11 Lessons on Earning Your First 100 Clients from the Founders of Fisher Guiding
Edward Hill (left) and Luke Campbell (right) attended high school in Charlottesville, VA, and became friends playing midfield together on their school’s soccer team. Edward’s yearbook quote was “The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun” — Christopher McCandless. Luke’s yearbook quote was “Hate it or love it, the underdog’s on top” — Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent. After high school, Edward headed west to CU — Boulder for his education, aka fly fishing and skiing, while Luke went to cheer on national championships at UNC-Chapel Hill.
After stints in public policy and market research respectively, Edward and Luke linked back up to launch Fisher Guiding and coordinate between their home bases in Brooklyn, NY, (Edward) and Chicago, IL (Luke).
Edward Hill got the idea for Fisher Guiding like how so many great businesses start — he identified a problem in his own life.
“I was looking to do a fishing trip in the Everglades… I was looking online trying to book some trips and it was information overload with all these guides in different places, so I ended up not doing it. I called a couple places who were not able to do the trip, and there was no way for me to book online, so I thought, ‘Well, what the heck? I’ll try to do this myself.’ I had no idea what I was getting into.”
That was in April 2016. And a lot has transpired since then.
In March 2017, his now business partner, Luke Campbell, came on board full-time. Luke had some entrepreneurial experience from trying to launch his own app, an experience he says prepared him well for Fisher Guiding.
“Having the background of trying to launch something the previous year encouraged me to be fine with the risk of leaving my full-time job and going in on this new venture because I realized how crucial it can be to go all-in.”
Together, the two have built the beginnings of a two-sided marketplace to help band together the fragmented fishing industry.
As Edward explains, “Right now the fishing industry is pretty fragmented. It is a lot of independent contractors and guides, working throughout the U.S. and internationally, and they have personal sites and references but too many ways different ways to communicate.”
Fisher Guiding seeks to be the platform that streamlines the process of finding a guide for and booking your next fishing expedition while providing a simplified process and advertising value to the guides to boost their business.
A little more than six months after launching their website, Edward and Luke have signed up their first 100 guides. Here is what they’ve learned along the way.
You need the right team
Although Edward had a great idea from the beginning and valuable work experience to set him up for success, he is not shy about recognizing that bringing Luke on board to build out the team was a key component in Fisher Guiding’s success.
“I recognized early on that we needed to have a team to make it work. It wouldn’t work if it was just me… One of the biggest points to make about success in entrepreneurship is to find a team that’s in it with you, can keep you accountable, and help keep you going when there are rough days. You really need teammates to make it happen, so Luke came on (officially) in March and it’s really helped our growth.”
Build a product people trust
In order to find success with a new kind of platform in an industry that hadn’t seen anything like it, the team focused on building a platform that its users can trust.
“We saw the need for captains and guides to have a product they can put their trust in… It definitely took a lot of conversations early on — helping them get set up, explaining how everything works, showing we’re not just sales people trying to make a buck. We have established strong relationships with our early partners. We really feel like we know them and they know us and know that we are here and available.”
Build presence through partnerships
To break into an industry in which they had little presence, Edward and Luke focused on establishing early relationships with key players in the field — people with a vested interest in seeing them succeed — in order to grow their presence.
As Luke explains, “Creating partnerships and investing in relationships with individuals to grow connections and word of mouth are extremely important. Some of the earliest people we connected with have been big contacts and helped us get those other interviews or referred us to guides… We found people who are engaged and want to help us and we come up with new ideas for how they can do that. There are definitely people who want to see us succeed.”
100 clients happens one at a time
When you’re first starting out, you’re not simply going to develop a product or a service and have your users or customers come running. It takes you going out and making it happen.
“Early on it was all word of mouth, creating a relationship with the guide or charter captain and then talking them through the idea… We needed to explain that it is a tool for users to find them, there’s no advertisement cost, and it’s relatively easy to sign up. We needed to pitch it as a no-skin-off-your-back solution to try to get them to give it a shot. It was a lot of emailing, mail merges, phone calls, and in-person trips.”
Know your customer
When building the platform, Fisher Guiding knew that some of their clients would be older and not extremely tech-savvy. Knowing this, they designed their platform to be as easy to use as possible.
“We thought some of our users would be older and would have a little less trust for the technology so we wanted to make it as doable as possible for the guides, really make it an easy, self-explanatory experience.”
Your assumptions may be wrong
Still, the team has found that there are plenty of people willing to use their platform that they did not first consider. Their takeaway is to never shut yourself off to a particular customer base.
“You can have a preconceived notion of who the audience is going to be. I think you should always be open to new customers. The audience might vary and be different than what you thought. We’ve gotten great support from people we wouldn’t have originally thought.”
Provide value… for free
A huge reason that Fisher Guiding has experienced success in getting clients is that they provide a base amount of value to their guides for free. They don’t get charged until a trip gets booked.
“A guide signs up for free. There’s no sign-up or listing fee. We do advertising and promotion for all of our guides at no charge to them. We only earn a commission when a trip gets booked so the platform provides free value to the guide.”
Get your product out there early and iterate, iterate, iterate
Luke also sees the value in getting your product out there early to allow people to interact with it. From there, you can make improvements.
“Definitely put yourself and your product out there. A lot of the improvements we have made are because of feedback we have received from the guides or from observations we’ve made after seeing people use the site… You have to try a lot of different things.
When we launched the website, we just tried to get it out there. We didn’t know what the response would be… If you have a website, put out the minimum viable version of it. Put something out there. Put out some ad campaign. See how people react. If people like it, you can tell. Get user interaction going to figure out what you need to fix and what to keep doing.”
Set internal goals — what gets measured gets done
Although the team has been striving to reach the 100 guide mark by a set date, they never announced this publicly. It was simply an internal goal that drove the team forward.
“When Luke came onboard, something he stressed that I think helped a lot was that when something gets measured, it gets done. Having goals and really holding yourself to those and staying accountable is crucial.”
You don’t need to know everything on your own
As Edward has seen Fisher Guiding grow, he has recognized the importance of surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do, because you can’t know everything on your own.
“The most important thing has been building the team and getting people who want to help — employees and partners but also advisors. A lot of this stuff is new and you don’t need to know everything on your own to get there. You’ve got to be willing to ask for guidance, take feedback, and make your own decisions. It’s been really helpful to recognize that.”
Focus on what you can control
On the path to success, it can be easy to be distracted and overwhelmed by what others are accomplishing, but it remains important to only focus on what you can control.
“The only way to make it work is coming in every day and working on it. Sometimes you can get overwhelmed by seeing what other people are doing, but focusing on what you can do right now is the most important. That can get you to your long-term goal. It’s all the little successes, the little victories that will get you to the bigger ones. Stay focused on what you can do and simply make the best possible choice right now.”
Now that they have reached this milestone, it is on to the next one for Fisher Guiding. They are focused on getting more guides and building up their user base to build out their two-sided marketplace. While continuing to build the company and brand, they remain focused on serving their clients above all else.
“We want to become a place of credibility for all people to look to in the fishing industry.”
With the lessons they’ve learned so far, Edward, Luke, and the rest of the team are on their way to becoming just that.