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Data-Driven Work Cultures: Adam Hirsen of UPshow On How To Effectively Leverage Data To Take Your Company To The Next Level

An Interview With Pierre Brunelle

Goals and objectives: Having some north star as to what you’re trying to achieve is incredibly helpful. Sometimes breaking it down on a week-to-week level can help make things easier. If you don’t feel like you have a good grasp on what kind of goals you’re trying to achieve, it’s hard to measure success.

As part of our series about “How To Effectively Leverage Data To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam ​​Hirsen.

Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of UPshow. UPshow is the customizable engagement platform that capitalizes on businesses’ existing screens to deliver better audience experiences.

Prior to UPshow, Adam was CEO and co-founder of SparkReel, the social media technology agency that evolved into what UPshow is today. Prior to SparkReel, Adam was a VP at Sterling Partners, a Chicago venture capital firm.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

When my partner Matt Gibbs and I brainstormed ideas for our business, we didn’t initially think of UPshow. We thought of SparkReel, a platform where brands could build engagement by tapping into user-generated content. We soon pivoted to UPshow after realizing the power physical screens have in captivating and engaging customers.

This idea stemmed from sporting events and how segments like the kiss cam, celebrity look-alikes, and sharing social media pictures are, to some, the highlight of the game. We tested this theory by setting up our software on the screens at an NFL playoffs event, where we saw for ourselves how engaged an audience can be when given the right content. Once the lightbulb switched on, we started to envision how industries outside of sports would also be able to utilize and benefit from our idea.

Our first big breakthrough was using Amazon Firestick as a medium to display our software. When Firestick was released, we started working with smaller independent businesses, mainly in the hospitality space, to showcase marketing promotions, display testimonials, and share social media content from customers at the storefront.

Now, UPshow works with some of the top enterprise and restaurant brands like Buffalo Wild Wings, Dave and Busters, Crunch Fitness, Twin Peaks, etc., to curate an ultimate customer and employee experience with more efficient content.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

When we first started, we would go door-to-door to bars throughout Chicago pitching UPshow, trying to get businesses to implement our technology into their existing systems. The hard part wasn’t getting them to say yes, it was getting them set up afterward.

I remember throwing on my tool belt and setting up devices on these complicated AV systems trying to connect to any wifi we could find. By getting down in the trenches, we learned every lesson in the book, and to no surprise, everything that could’ve gone wrong went wrong, but at least no TVs have fallen — yet.

Now, I’ll visit a customer and think, “Oh, I remember shimmying my way through that AV rack.” I always say if this doesn’t work out, I could go into AV installation.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Two books have stood out to me:

  • Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell” by Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt, and Jonathan Rosenberg

It’s an excellent story about a former Rutgers football coach that became the most prolific coach/CEO of Silicon Valley. When you see people with great success, you know they’re not doing it alone, it always takes a village.

It’s a great lesson for up-and-coming executives looking to grow. Some takeaways are: be open to identifying where you suck, don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t be afraid of coaching.

The book presents a guide for improving as a leader no matter what field you’re in.

  • The Cable Cowboy” by Mark Robichaux

It’s about Jon Malone and the rise of communications and cable. Malone was the business school-trained entrepreneur and executive who was hired into TCI that, at the time, thought was his big break to be the COO of an amazing company but came to find out TCI was in total shambles. The book was about how he turned the company around and fixed all those problems, making lemonade out of sour lemons.

Business is more about how you deal with setbacks than getting to enjoy successes. When you start a company, it’s always about jumping from one setback to another, and if you can do that enthusiastically and courageously enough, that’s what makes the best entrepreneurs.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Earlier this year, we launched a new product called SHIFT, a platform for the deskless worker that improves employee engagement, retention, training results, and operational excellence for the restaurant and healthcare industries.

The pandemic put a great deal of emphasis and pressure on businesses to care for, understand, and communicate with their employees, and SHIFT is a tool that has helped businesses with these newly added pain points.

The workforce comprises almost 80 percent of deskless workers. Our platform creates and shares content via television screens for better communication between managers, business owners, and deskless workers. Through this, we have found a direct correlation between increased employee sentiment, productivity, and success for their business.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about empowering organizations to be more “data-driven.” My work centers on the value of data visualization and data collaboration at all levels of an organization, so I’m particularly passionate about this topic. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly it means to be data-driven? On a practical level, what does it look like to use data to make decisions?

To be data-driven, you need to track everything. There’s a stigma that you need to have a fully automated system served on a silver platter and easy to obtain. More often than not, you need to track data manually and painfully to get the results. Even if it’s a tedious weekly or monthly effort, the companies that do this truly become data-based companies.

