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Staff & Training

The UpKeep Journey with Ryan Chan

Ryan Chan

We talked with Ryan Chan, UpKeep’s CEO and Founder, to hear about how UpKeep has got to where we are today, and what he believes will get UpKeep through the next five, ten, fifteen years and beyond! We are excited for you to hear his story.


Looking in the Rearview Mirror

I started UpKeep five years ago with a single goal in mind – to make the days, lives, and jobs easier for maintenance technicians out in the field.

That goal wasn’t profound, it wasn’t brand new, nor was it deeply complex. However, if we did it, we could revolutionize an entire industry.

I had worked in manufacturing and saw what technology looked like and, unfortunately, it was counterproductive to the team’s day. Instead of utilizing technology as a way to enable technicians to be more productive, the software I had given our team had the opposite effect. I asked them to finish their day’s work and come back to the office to re-enter what they had done back into a desktop-based software.

That process was broken.

Wasn’t technology supposed to make people more efficient? Wasn’t technology supposed to enable our team to go home earlier so they can eat dinner with their families on time?

I decided that I wanted to be part of fixing this process for our industry. I quit my job and took a class at the local community college to learn how to code. I wrote the first version of the UpKeep app from my mom’s garage, eventually hired a few more people to help, and the rest is history.

Yes, UpKeep Maintenance Management is a CMMS software solution. More than that, though, it has been a vehicle for reaching nearly ten million people that work in maintenance and facility management in the U.S. alone.

And, I still believe we’re on a stepping stone for a massive transformation in the industry.

I was recently asked the questions, “What’s UpKeep’s superpower? What has gotten UpKeep to where we are today”?

It’s often hard to know how to answer these types of questions since when you’re grinding away every single day, until someone pulls you over and tells you to look in the rearview mirror.

Today is one of those days for me. It’s July 26th, 2020, almost exactly five years since starting UpKeep.

This question forced me to stop and look in the rearview mirror.

I spent time interviewing the Leadership team here at UpKeep. We reflected together on how each department grew from one or two people to full teams, our wins, losses, and everything we learned along the way. What surfaced from all of these conversations were three superpowers that got us to where we are today.


UpKeep’s Superpowers

Superpower #1: Technicians are at the core of our mission.

We hired Customer Success as the first department after our product had been built knowing that we wanted to put customers at the core of our organization.

However, we also knew that we had a unique perspective on exactly who the customer was. And, hint, it wasn’t just the manager, the VP, or the C-level executives.

Our core customers are, and always have been, the technicians, the wrench turners, the welders, and the mechanics. We chose very early on to build a product primarily focused on our end users.

We knew that it would be more difficult to build native mobile applications, and we knew that technicians wouldn’t always have the full buying power to decide technology for the entire company, but we never stopped building for them.

Looking back at our superpowers, the relentless focus on our end users is what enabled us to amass hundreds of thousands of users, get feedback through thousands of calls to better understand, build a community, and most of all, build a better product through the empathy of our customers.

I know that we’ve taken a different route than most enterprise software companies – and I couldn’t be more proud of it.

Superpower #2: Grit. We are far more capable than what we initially thought.

Without a little gritty resourcefulness, UpKeep would have never started.

At UpKeep, we’ve commonly spoken about the fact that we don’t often have more time, more money, more resources, more people, or more experience than the decades old legacy competitors in the space. However, the one thing that we do have is an ability to move quickly, iterate, and improve with the grit and passion to succeed.

As a team, we’ve been able to overcome some of the most challenging times. Starting a company was never meant to be easy. In many ways, we are doing what many considered impossible.

One of UpKeep’s core values is “gritty resourcefulness.” It stems from the idea that while we may not know the answer today, we are all capable of so much with a little creativity and hard work.

This value has enabled us to build our foundation for marketing, to challenge the status quo of how maintenance software is adopted and purchased, and to learn an industry that many of us had little prior experience in.

This belief in ourselves is ultimately what I hope inspires others to come to UpKeep and do their best life’s work.

Superpower #3: Making a commitment towards progress and growth.

Growth often defines a startup. When we look at growth at UpKeep, we focus on incremental progress every day. Our customers choose UpKeep because they believe in our long term mission.

In short, they believe in our company’s growth potential and appreciate our ceaseless drive to be better. We’ve never accepted the industry ‘standard’ as an excuse to stop.

Every day we focus on our technicians. I mean really, we make daily releases knowing that it brings us one step closer to our goal. We don’t ask about whether this release is perfect, instead we ask ourselves, does this release make the product better than it was yesterday?

As another example, we never asked ourselves, ‘how do we become experts in marketing?’ Instead, we asked ourselves, ‘if we made this change, would it help us tell our story just a little bit better and help us reach our customers just a tad bit better?

Five years later, I can confidently look back in the rearview mirror and see how progress every day took UpKeep further than I could have ever imagined.

To all my teammates – thank you for that.

We got here from the many, many experiments that we’ve tried. A common saying at UpKeep is that it’s not about the ninety-nine experiments that have failed, but the one experiment that succeeds. What I know from my personal experience is that, often, it takes ninety-nine failures to help me better understand what one will succeed.

Progress is a journey – and we’ve learned every step of the way.


Into the Future 

As we look out into UpKeep’s path ahead, I’m confident that it’s our three superpowers that will guide us to success.

1) Building around the technician.

2) Our grit and passion to solve any problem that blocks our path.

3) choosing to focus on progress one day at a time.

These superpowers are what got UpKeep here today, and will take us to heights we haven’t even dreamed up yet.

I’m stoked for what the next five years bring! Let’s do this! 

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