at least I did on my course). Before going out and purchasing insurance and business licenses I would recommend taking the AMGA SPI course.


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By FoamFinger
From Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mar 6, 2014

Trav W. wrote:
Bill Wa, $800 is fairly inexpensive in comparison to what it takes to get higher certifications. It is becoming common for guides to pay the equivalent of a masters degree for their training and continued education in their field. Many of those are now IFMGA certified guides. I am not saying that you need to dish out that much and become a full mountain guide with the AMGA if you only want to guide and instruct single pitch climbs. Aside from the certification, the SPI curriculum will give you tools so that your potential future clients will be rewarded with a better day. I know that if I was a client I would want to get the most for my money. Having taken the SPI course and assessment, I know that you will learn those skill and also learn quite a bit about the industry of guiding including insurance practices (at least I did on my course). Before going out and purchasing insurance and business licenses I would recommend taking the AMGA SPI course.


Well said Trav. W. I did the SPI Course/Assessment as well and I was surprised at a lot of the skills, both hard and soft that I did not know. The real value of professional instruction is in the soft skills that recreational climbers take for granted...


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By DesertRat
Mar 6, 2014

Bill Wa wrote:
This company we are cooking up will not be so much profit driven as it will be more for fun and to be able to get pro deals and write offs for new gear, vehicles, mileage, hotel stay, etc. etc.

If this is the case, you should consider starting a climbing club. This is what a friend of mine did, and I how I was introduced to climbing. He had looked into guiding as well, and determined that insurance and permits would be out of the question. He started a climbing club, and that allows him the structure to take people out climbing on just about any federal land where it is allowed. Dues were charged to the members of the club that allowed for purchases of gear, a free checking account was set up in the club's name and waivers were signed by anyone that joined the club. It works really well, if you aren't looking for profit. It also allows a venue for arranging prodeals, although he never really pursued this. The dues can be used to fund outings, such as mileage for vehicles and other things you mentioned. It is a great way of introducing new people to climbing and allowing them to help your fund trips.


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By DesertRat
Mar 6, 2014

PS - I would really recommend getting your AMGA SPI certification, or at least taking the class(~$400), as there is a tremendous amount of good information and practice in it. Also, I'm not sure, but the dues from the club could probably pay for it. You would have to double check that though.


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By Buff Johnson
Mar 6, 2014
smiley face

Even without considering the certs, the insurance will probably kill it. If you go without ins, you'll be on the hook for anything some asshole lawyer dreams up.

With ins, you'll technically be protected once, they'll settle for some cash, then you'll get dropped or jacked on premiums and carry a high emr for other ins companies anyway.


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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Mar 6, 2014

Bill Wa,

You started by asking this:

Bill Wa wrote:
I would like to find out how to go about getting certifications necessary for the business,


Within a day, you didn't want certs anymore:

Bill Wa wrote:
how do I find the areas where AMGA or any other certs are not required to guide?


I don't think you are interested in doing anything that costs money or takes time to obtain permission or certs to legally guide.


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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Mar 6, 2014
...

Guide illegally. No "Cert's" needed!

;-)


(I'm SURE that will go over big. LOL!)


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By csproul
From Rancho Cordova, CA
Mar 6, 2014
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background

I hear trolling is great preparation for opening a guiding business.


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By Tom-onator
From This Galaxy
Mar 6, 2014
Tom-onator

Trolling for replies.
Trolling for replies.


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Mar 14, 2014
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

Elanor is already 'certified.'


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