January 18, 2023

Sam Caucci, Founder & CEO of 1Huddle, Thought Leader, Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker, and Bestselling Author

Dana Bernardino

1Huddle Podcast Episode #93

On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder Sam Caucci sat down with our own Jaime Lara, Manager of Branded Media to ring in the new year with a year-end review.

This episode of Bring It In closes out season three, where Jaime sat down with Sam to wrap the 2022 year and discussed coaching culture, investing in your employees, and technology in the workforce.

Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.


Below are some of the insights Sam shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.

  • “Your people are your biggest asset.”
  • “It’s crystal clear now to the marketplace how you see, view and treat your people.”
  • “82% of workforce dollars today in America go towards ‘cover-your-ass training,’ not skill development.”
  • “The fastest distance to develop a worker is to develop their coach.”
  • “It’s my hope that companies continue to invest where they take. You need to deposit equally, if not more, from where you withdraw.”


Jaime:  So are we officially out of Covid? That’s what they’re saying on the news, it’s over. 

Sam: It’s over. 

Jaime: It’s over?

Sam: It’s over. 

Jaime: It’s nice to have it over. 

Sam: Yeah. I mean, for some it never started. 

Jaime: That’s true. That’s true. I guess depending on where you live.

Sam: Let’s not get political here. 

Jaime: No, no, not at all. We never get political. 

Sam: No. We should not get political. No. Let’s keep the politics aside. 

Jaime: Yes. Compartmentalized. 

Sam: So, who’d you vote for? 

Jaime: Anyone who’s affiliated with the Green Party

Sam: How many times did you vote? 

Jaime: Five. 

Sam: That might be slightly above average.

Jaime: I think so. 

Sam: It depends on the state. 

Jaime: See, at 1Huddle, we’re all about doing the hard shit, going the extra mile. I just figured I might as well commit to that.

Sam: You just went to every polling station mile over mile. 

Jaime: Yeah, basically. It was a lot of fun. I met a lot of really interesting people.

Sam: Very good. So, what are we doing here? 

Jaime: Well, it’s the end of the year and I figured…

Sam: I noticed. 

Jaime: Yeah. Yeah, did you?

Sam: The drinking that starts a little too early around the office. Yeah. Oh yeah. I noticed. 

Jaime: Totally wasn’t me. 

Sam: That’s how you know. 

Jaime: I figured we’d catch up. It’s been a hell of a year, I feel like more so than other years too. 

Sam: Isn’t every year a hell of a year? 

Jaime: Every year is absolutely a hell of a year, but this year I feel like it was particularly a hell of a year. A lot of shit happened. 

Sam was a hell of a year. 

Jaime: Yeah. Well, I was talking to Oliver earlier. We started in San Diego. and now suddenly we’re just here. 

Sam: Yes. Yes. We were in sunny San Diego and now we’re in not sunny New Jersey. 

Jaime: Also, we had like, what, seven people tops maybe in office in the beginning of the year? And now we have like…

Sam: A lot.

Jaime: Did we get 20?

Sam: We’re 20, man, 20. That’s in office.

Jaime: Biggest our team’s ever been.

Sam: Biggest. And they’re being paid!

Jaime: That’s a big deal for a startup. 

Sam: Like, hey, you know? And they’re being paid! Yeah. Let’s not forget that one. 

Jaime: That’s true. That’s a big one. I mean, you know, against the backdrop, and it’s kind of crazy too because we’ve been talking about this more recently, but I guess this is kind of foreshadowed ever since the beginning of the year lots of news articles and headlines about massive layoffs, particularly in the tech space, regardless of whether it’s a huge company or a small startup like us. We just kind of said fuck that and grew.

Sam: Yeah. It’s been ups and downs since Covid started and there’s a labor shortage. There isn’t a labor shortage. Everybody’s gonna work from home forever. Everybody’s not gonna work from home forever. There’s hybrid, there’s whatever the flavor of the month is that the Wall Street Journal or whatever HR blog says. People, again, the deal is, you gotta say crazy stuff to get noticed. There’s been all types of trends people have been following.

But I think the big thing this year has been that we started the year in this labor shortage moment that was pretty common speak. And then was also through the summertime, this conversation around organizations who, regardless of recession or impact, they’re investing in their people, and that was obviously still a little 2020, 2021 ish. People saying that they’re in tech and are going to keep employees, they’re not gonna let ’em go, they’re gonna double down. And then, we almost ended the year with that exploding, cause now everybody is racing to let go of people, especially in a lot of the tech environments, people are trimming down out of fear of what 2023 is gonna look like, and round and round we go. 

