The pursuit of innovation is a constant challenge in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, particularly for organizational leadership. Leaders need to create a culture that fosters experimentation and risk-taking. This not only begins with real, active and consistent CEO commitment, it also takes time and development of the right talent to help drive the mindset throughout the organization. In addition, having realistic expectations and avoiding analysis paralysis are critical.
One particular leader who is fostering digital innovation to redefine terms in the home services industry is Steve Upshaw, CEO of Cross Country Home Services (CCHS). Steve is a dynamic and multifaceted C-suite executive with significant international business expertise, and a track record of driving revenue and profitability in consumer services, as well as complete business transformation, with a focus on advancements in human capital, revenue diversification, cultural evolution, innovation, and technology.
Steve joined CCHS, a leading provider of warranty, repair, and maintenance services, with more than two decades of leadership experience, including his most recent roles as President of Affinion Group and CEO of Customer Engagement Solutions, a business unit of Affinion. During his time at Affinion, Steve successfully opened new geographies and launched new products and lines of business in the U.S and abroad.
A quote that perfectly resonates with the characteristics of this leading CEO is, “If you want to be great and successful, choose people who are great and successful and walk side by side with them.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Becoming the Preeminent Player in the Home Services Market
Founded in 1978, CCHS is responsible for establishing some of the industry’s best-known home warranty and maintenance brands, including TotalProtect Home Warranty and HMS Home Warranty. CCHS develops and maintains meaningful partnerships across a variety of industries including financial, retail, insurance, real estate and utilities. The company also markets direct-to-consumer, with the end goal being to offer home management solutions that empower homeowners and give them peace of mind. When talking about the company’s strategic goals, Steve noted, “We want to meet and exceed our consumer’s needs with laser-like focus on value and experience.”
Steve has been serving CCHS as CEO for more than two years, and remains focused on transforming the company into the pre-eminent player in the home services market. The pivotal moment for him at CCHS was knowing the organization was ready for transformational change. Since that time, Steve has successfully leveraged the diverse executive team at CCHS, leading them to their shared goal of expanding beyond the core home warranty business with innovative, technology driven solutions to build their service offerings. This includes the use of a broader uber-like transactional model to appeal to a wider consumer base.
CCHS has experienced double-digit growth annually since 2014, and this year under Steve’s guidance, the company has commenced several key technology-driven advancements as part of its long-term growth and transformation strategy. For example, the company launched the first Amazon Alexa Skill in the home warranty market, Home Service Manager, in response to the increase demand from customers for smart homes. In addition, CCHS unveiled ServiceBench, a field service management platform designed to support a seamless end-to-end customer experience.
Considering Steve’s previous experiences, he was an ideal fit for the CEO position at CCHS. Working in consumer services since the age of sixteen, Steve garnered the passion to seek solutions that meet customers’ needs while working to make them feel good about the experience. Years later, he saw the potential to drive CCHS forward and transform the more than 35-year-old company with “great bones” and extraordinary growth potential into something really special in the industry. While talking about the ideal qualities that a transformational CEO should possess, Steve said, “I believe having the clarity of vision or purpose is most important. One must be absolutely clear about what they want to achieve, and why, in order to successfully steer and rally an organization.”
Advice to the Potential Entrepreneurs
Steve suggests that ambitious and rising entrepreneurs ask some of the questions that he asks himself including, “Are you passionate about your idea or venture? I mean, absolutely obsessed with the belief in yourself and the ability to turn your passion into a reality.” Steve encourages potential leaders to be thorough in their self-evaluation and rely on friends, family, and advisors who demonstrate an ability to provide the unvarnished truth. And he said, “Ultimately, I love encouraging bold risk-takers to follow their dreams.”
Taking Steps to Achieve a New Vision
While in the midst of an organizational, digital and cultural evolution, Steve and his team are excited about the short and long-term future. He is leading the company to work on a corporate re-branding strategy to reflect a more contemporary, tech-forward organization with a broadened vision. He also anticipates innovation in the company’s service offerings and expansion of its distribution channels, as well as transformation in customer engagement as CCHS aggressively leverages technology and implements a paradigm shift in the way they deliver value to their network of expert service professionals. Steve concluded the conversation about the company’s plans by stating, “We’ll execute our bold agenda by leaning into our high-performance culture efforts and building strong associate engagement.”