How Stanley Black & Decker Drives Skilled Trade Hiring Through Venture Building

Surehand, a venture launched by Stanley Black & Decker in 2019, is a skills-first hiring platform that instantly matches industrial employers with best-fit tradespeople in energy, construction, manufacturing, and more. With over 40k skilled workers already on the platform, Surehand is contributing to the reduction of industrial labor shortages and underemployment in the skilled trades while revolutionizing how companies and workers connect. Surehand recently launched the Rock the Trades™ workforce development initiative that is dedicated to celebrating the American industrial worker by raising awareness of the skilled trades as rewarding career paths, and advancing industry diversity and inclusion.

The timing for Rock the Trades couldn’t be better, given the dearth of qualified skilled trades workers has been exacerbated by the pandemic, and the skills gap in manufacturing alone is expected to climb to 2.4 million unfilled positions by 2028.

We recently interviewed Chris Brenchley, Co-founder and CEO of Surehand, to find out how the business was built and the role Mach49 played.


First, why Mach49?

I had some experience with incubators and accelerators prior to Mach49, but Mach49’s thesis and focus on corporates and corporate venturing was really interesting. My co-founder Nicholas Smith and I are really hybrids – we’ve led business units and global multinational companies like Thomson Reuters, Wolters Kluwer, bootstrapped startups, and everything in between. So there was something interesting about the “non-traditional” approach to corporate venturing.

There was also the appeal of the highly immersive process, the people, and the methodology that Mach49 has built into its playbook. There are things that we've picked up working with Mach49 that are core to how we grow the business today, like their customer development mindset. It’s affected the way we think about and synthesize what we're hearing and learning from stakeholders in the various markets. That methodology made it attractive to us.

Did you find the discipline of Mach49’s process helpful? And if so, how?

I think the structure and discipline of the Mach49 process really provides that toolkit, and the guardrails, if you will, to allow all that creativity, brainstorming, and ideation. But it's within a process, driven by a structure and a timeline. That’s not to say that the process is formulaic. I think the Mach process really affords a lot of room for creativity, in a way that gets you to a desired outcome.

What’s your perspective on mothership management?

As an entrepreneur, and as someone who wasn't part of the mothership [Stanley Black & Decker], I think one of the things that are underutilized are the assets that you can leverage from having a strategic investor partnership, whether that’s a Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 global company.

If you don't build that relationship, and do it correctly, it can certainly be a drag. I think if you set that relationship up right, and defend it as a founder, positively, it can serve as a  very strong foundation. For us, the relationship-building process took two years. We're now starting to see how powerful that may be as we start to expand in terms of business development, sales, and so on.

How would you describe the Mach49 journey?

I think one part of the process that stands out the most happened during the incubation. We had our midpoint check-in review with the executive team and sponsors. There was this angst in the room because we were worried we weren’t going to be able to show financial projections.

But, it's not part of the process. Anything that we would have developed at that point would have been completely fictional — almost not even worth talking about. I remember saying, “Look, [the mothership has] to trust that what we're doing is the right thing to do. We've got to earn that trust, and we have to continue to earn that trust.” That’s one of the things you'll get into with mothership management. Large companies are compliance driven, and they’re risk intolerant for all the right reasons. As a startup company, we're about moving fast, so the trick is in balancing those things.

The second defining moment was when I said, “I understand and I’m respectful of these protocols, policies, measures and ways you do business, and I get that it's important. But if we're to be successful, we need to be out at the furthest edge of the enterprise, doing what we do best. Here’s what I think the middle ground looks like, and this is how we've operated. We will check your compliance boxes. And we're going to check them in a way that makes sense for our stage and for our scale."

To their credit, Stanley Black & Decker have been patient, committed partners in the journey with Surehand. And frankly, I think that's made all the difference.

Learn more about how Stanley Black & Decker is leading in new venture incubation.

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