Jaime: It’s crazy when I think about it cuz like, what, 2020 were hit with a lot of layoffs, for lack of a better term from that and then immediately, two years later, kind of the same thing, maybe in slightly different industries, but I mean like from your perspective, what are the decisions that go into actually investing in your people? Like as the head of an organization, when maybe there is uncertainty on the horizon, on really actually doubling down on “the talk”?

Sam: Are people central to your strategy? We do so much work. We did so much work this year in hospitality and worked with so many awesome brands in the hospitality space from young brands to Front Burner Society, to Bar Louie, to Tao Group, to Loews Hotels, to Dog Haus, to Capriotti’s. I mean, you could just go on and on.

All the brands we work with, there’s a common thread. Listen, not every customer we work with is a good one, but the thing that I’ve learned in 2022, hey, look, we’re gonna turn this into a reflection! What did I learn in 2022? One of the things I learned is, again, it’s very true that how you view your people, it’s crystal clear now to the marketplace how you see, view and treat your people. That wasn’t always the case. We lived in an era where for a long time you weren’t sure, but now from Glassdoor to social media to word of mouth to new generations of workers, we’re living in a moment where if you see people as an asset to your business and they’re part of your strategy, you operate a certain way.

You make certain choices every day. You make certain purchases every day. You make certain things really critical to your strategy that wrap around your people. But if people aren’t important to what you’re doing, you see it. People don’t focus on ’em. You see people and brands that talk a lot about innovation and customer experience and don’t care about employee experience. You look at organizations, you ask ’em, ‘what’s the biggest innovation or technology you’re excited about in 2023?’ And you know, they’re talking about robots that flip hamburgers. They’re talking about new POS systems and nobody is talking about things in technology. It would catch you off guard to find someone who says, “you know what? There’s no technology. Do you want the innovation that most excites me this year? It has to do with my people. It has to do with a strategy we’re implementing to level them up, to upskill them, to develop ’em, to coach them, to mentor them.” But that’s just not common. That’s uncommon. 

Jaime: Yeah. I mean, on that note of coaching I feel like coaching’s always been a central theme to the DNA of the company. This year, I feel like we really doubled down on it. You brought in guest speakers to kind of just have all day sessions with us, which have been super awesome. Every week we’re talking about new aspects and facets of coaching. Why do you think it’s, and it comes so easy, I’d say, or easier to us than I think a lot of other companies. You were talking about exactly how companies are always excited for New Tech when they think about how they’re helping their people. Do you think it’s hard for companies to become better coaches, and why do you think that is?

Sam: I think we don’t develop that muscle. Again, this is just like exercise. If all you do is go to the gym and squat, you know your arm’s gonna look a certain way. If all you do is go and bench, you know your legs are gonna look a certain way. It’s what you focus on, and organizations oftentimes focus on the wrong stuff when it comes to their people, and let’s start with infrastructure. 

There’s a lot of potential in human resources to help people, but human resources is largely a performance limiting function inside of organizations. It’s wired to keep you in compliance. 82% of workforce dollars today in America go towards cover-your-ass training, not skill development. So if everybody wants to talk about workers being “unskilled,” which is a crazy fucking thing to call a human, then why wouldn’t 82% of the things we’re doing be skill building?

Organizations invest in human resource functions, then they arm human resource functions with a strategy to make sure that they don’t get sued, that they reduce their exposure. That they, again, their fiduciary responsibility is to protect the shareholder, not protect the worker. I mean, this is a very important concept.

Human resources are not built to develop workers. Somewhere along the lines, we’ve spun that as that’s what they’re supposed to do. And the ones that do that, it’s awesome, but they’re not supposed to. And because of that structure, it creates an environment where, you asked, why aren’t we building coaches? Because we are focused on churning and burning the worker on the front line. We’re focused on purchasing talent, not developing. Purchasing is you go out and you go find a better C-level person or a better senior manager. We don’t develop our frontline into middle management, middle management into senior leadership.

There’s a massive cost to it, but this isn’t a new thing. I mean, you can go back 20 years and read Harvard Business Review articles about how much it costs to lose a worker. And still every week there’s an article about what it costs, like. That’s why I don’t quote it, because like, how much does it cost to lose a worker? I don’t know. Is it 30%? Is it 20%? Is it five times your annual salary? I mean, there’s all these numbers that float around. Guess what it is? It’s a lot. Costs you a lot. However, organizations just don’t focus on developing the middle management role like they should. They throw all their time, energy, effort, and resources around senior leadership. They throw money around lead tech tools. Yeah, tech and tools that keep them in compliance. And then if you don’t focus on building the front line, the front line man, the manager on the front line is the closest person, the closest distance to things. I’m a sports coach, so what’s the fastest distance from A to B? It’s a straight line. The fastest distance to develop a worker is to develop their coach. 

