Aiming High, CEO Scott Hutchison Creates Modern dry-fire Training System

Scott Hutchison
Photo credit: Scott Hutchison

Scott Hutchison is the CEO of Strikeman, a new laser training system that allows firearm owners to hone their shooting skills safely at home. He is a graduate of Queen’s University with a B.A. in Psychology.

A serial entrepreneur, Hutchison has founded some other ventures, including Dreamhug Canada, Ashley Bridget Jewelry, and Meowingtons. Strikeman is his first solo venture. He proves to be a creative and innovative thinker, someone to watch out for within the world of startups.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?

I grew up in Toronto Canada, and the family cottage was a big part of my upbringing. We hunted a lot, and importantly, our neighbors were a Texas family who spent summers in Canada. One of them was “Spider” Miller, a Vietnam war veteran. He had a powerful influence on my development as a young man, like a second grandfather.

He talked a great deal about his service in Vietnam piloting the Huey helicopters. He taught me a lot about the importance of training with your firearm and self-discipline, not just for accuracy but for remaining calm and steady when it counted. Without “Spider” Miller, I don’t think I would have had the inspiration to create Strikeman when I was 28.

What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur, and why?

  • You need to take action. That’s the first thing, what holds people back is inertia caused by fear of failure. The Just Do It slogan summarizes that.
  • Next, you need emotional resilience. The rewards of entrepreneurship can be huge, but it’s also extremely stressful. If you can’t let yourself go with the waves, you’ll get sucked under.
  • The last thing is being a strong critical thinker. You have to apply critical analysis every step of the way to take constructive action in response to your mistakes. So action, emotional resilience, and critical thinking. I’d say those are the big three.

What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?

We’ve been focusing on having a great product. Strikeman Pro is going to be the rock at the center of our future growth. The capability of this thing will be a big deal in our industry.

Like I’ve said before, dry fire is crucial, but historically, people neglected dry training because it’s boring; it can feel a lot like cardio on a treadmill. With Strikeman Pro, You’ll see firearm owners dry training every day with ease, probably staying up past their late to practice and get better.

How have the pandemic and Lockdown affected you or your new business?

The pandemic and lockdown benefited Strikeman. In March 2019, we saw an explosion in sales.

Our challenge was inventory at that point. We were moving inventory projected to last two months in as little as two weeks. The sales made our Chief Marketing Officer look like a genius.

COVID-19 and the political climate in the US caused a colossal ammo shortage where people needed alternative ways to train with their firearms. So a lot of firearm owners turned to dry-fire training and Strikeman was the top brand in that area.

How do you separate yourself from your competitors?

We saw that the apps being used by our competitors were unreliable in tracking accuracy and awkward to use. All of these were iOS/Android apps that recorded shot accuracy on the target. These were not great because they’d record “ghost” shots and miss real shots. So we put a lot of time and money into developing a 100% reliable app, making the user interface simple, beautiful, and easy to use.

It paid off. We have the highest-rated app and nearly all users give a 5-star rating. If the app doesn’t work well, the system doesn’t work. So our obsessive focus on software made the Strikeman system stand out. 

What were the top three mistakes you made starting your business, and what did you learn from them?

  • Firstly, I was too cautious with inventory order sizes during the COVID-19 sales boom. I am conservative by nature, and looking back, If I had doubled my inventory orders, Strikeman would have profited greatly. Going forward, the takeaway from that was to read the market and leave emotions at the door (especially fear).
  • Secondly, another mistake made was not expanding my marketing skills early on. With my very first e-commerce business, I developed strong Facebook marketing skills. Strikeman was a little more challenging and we had to learn to make different mediums profitable by fine-tuning Influencer marketing, TV, Print, Radio, Email, and Native ads.
  • Early on, we did our creative design in-house because we wanted to save money; it wasn’t bad, but not great. We eventually experimented with expensive top-rated designers, and that paid off huge. Our marketing and brand image completely transformed. I would have done that sooner. It’s worth paying the big bucks.

Tell us a little bit about your marketing process, what has been the most successful form of marketing for you?

The second most important thing after the product, our marketing, which is at the root of Strikeman’s success. Our industry is old school, while my brother and I are new-age e-commerce guys who know how to market. We adapt quickly and we try new things. We approach marketing like a scientist, testing and applying the results, over and over.

