Thank You, Coaches: A Letter from our Sales Director
April 23, 2013 | Stephen Hancock
TrainingPeaks Coach Sales Director Stephen Hancock celebrates his 10th anniversary with the company this month.
For the past 10 years, I have been talking with and introducing coaches to the TrainingPeaks Coach Edition software. My love and appreciation for what I do has done nothing but continued to grow over the years. And, I have you, the coaches, to thank for this.
Ten years ago this month, I took an offer to join TrainingPeaks.com as their first employee. I was entrusted with the Coaching division of our software. When I started, we were working from our own, individual home offices, with the five of us spread across four states. A few years later we moved into an office as the company began to grow. I think we expanded that office four times before moving into our new, much larger digs here in North Boulder this month. Today we are 47 employees strong. It has been an extremely fun ride, with a lot of changes both from a company standpoint as well as the endurance sports industry itself.
How it All Began
Back in 2001 – 2002, we were helping to host a triathlon-based website called Trinewbies.com with a very large and active forum. I was a prominent member on this site and through it was introduced to the Athlete Edition of TrainingPeaks.com. I began my Premium subscription and was immediately hooked on the software.
Our CEO, Gear Fisher, was helping to moderate the forums at the time and took notice of me being a positive, helpful member of the forum as well as my constant touting of the software when questions came up about “what” to use for tracking training. I was working on my Masters in Information Technology during this time and Gear, Dirk Friel and Joe Friel were about to roll out the nutritional component of the software. Gear reached out and asked me if I would take a look at what was currently in development and give him some feedback. I was honored that he would ask, and very excited to offer my feedback.
From that interaction, Gear called to thank me – it was our first live conversation, and subsequent calls eventually lead to an offer. Being a single parent to an 8 year-old daughter at that time, it was a difficult decision to leave the corporate world and the security that it can bring. But, I am sure it was no more difficult a decision than what the guys went through with their families to spread their wings and start the company…or that so many coaches go through when they decide to leave their 9-5 jobs and pursue coaching full-time.
I wanted to belong to something. I wanted to be a part of something I was passionate about and play a key role in creating something special. Like everyone else, I wanted to be excited about waking up every morning and doing my “job” – but unlike everyone else, I was lucky enough to actually have this opportunity knock on my door. While it was probably the biggest risk and roll of the dice I have ever taken – going to work for some guys who were literally holding meetings out of their dining rooms – I have never once second-guessed my decision. I was confident that today would come and wanted to be along for the ride.
Everything I was looking for, I found. It felt just like participating in my first triathlon back in 1988, when I just felt like I had found what I was looking for. I was working in an industry that I was so passionate about, and I now knew what it felt like to do something I loved.
Changes in the Industry
I have watched us grow so much over the last 10 years.
An early version of the software That growth has been supported by the growth of the endurance sports industry and because of you, the coaches. Back in the late 90s, coaching was just starting to become something you could do to make money, not just a hobby. Prior to that, in the 80s, if you were a coach you either worked for a school or something like the US Olympic Committee. Over the past 10 years, coaching businesses have moved from a large majority of people simply supporting a hobby to actual businesses. While most coaches used to be a one-man (or woman) show, I have watched a large shift towards groups of coaches working together in one entity.
The growth of the endurance industry has been impressive and being able to watch it since 1988 has been absolutely amazing. I am even more appreciative since I have been more than just a “participant” in the sport.
I simply smile when I am on a call with a new coach that is making the transition from being an athlete to a coach on our software. It reminds me of my first calls with Dirk Friel as he was teaching me about the coaching side of our software and business. Every now and then I run across presentations with screenshots of our early-2000 versions of the software, which was TrainingBible.com at the time. It is pretty cool to look back at where we were, where we are today, and have some insight to where we are going.
I wanted to wait until my daughter was in college before making the move out to the home office here in Colorado. The company allowing me to do this – work remotely for nine years – speaks volumes about who we are. Moving to Colorado from Florida has been a very interesting change culturally, and definitely different from working out of my home office the past nine years. I feel kind of like the “new guy” here and am still adjusting to life in an office again. I see this new chapter as what will be yet another memorable time to reminisce upon in the years to come.
Getting to Know You
Most of all I appreciate the relationships and friendships that have organically been cultivated with our customers over the years. While most are virtual, there is nothing I have enjoyed more in my days here than getting to meet you face to face.
Living in Ft. Lauderdale and Pensacola, FL the last 9 years, I have had the chance to meet and spend time with several coaches as they vacationed in the areas. My daughter and I have been able to vacation with and meet coaches as we traveled around as well. Being an avid motorcyclist, attending many rallies across the country, I have had even more chances to spend time with coaches as I visited their cities. These are times and relationships I hold dear and greatly appreciate.
If you ever find yourself in the Boulder area, please know that you have an open invite to visit us and especially me, and meet the people that are passionate about your business and your success.
Thank you for allowing and entrusting us to help you manage and grow your business. There are great people here at TrainingPeaks that gave me an amazing opportunity and that make the work environment a fun and exciting place to be. But it is you, the coaches, that allow me to do what I love. I have always said that If I were to win the lottery, I would still be answering my phone “TrainingPeaks, this is Stephen”. This hasn’t been a job I have to do to make ends meet. It is a job that I am lucky to do. I have come to understand what it must be like to be a musician or pro athlete and earn a living doing what you love. And, I am thankful to you for that and this whole experience.
I am TrainingPeaks – and Thank You for allowing me to be.
Here’s to the next 10 together,
Stephen “Big Daddy”* Hancock*
*”Big Daddy” was the nickname given to me by my daughter Hallah when she was 3 or 4 years old. It stuck, and today I am known more as “Big Daddy” or “BD” than I am known as Stephen.
A Note from TrainingPeaks CEO Gear Fisher
Every once in a while, we meet a person that affects your life in such a positive way that every day, you shudder to think of life without them. Stephen Hancock is one of the few people I’ve ever known to elicit such an emotional connection in my life. A sentiment typically reserved for “brothers” or “sisters” or at least close family, “Big Daddy” as he’s known, has become part of mine.
Stephen took a huge risk 10 years ago and accepted an offer to become our first employee. As our sales leader, he has built our coaching business to what it is today. For many of those years, he did it singlehandedly. With unwavering dedication, determination and a willingness to do whatever it takes to make his business within a business succeed, BD always believed in what he was doing, often more than I did. He’s always hated the word “sales”, as he sees he’s just building relationships with people and teaching them about our products.
We have shared this decade-long journey together, through some very lean and trying times, but Stephen has always been a constant performer. He’s an employee that would take a bullet for the company and cut his arm off if I asked him to. It’s hard for me to even use the word employee, because I think of him as my business partner, my colleague and my friend. I really can’t thank serendipity enough for introducing me to him.
But the part of Stephen that I know and you know the best, is his enormous personality. Kind, honest, caring, and with a genuine desire to build relationships with our customers that he sees as his own extended friends and family rather than accounts and clients. Quite literally, I’ve never heard a negative comment from any of our customers. It’s always the opposite: gushing testimonials of how Stephen helped thousands of coaches navigate the sometimes tricky waters and technical details as they come up to speed with our products.
So it is with the sincerest, heartfelt gratitude and appreciation, that I thank you Stephen for all you’ve done for me, this company and our customers. Thank you for setting an amazing example and for your tireless dedication to our continued mission, both as a father, employee and my dear friend.