Coach is gonna impact them every single day. It’s not to buy an LMS, okay, and work around them. You work through your frontline leadership and management and seniors that’s what you have to do. And again, I think organizations, they assume that because you were the best player, now you’re gonna be the best coach. Because you’re the best seller now you’re gonna be the best sales manager. They don’t arm them with a lot of tools. They pattern recognized the wrong things. They hire on talent. And the problem with thinking about talent is, oftentimes you don’t think about developing it. You think about whether you have it or you don’t.

So again, it comes all back to, why don’t we build better coaches, cuz we’re focusing on the wrong stuff. And building a coaching environment. A coaching culture is hard. The culture of coaching is not easy.

Jaime: Mm-hmm, definitely. And then you pointed out like when people in that kind of HR systems are there for the worker, that’s awesome. Can you think of maybe an example you’ve seen this past year of, maybe not even necessarily HR, but someone or an organization that is kind of developing their people in your eyes, in an effective manner?

Sam: Yeah, I could rattle off a bunch of them. I could talk to you about the work that Lowe Hotels does to make sure that every worker, regardless of where they are in their organization, has a chance to develop. I could talk to you about Tau Group that spends a ton of time, energy, money, and resources to develop the culture of the people before they open a new restaurant or club. We could talk to you about the DogHaus team that, every day at their franchisors corporate office, are thinking about how they support their franchisees better. There’s a bunch of environments like this, or the U.S. Air Force. I could talk to you about them who are trying to tackle really important stuff around culture.

The common thread through all of these organizations is, they have a leadership team that values learning and they’re constantly trying to learn new things, and that’s not training. That’s learning things about their customers, they’re intellectually curious about things within their organization.

They look at things and they ask why, and then they double click on it and they investigate it. And maybe there’s something there, maybe there isn’t. But everywhere they’re looking, they’re looking for opportunities to get better. There’s this concept that is coined by, we talked about it in our own training and development program here at 1Huddle, we talked about this concept of the Law of Marginal Gains, you know telling a story about the British cycling team under Sir Dave. It was a very popular story that basically uncovered that, if you get just 1% better at a bunch of little things and then put the big thing back together, you get exponentially better. But the culture of British cycling going from not being very good to being great through this exploration of finding marginal gains everywhere is something that, again, requires work, requires the right type of culture, and it requires an organization that comes in every day with people who say, ‘I can get a little bit better.’ There’s ways for us to do it. 

And they get excited about that shit. Like they get excited to find new ways to be better at stuff. You know, they’re the ones coming in saying, ‘Hey, I know this is the way we make the hot dog, but you know, here’s a better way I found, I saved those 12 seconds.’ Like that is crazy. Think about how many organizations are out there saying, ‘I wanna save 12 seconds, I’m gonna go buy a robot.’ It’s different with some of the organizations, but it’s more clear than ever for me.

End of 2023, I mean, we’ve been doing this for a while now, and we can tell pretty quickly inside of a conversation with a potential new customer whether they’re gonna be an organization that’s not just a good fit for us, at 1Huddle, but they’re gonna be an organization that creates a type of environment that our workers deserve today.

Jaime: Mm-hmm. Damn. Well last question then, because we’re both busy. Everyone loves asking CEOs what their predictions are for the next year. So, I guess, what’s one prediction you have when it comes to development, talent acquisition, workforce training, kind of the whole human aspect of the nature of work for 2023?

Sam: Well, I definitely think one prediction is that we’re gonna do more podcasts. So I definitely know that.

Jaime: Woo!

Sam: And we have a lot, lot, lot of stuff, shameless plug, a lot of stuff coming. What my prediction for 2023 around the workforce is, I think that workers are gonna get pulled back into the office more.

I think that technology is gonna continue to chip away at what is work, which is going to create an opportunity for us to make some choices around, cause we’re still in the very early, early part of the game here on how we design work for our children and our children’s children. You know, at this exact moment, the things we do now are gonna affect the next wave.

My prediction is that we’re gonna come out of this year, and we’re gonna know a lot more about what organizations are on the side of. ‘we wanna do it the easy way’ and what organizations are on the side of, ‘we’re gonna do it the hard way.’

I’m optimistic cuz I believe that there are a lot of people that come into work every day and work their ass off. There are a lot of people who wake up every day, and come to multiple jobs, by the way. I had a conversation with somebody about what do you think about work from home? Well, the one in two Americans that are low wage work from home for which job? The first one, the second one or the third one? Like, which one do they work from home at? Because the average worker today is stretched. The things that they do at work are changing rapidly. And you know, it is my hope that organizations continue to invest where they take. If you’re just withdrawing you better be depositing equal to, if not more, given what the opportunity is in the future. 

