Eric Fischgrund is a father, husband, entrepreneur, writer and philanthropist. He is an advocate for sustainability, healthcare quality and accessibility, financial literacy, social equality and justice, and advancing ideas and technologies that positively impact the world.
Eric is the Founder and CEO of FischTank PR, a results-oriented public relations and marketing firm providing cleantech PR, healthcare PR, B2B tech PR, real estate PR and other services to innovative companies.
Eric’s thoughts on communications, leadership and marketing have been featured in prominent media outlets including CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business, PRWeek, Digiday, Forbes, and many others.
Where did the idea for FischTank PR come from?
Desperation? I left a Hackensack-based PR firm in 2011 to provide in-house communications counsel. I loved that job, but unfortunately, the CEO and the President didn’t see eye to eye and the writing was soon on the wall. I was always good at networking, and had built some demand for communications and PR services. I left the in-house role to “freelance for a little bit” and now here I sit, eight years later.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Two workdays are never very similar, so I try to make the most of what I can control. I get up early, so I try to be productive right away, either working, working out, reading, etc. Once my daughter gets up, she gets my focus until she heads to day care.
My typical work day is stressful may not be the most thrilling to some, but I really enjoy it. I spend a lot of time providing counsel to my clients and teams, discussing an engagement with new potential clients, and working on our branding.
Within that, I really enjoy writing and speaking with my colleagues. It’s fun to watch people grow and succeed over the span of weeks, months and years, and I value my relationships with many members of the team.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I have what I think is a good idea, the first thing I do is ask the people around me for feedback. What do they think? Can it be done? How much will it cost? How much time will we spend on it. These are all important questions that more pragmatic people than me ask.
Not every idea is a good one, and even good ones aren’t feasible. You have to trust the people around you to shoot you straight, because echo chambers are bad. Constructive feedback is how great ideas get to the finish line.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Remote work, because it gives so much control back to employees and scares the hell out of employers. I’m only half kidding, as I hope that experienced communications and PR professionals will look at FischTank because of our very flexible, employee-centric program. Plenty of PTO, no office return mandate ever, and other perks enable us to provide our team with a better experience.
…which is why the trend excites me. Happier employees/colleagues = happier clients, and so we’ll do what we can to welcome those leaving more rigid firms to our team.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Tough to answer this with an answer that doesn’t seem conceited, but I’ll go with reading. I read a ton, and I think the time spent alone helps my focus, and I think many of the books I read have slowly changed the way I listen to and engage with other people. I’m more understanding, patient, and deliberate, and that comes from years of reading books about leadership, business, sports, US history, biographies and so much more. Bonus answer: Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday changed my perspective on almost everything, and his subsequent books changed how I run my business.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be patient and develop more healthy habits. I would tell my current self to be patient if I’d listen, that’s just good advice. But developing healthier habits such as playing more organized sports, traveling more often, meeting people different than me, volunteering, and others are things I experienced in my 20s but wish I had started earlier in life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Most entrepreneurs will tell you “never do anything for free!” and “your time is valuable and you should be charging for it,” and they’re mostly right. But not all the way.
In the early days of FischTank PR, I bartered services with some partners, and in a couple of examples, did free PR work for someone who I thought it made sense to impress. A few times, and once notably with a securities attorney, that early faith resulted in dozens of introductions and small business referrals that continue eight years later.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Admit when you’re wrong. I made mistakes often. Sometimes I don’t communicate as well as I should, or I’m not clear. Sometimes I’m frustrated and not constructive. I don’t advocate blind apologies, but I often share why I’m feeling like I do, and fall on my sword when it’s on me.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
People talk often about content writing, but they rarely do it for long stretches of time. Since day one, Matt Bretzius (my partner at FischTank PR) and I have published blog posts on our site, submitted bylines to online magazines and news outlets, and made an effort to get our name and corporate URL included. As we mature as a firm and bring on more clients, our web presence has grown and now generates constant ongoing leads.
We practice what we preach when we tell clients that content matters.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
A couple years into FischTank we were really struggling with our identify. A marketing firm? A PR firm? A digital media firm? We did a little bit of everything, although mostly writing and media relations, but it’s tempting to check a lot of boxes. When this happens, you and your website don’t end up sharing many specifics, more just buzzwords. Because of this, we weren’t generating the web traffic or inbound leads I was expecting.
We refocused ourselves on what we do best and what our best practice areas are, while also recommitting to more structure at the agency. We trusted our senior staff at the time to lead accounts and train less experienced staff, and this investment in infrastructure paid off big time.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
When we had our daughter in 2019 I was surprised that there was no digital exchange of data between the hospital and the pediatrician. We were literally taking physical papers and giving them to our new healthcare providers, who you see often in the first three months. Someone smarter than me has to create a software for infant record keeping that’s transferrable to pharmacies, doctors, hospitals, etc., right?
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Personal: a Lowcountry Hat from Fishpond. I’m a pale guy but I love the beach and going fishing. This hat is so large it covers my face, neck and most of my shoulders.
Professional: I take very cost-effective courses on UDEMY pretty often, most recently one about the 2022 solar market.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
QuickBooks, our accounting software, because it’s so user-friendly. Someone like me who is admittedly terrible with numbers is able quickly understand income and expense reports, and review client correspondence.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Oops, already did that but I’ll expound on it here. Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday, then several of his books including Ego is the Enemy and The Obstacle is the Way, introduced me to stoicism. I’ve tried to live in the present more as an adult, and now especially as a father, and many Stoic teachings have helped me get much closer to this. Stillness is the Key helped me start taking more quiet time for myself, which resulted in more meaningful time with my family, work, friends, etc.
What is your favorite quote?
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” by Mark Twain or “By the ticket, take the ride” by Hunter S. Thompson
- Do things that work for you. Unfortunately, this age of entrepreneurship is narrated by people who love giving free, unsolicited advice, especially on social media. Ask questions when you need to, but do what’s right for you and your company.
- Nothing can take the place of life experience. Travel, sign up for stuff, take positions, protest, volunteer, and above all else, meet people.
- Your fortunes can change very quickly, but you can control how and if you change. Do more for others, and remember you may need them at some point, maybe even soon.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.