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Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to $10 Million from Atlanta: Field Pros Direct CEO Matt Anderson (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Nov 2nd 2020

We’re big fans of bootstrapping, virtual companies, and domain knowledge. Matt’s story has all those ingredients.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background did you have?

Matt Anderson: I’m from a small town northeast of Tennessee called Rogersville. It’s a rural area in the foothills of the Smokies. It’s very beautiful there. I went to East Tennessee State University. I had an aspiration to play football. That’s what drew me to that college. I grew up in that rural town and went on to East Tennessee State. 

Sramana Mitra: What did you do for education? What year did you graduate? What did you do after that?

Matt Anderson: Growing up in a rural area and going to East Tennessee State, it’s hard for me to know what was possible. I wanted to experience something outside of that area. I wanted to go somewhere new. I wanted to go anywhere for the opportunity to get exposed to a bigger city or other types of opportunities that just aren’t available in this rural part of East Tennessee.

I had various job opportunities. One of them was at Crawford & Company. They are the world’s largest independent adjusting firm. They offered a two-week training program where we go to Atlanta and get trained to be an insurance adjuster for a couple of weeks.

Part of the deal was that for the next two or three years, I would go to wherever they would assign me to get exposed to different projects, leaders, and business units. I was a support person that would go all over the country to help with various adjusting projects. That was my first job out of college.

I started in the catastrophe department which dealt with a large volume of claims that could be from a hurricane, hailstorm, or any environmental accidents.  

Sramana Mitra: It would be fire in California and earthquake.

Matt Anderson: Absolutely. It could be environmental accidents like oil spill as well. I was in that department where I would help in various projects, which in a lot of cases would be these catastrophe type of events.

My goal at the company was to one day run that business – a catastrophe profit center. I was there for 10 years. During my last two years there, I was the VP for US and international catastrophe operations for the company. 

Sramana Mitra: What year was this? When did you leave that job?

Matt Anderson: I started in January 2001 and I left in January of 2011. 

Sramana Mitra: What happens next?

Matt Anderson: Towards the end of my career at the company, I had a goal to start my own company. I was thinking of starting something in the adjustment space because that was what I knew so well. I was thinking of a modern version of an adjusting company.

I spent a lot of nights and weekends working on a business plan with the intention of starting my own company. I looked at a lot of franchises. I knew I wanted to own and run my own business.

There was an opportunity with Arrowhead. They were owned by private equity at that time. I was talking to them about them being potentially a customer. Ultimately, they allowed me to start a business to service some of their claims. They were going to be my first client. That’s the biggest fear in starting a new business.

In that particular scenario, I didn’t have any equity. I had a profit share, but they gave me free rein to build this company. We were profitable starting in the third month. I did that for five years. 

Sramana Mitra: Why did they want you to start this company and what were you doing for these clients that they helped you acquire?

Matt Anderson: They were working with another independent adjusting firm that they weren’t happy with for various reasons. They weren’t providing a certain level of service.

I started this company to replace that vendor. Based on the business plan, they gave me a chance and said, “If you are as good as you say you are and this works, then we’ll send you all our claims.” I started with one state and from there kept adding additional states. Their carriers had to approve. It wasn’t a sure thing even when I did that.

I took a much lower salary than what I had at Crawford & Company but in exchange for profit sharing. I didn’t have equity, which I didn’t love at the time. On the flip side, I was nervous about jumping in with two feet and not having a first client and having a long runway. This was a good proving ground for this five-year agreement to see if I could do what I thought I could do. 

Sramana Mitra: Why did you stop doing this? What happened and what was the thinking?

Matt Anderson: Even going into that arrangement I knew that my goal was still to start and run my own company. I ultimately ended up having a five-year agreement. That gave me a date on the horizon on when I wanted to be up and running with a new company. In the background, I started thinking about those things and started saving up for that goal. 

This segment is part 1 in the series : Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to $10 Million from Atlanta: Field Pros Direct CEO Matt Anderson
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