And again, I think some organizations have already shown that they’re gonna do it the easy way. I also think that we’re living in a moment where it’s been popularized to cut corners. It’s not to say that this is nobody’s ever pursued shortcuts, but, whether you have the Theranos girl or the Anna Delvy girl, or you have the guy from WeWork or you have the guy from FTX or Fyre Festival or any of these people that’s popularized that It’s cool to be a piece of shit and cut corners. That’s the cool thing to do. That sends a clear message to the next wave of workers and young people who are coming up, who are making choices about what degree do they pursue, where do they pursue it? What technical degrees do they pursue? Who are their teachers? Who are their leaders? Who are their mentors? What kind of people do they want to be? Do they wanna run for office? 

So I know you asked me about a prediction. I gave you the best weather prediction I can as someone from Miami, it’s gonna be sunny and it’s gonna rain. 

Jaime: All at the same time.

Sam: It’s gonna do both. That’s my prediction. But my hope is better than a prediction, is that we choose to deposit more than we withdraw in the people that come to work every day and make your brands happen. That’s my hope. 

Jaime: Bring it in, back for season four soon, I guess.

Sam: Back for season four! We had a pretty huge Season three, man. Think about it, we had Alex Hutchinson, he wrote that awesome book Endure. We had Joshua Eyler who knows everything about teaching and teaches on how to teach at UMiss wrote a book on how humans learn. You had John O. Sullivan, the coach of coaches, wrote a book called Every Moment Matters. If you’re a parent and wanna know how to be a better coach, buy his book. We had Adrian Gosick and Chester Elton, who wrote The New York Times bestseller All In on how managers can create the right culture. We had Paul Epstein, former head of sales for the San Francisco 49ers talking about the power of playing offense and purpose in a really fun book as a football guy.

Kent Babb, sports writer from the Washington Post joined us on his book Across the River, the story of a New Orleans high school football program. We had a 12 time Olympic Medalist, Jaime, in Dara Torres, a swimmer. 

Jaime: I forgot. I forgot all this was this year. Not gonna lie. It’s so many. 

Sam: We had Barbara Oakley. Yeah, it’s hard to remember. We had Barbara Oakley, she wrote Uncommon Sense Teaching. We had 22X National Champion soccer coach, Anson Dorrance from North Carolina, and they were in the championship again this year. We had Michelle Weiss, author of a book called Lifelong Learning, Preparing for Jobs that Don’t Dven Exist Yet.

We had coach Jeff Graba, the head women’s gymnastics coach at Auburn, who knows a little bit about coaching Olympic gold medalists. We had Joe De Sena, he has a show on CNBC. He is the founder of Spartan Up Spartan Races. We had coach Melissa Kutcher, who’s the women’s gymnastic coach at the University of Denver.

We had Dr. Jerry Lynch, who’s consulted hundreds of championships, including coaches like Phil Jackson and Steve Kerr. We had Scott Young who wrote Ultra Learning, another great book on how learning works. Also, Jim Lang, he wrote a book on teaching as well. We had Tammy Browning, the CEO of KellyOCG, talking about the jobs report and boss loss.

I wonder how many cool phrases we’re gonna come out with this year. You know, great resignation, boss loss. Yes, but she was cool to have on. We had Mathieu Stevenson, the CEO of Snagajob, talking about low age frontline workers, and we had Justin Reich, associate Professor of MIT, write a book called Failure to Disrupt, How Tech Alone Can’t Transform Education.

He also oversees a program at MIT teaching teachers how to teach through the study of coaching. So that was just, I mean, that was just this year. Now what are we gonna do next year? How are we gonna top it? 

Jaime: Get more cool people. 

Sam: More cool people, more cool people? Okay. 

Jaime: So many cool people out there.

Sam: Better start some emails. 

Jaime: Oh, yeah, don’t worry. I have the list right here. Oh, no, don’t forget, we ended with Sam Caucci, CEO and founder of 1Huddle. 

Sam: You have to do it. I can’t introduce myself. 

Jaime: Was that not the intro? Sure, welcome to the podcast, Sam Caucci, CEO and founder of 1Huddle. Sam, thank you for taking the time to join us. Did you like my little podcast cadence? 

Sam: You did that very well. 

Jaime: Thank you.

Sam: You did that very well. 

Jaime: Well, that’s 2022. See you next year.

Topics Discussed: Coaching, Leadership, Tech, Innovation, Culture, Workforce

Dana Bernardino, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

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