Bo Percival

Bo Percival

I used backpacking as the organizing metaphor in my book, Content Marketing for Nonprofits, so when Bo offered to write this post relating nonprofit leaders to backcountry guides, I thought it was perfect fit.  ~Kivi

Guest Post by Bo Percival

As someone who is passionate about the outdoors, I have long been engaged with backcountry guides. I have followed them, I have trained with them and I have been one. They take groups climbing up Everest, mountain biking across Mongolia, or kayaking around the Arctic Circle. They are understated and are characterized by passion, experience and strength. In my experience, they share many things in common with great nonprofit leaders.

  • They’re passionate – What others only dream about, they wake up to do
  • They’re experts – There’s no substitute for knowledge and experience
  • They nurture – They not only lead, but they coach, mentor and support
  • They’re committed – Their priority is their people from the first step to the last
  • They’re calculated – It’s a calculated risk, it’s never a gamble
  • They thrive in flow – When things are in motion, a guide is in their element.
  • They can save your life – Anytime, Anywhere 

They’re passionate

When you meet a guide it’s their passion that strikes you most, it’s infectious. They can genuinely tell you, “If money was no object, I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing now.” Their passion allows them to focus on what can be done over what can’t. They make the best from what they have. A guide sees solutions not problems.

They’re experts

ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) guides are some of the most respected guides in the world, and it takes years of training and thousands of hours of experience to attain accreditation. They can see what others cannot, and know what needs to be done before it needs to be done. They see bad weather coming well before anyone else.  If they make a mistake, it’s rarely made twice. They have earned their expertise.

They nurture

A guide empowers their team to take on new challenges. They know how to get the most from others and set them up for success. They build the capacity of each of their team members and then put them in the position to exceed. They can turn the big picture into small snapshots, so everyone understands. They troubleshoot with accuracy and fine-tune their team to excellence.

They’re committed

A guide’s priority is their team. They are steadfast and unconditional under any circumstance. They never doubt the ability of the team to achieve their goal. Their self-interests are irrelevant and their decisions are made for the team, even the tough ones: “discretion before valor.”

They’re calculated

There are old climbers and there are bold climbers, but there are no old bold climbers.” A guide calculates risk, and removes chance. They are meticulous in their attention to detail, which protects lives. They know their greatest danger is complacency and never let it in. They always act with consideration and intention.

They thrive in flow

You can’t fight a big river; you have to work with it. Often, a forward move is the safest one. A guide is comfortable outside their comfort zone. They embrace new experiences. Flow keeps them in the present moment. Like a bicycle, to stay balanced, they keep moving.

They can save your life

Anytime, Anywhere.

There are managers, there are leaders – and there are guides. These are the people that inspire action, enhance potential and empower others to do amazing things.

A big thank you to the guides who have contributed to this, in person, in spirit and in experience. 

Bo Percival is the Founding Associate of CoLabs for Causes, a consultancy established to use business principles for social purpose. He has worked on projects around the world covering Nepal, China, Canada, Australia and South East Asia. He has qualifications and experience in business, marketing, development and economics. As a social entrepreneur Bo aims to support | create | inspire | act for development organizations worldwide. You can find Bo at, or send him an email: