Last week, Upper Hand Founder and CEO Kevin MacCauley sat down with Max Hansen from Y Scouts on the Built on Purpose Podcast. In this episode, Kevin discussed how he built a company with a mission that matters. He also revealed how Upper Hand has grown into the business it is today, highlighting both his proudest moments leading the team and how Upper Hand will continue to challenge the status quo.
Building Upper Hand
Upper Hand was founded after Kevin saw an opportunity to revolutionize the sports industry through technology. During his time as a baseball coach, he discovered a need to connect athletes with coaches for private training.
“We initially launched a company called Bookacoach as the destination for sports lessons, helping thousands of coaches better manage their sports and sports training programs so that they could spend more time doing what they love: developing the skills of their athletes.”
But, as Bookacoach grew, Kevin saw a greater need than just a marketplace. Coaches were looking for tools to help run their business, so the team began pushing new innovative back office features that began to look more like software to run a business. In 2015, the company rebranded to Upper Hand.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
While there are a number of awards and accolades Kevin has accumulated over the years, he is most proud of the culture that he and his team have built at Upper Hand.
“We’ve gone through tough times, like every startup and every company has to go through. But, I’m most proud of the people we have working here and the culture we’ve built around a great brand. We are starting to see the awareness come to fruition with the investments we’re making everyday to build our brand.”
Culture has been a key driver of business success, and has remained a priority, from the hiring process to the day-to-day dynamic of the team. Upper Hand is a fun sports environment built of competitive people who love to win.
How do you prioritize culture?
The incorporation of values-based hiring has been instrumental in ensuring that the right people are in the right seats at all levels of the organization. Kevin credits Myles Grote, co-founder and Chief Product Officer, who led a project on values-based hiring.
“Early on, when we just had three or four of us in the office, we sat down and each created our own list of values and went through a brainstorming session. We came up with our top nine core values, and have basics that support each of those values. Over time, we have hired off of those values.”
When it comes to developing core values, Kevin reminds us to keep it simple. This ensures that you have buy-in from your team and have outlined clear expectations.
“It’s important for people to understand, and to customize their values to their business. You don’t want people to have to go through a book to understand your core values. You should try to keep it simple.”
How have internal leadership roles driven innovation?
Internally, Kevin serves as the visionary at Upper Hand. In this role, he is responsible for the big ideas and driving the future direction of the company. Myles Grote is the Integrator at Upper Hand, meaning that he is the operational thinker that executes on those ideas.
“If you do what you’re great at, and you get everybody in your company doing what they’re great at, you move faster and make fewer mistakes. If you get the visionary to trickle that vision down, and the integrator to execute on it, you can grow faster.”
What brings you energy?
A passion for the industry energizes Kevin to continue to make an impact. Whether Upper Hand customers have a new business breaking into the industry, or have been around for decades, he finds it extremely empowering to help businesses utilize technology in new ways.
“I am super passionate about helping people grow their businesses, no matter where they are. It is empowering to see the opportunity to help people when you can sit down face to face and have a conversation with them.”
Kevin is also energized by the growth and opportunity in the sports and fitness industry. From Peloton to Whoop to Xponential Fitness, there has been an extreme amount of disruption, and thus opportunity, within the industry.
This leaves Kevin thinking “How can we move and innovate faster? How can we continue to help grow businesses? How do we help move data and help someone make better decisions based on that data?”
The impact of COVID
COVID-19 continues to be a topic of conversation as it has drastically transformed the industry and the way we consume fitness. However, Kevin recognizes the unique role of fitness in contributing to a healthier world.
“There has been a lot of disregard for the value of fitness in the face of COVID. One of the ways to beat COVID is to be in shape. We’ve talked about cleanliness and wiping things down, but what’s happened to physical and mental health?”
Inactivity leads to health concerns beyond those of the pandemic, which Kevin believes creates continued opportunity for our industry. While COVID has changed the way we help our customers, it has allowed Kevin to dig in more into the sports and fitness industry to help customers in new ways.
How will Upper Hand continue to drive future innovation? Kevin discusses the importance of learning “best practices” of operating a sports and fitness business to continue to drive change. What are other people doing to challenge the status quo? He strongly believes that conversations not just with your customers, but also with your competitors will help businesses gain a new perspective and elevate the industry overall.
To hear the rest of the conversation, listen in to the Y Scouts podcast here!