Using data for decision-making is holding yourself accountable. Many executives have a vision of what they want the data to say, but the numbers show counterintuitive results. Having the data is a sobering experience because either the information isn’t significant enough to tell a particular story or there are harsh realizations to be addressed. We often like to bury our heads and stick to our narrative, but being data-driven means you’re vulnerable to change if the data doesn’t match your thought process

Which companies can most benefit from tools that empower data collaboration?

I believe if any company wants to be successful, they should look at data as their best friend. Running a company with no data to back up what you’re doing is like having cereal with no milk — it’s just not as good. To be a meaningful business with products or services that will last, you need to know your ‘why.’ Otherwise, you’ll be playing trial and error with yourself, losing money, and ending up back to square one every time.

We’d love to hear about your experiences using data to drive decisions. In your experience, how has data analytics and data collaboration helped improve operations, processes, and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

About two or three years ago, we started to monitor our customers closely. The bad news was that they weren’t using elements of our product nearly as much as we thought they would. That challenged us to build a whole cycle dedicated to finding the voice of the customer, customer sentiment, and customer use on all our features. The good news is, we used that information to build a better product.

The SHIFT product launch was born as a result of this model. After listening and analyzing, we realized a need for more employee-specific use cases.

Has the shift towards becoming more data-driven been challenging for some teams or organizations from your vantage point? What are the challenges? How can organizations solve these challenges?

When pushing executives on our leadership team to expose us to more data, you often get the initial fears of it not being automated, outsourcing for new hires, more work for existing employees, etc. So, the challenge is not the data itself, it’s figuring out how your company can obtain the information it needs, even if it’s hard to find.

Additionally, the results may not be perfect or you may get the intended results. However, I always say I’d rather have 60–80 percent precision today than perfection tomorrow. If we can use what we’ve gathered to make our business better, it will still be beneficial in the long run.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Effectively Leverage Data to Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Customer usage data: You have to see how your customers use your product because numbers don’t lie. If they are not using a certain part of your product, re-adjust, and figure out a solution.
  2. Customer Sentiment: This is different from data because these are actual conversations that you get to have with the people using your product. Ask what they like, don’t like, what can be better, where they see the value, etc. This will help make your product better and build authentic relationships with your customers.
  3. Proof of value: Ask yourself if you have the data to sit in front of the highest-ranked executives and tell them their investments will result in growth and success.
  4. Goals and objectives: Having some north star as to what you’re trying to achieve is incredibly helpful. Sometimes breaking it down on a week-to-week level can help make things easier. If you don’t feel like you have a good grasp on what kind of goals you’re trying to achieve, it’s hard to measure success.
  5. People data: Performance management within your own company is often overlooked but essential for overall success at a business. Organizational data, growth culture, company sentiment, etc., can be effective in understanding where your business is from an engagement, satisfaction, growth and cultural standpoint.

The name of this series is “Data-Driven Work Cultures”. Changing a culture is hard. What would you suggest is needed to change a work culture to become more Data Driven?

I want to again emphasize the importance of tracking and documentation. Not only is this important for informing customers and data accuracy, but it also allows us to see how well they are performing in any given area or department. Without the numbers, I wouldn’t be able to give credit where credit is due and compensate my employees accordingly.

The future of work has recently become very fluid. Based on your experience, how do you think the needs for data will evolve and change over the next five years?

Flexibility and accessibility are key.

In the past two years, we’ve seen a lot of remote and hybrid work where accessibility needs to improve. Companies are waning on the old ways — intranet, email — and employees are becoming increasingly tired of the old school mediums. It seems like we’re going to have a significantly hybrid workforce and short-formed methodologies that make it easy to consume data, updates, and standard operating procedures are going to be essential for the new workforce.

Does your organization have any exciting goals for the near future? What challenges will you need to tackle to reach them? How do you think data analytics can best help you to achieve these goals?

We have upcoming product and feature launches and plans to increase our product development team and services outside of digital signage.

Taking our robust collection of data and learning from it helps in this instance because, as I said above, timing and accountability is everything. So we plan to monitor the market and make sure that what we are doing continues to add value to our customers and the workforce.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can visit our website at https://www.upshow.tv/ or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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Pierre Brunelle, Co-CEO & CPO at Noteable

Pierre Brunelle, Co-CEO & CPO at Noteable

Pierre Brunelle is the Co-CEO & CPO at Noteable, a collaborative notebook platform that enables teams to use and visualize data, together.