Once we fine-tuned what worked, we hit our industry with marketing tactics no one else was trying. We did this across every medium and we kept the same simple and potent brand image, with beautiful and modern creatives. I won’t reveal the magic details, but that’s the summary.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Honestly, maintaining our spirits in the middle of the storm. My brother Sean and I were manning the ship ourselves, and we should have had a team of 20 with all the work we had. Long weeks, lots of stress. Some days it was like three garbage cans were on fire and we only had two lids. Staying focused, steady, and optimistic in this was very challenging. Meditation and exercise were behind it all. I might have caved under the pressure without those daily practices.

What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?

My two best friends and I started an online jewelry business similar to Pandora, where we did another type of trinket collection when we were in our early 20’s. That was like getting an MBA but in the field. We made a lot of money and learned a lot. Looking back, I didn’t know what I was doing, but those three things: action, emotional resilience, and critical thinking let me succeed and grow. It ended when I sold my equity and started my next venture.

What are you learning now? Why is that important?

The value of subscription models for company profits. We’re seeing a shift to subscription models for businesses and I’m learning firsthand the value of that. Subscription models mean none of the hassle associated with inventory and a guarantee of recurring profits- as long as you can create software that truly provides long-term value. 

If you started your business again, what things would you do differently?

I think what differentiates entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs is the way they respond to their mistakes. Everything that makes me effective today I learned from previous errors. Having a healthy response to the error is a skill you can learn, and that’s a skill I have. So with that being said, I just know what I’ll do going forward. I couldn’t have learned what I know now without the mistakes I made, and I’ll learn from the mistakes I’ll make today and the year ahead.

What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?

  • My top three online tools are currently Evernote, Facebook ads manager, and Hype Auditor. Evernote because this keeps track of notes on the fly and is extremely valuable. This lets me operate like I have a photographic memory.
  • Facebook ads manager is still one of my all-time favorite marketing tools. We were able to navigate around the barriers for Strikeman and got back on the platform.
  • Hype Auditor is an extremely helpful tool for seeking influencers in your industry and knowing their marketing value.

What’s a productivity tip you swear by?

Get up at the same time every morning no matter what. Exercise before or after or in the middle of your workday. And if possible, walk during important meetings. You’re more intelligent when your blood is flowing.

Can you recommend one book, one podcast, and one online course for entrepreneurs?

  • I like the book Shoe Dog by Nike founder Phil Knight, it’s great for revealing the power of the company’s story. I consider this the best book on entrepreneurship that I’ve ever read.
  • For a podcast suggestion, I think The Tim Ferris show is the best in terms of business. 
  • Lastly, for online courses, Jon Kabat Zinn’s master class: How to Practice Mindfulness. That alone is worth the top 10 entrepreneurial courses put together. If you can develop what’s taught there and apply it in every area of your life, I think you’ll be successful.

If you only had $1000 dollars to start a new business, knowing everything you know now, how would you spend it?

I would use that to “test” the marketing on products I’m interested in. You need to test the market before investing in an idea and there are ways to do that. That’s always where my money goes before I do anything else.

What helps you stay driven and motivated to keep going in your business?

You have to turn it off at the end of the day. Leave your work at work. If you don’t you’ll burn out. That’s not to say I haven’t had nights where I open my laptop at 11 pm. and start working. That happens, but I’ve learned it’s best to avoid that when possible. Learn to find ease at night.

What is your favorite quote?

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”

– Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man And The Sea.

What valuable advice would you give new entrepreneurs starting out?

Your fears are just boogeymen. Everything I’ve ever done that scared me turned out to be fun and rewarding in the present moment when it was happening. And overcoming fear is a skill. Try it with the small things and keep doing it. Taking the plunge to start your business or make the next move is uncomfortable, but I’ve been rewarded over and over for denying the fear voice a seat on the executive board.

Who should we interview next and why?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, I’d see what advice he can give to entrepreneurs. I believe that would be extremely interesting and beneficial to readers.

What is your definition of success?

Every successful year I have had, when I look back, was just taking on each of the small tasks every day. Success is chewing one bite at a time but make sure you chew it well. That’s how I’ve succeeded in large endeavors.

How do you personally overcome fear?

With meditation and yoga. At first, I gradually built the ability to stay calm while sitting and on my mat. Gradually, that extended into my work, family, and social life. I think that’s a concrete, hands-on way to reduce the power of fear. It’s not a controlling force in my life. It’s still there, but it doesn’t have much of a say.

How can readers get in touch with you?

My email: scott@hutchison.ventures

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