An interview with Bob Janes, Founder & CEO of Gastineau Guiding
Bob Janes has a busy mind. Having worked for him for nearly eight years, it is not uncommon for a relatively routine conversation about staff needs or boat maintenance to suddenly turn into a passionate diatribe about his latest vision for how drones could best be incorporated into existing tours, or how Juneau’s community could best tackle affordable housing, or even just the best place in town to get an affordable hamburger (spoiler alert: it’s our local hospital cafeteria, where you’ll find Bob at least once a week).
This kind of frenetic creative energy is what makes Bob a successful entrepreneur, a community-oriented benefactor, and a wonderful boss. For the inauguration of Gastineau Guiding’s blog, it felt only right that we begin where it all started: with a peak into the mind of our owner and friend, Bob Janes.
You founded Gastineau Guiding when you were well in your 40s, after spending your early life traveling the world. What motivated you to make a home and a business here in Juneau, Alaska?
Juneau is a beautiful place to live and call home and, in some ways, providing great tours to visitors is just another way to experience the world. We love having visitors come out with Gastineau Guiding and share a beautiful home that we still so genuinely enjoy.
What was the mission for your company when you found it 23 years ago?
To make a family company with a heart and a soul that could directly provide the best possible experience to our visitors.
Looking at how far the company has come since then, how has the mission evolved?
We can now afford to be more socially involved, particularly with my community projects that I am promoting through Gastineau Guiding and with the support of the employees. The Alaska Ocean Center is just one prime example. The center, when built, will be a facility to provide a place for visitors and locals alike to engage in the oceans of the north pacific, their beauty and the challenges we face in keeping them in their pristine state.
As a port, Juneau has an incredibly large and diverse selection of shore excursions. What sets Gastineau Guiding apart in your mind?
The thing that sets us apart is that we are all locals, we live here, we love this place and it is our mission to provide the best tour experience. Our guides are not only highly trained, but we have this great management team that is here to support them and ensure they give the best possible tour.
Gastineau Guiding spends over 80 hours each year training their guides – that’s a big investment of time and money. Why do it?
We know that well trained guides will give the best experience. And we also know that people who are willing to go through the training have a real desire to do this job.
So, if you could come to Juneau for the very first time – have a redo – what shore excursion would you do?
Oh, definitely whale watching. I had the good fortune of being able to go to Kaktovik [a village on the Beaufort Sea, in far northern Alaska] to view polar bears last winter. To me, it was such an eye opening and moving experience. I know now why people who come here and experience these whales in their pristine Alaskan environment feel the way they do. Sometimes we take it for granted!
What is your most valued memory from owning and operating the company?
Easy – the many, many amazing people who have worked here on the pathway to or from their careers. We create such a diverse environment, with ages from 18 to 72. It makes for a really energizing environment that I feel lucky to have in my life.
By Sierra Gadaire, Operations Manager
January 26, 2017