“I think the role of all CEOs is to craft the vision” – CEO Q&A with Tommy Kearns, CEO of Xtremepush

By Business & Finance
04 January 2023
Pictured: Tommy Kearns, CEO, Xtremepush

Tommy Kearns is founder and CEO of Xtremepush, the Dublin-based tech firm that is a global player in multichannel customer engagement, marketing automation and analytics software.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

I think the role of all CEOs is to craft the vision, make sure we’ve got the best people working towards our objectives and make the tough decisions that keeps our company in good health and our people well looked after.

Our priorities centre around two areas in our business. Firstly, ensuring we’ve got an empowered and passionate workforce. We’re in the process of making some key strategic hires whose roles will be instrumental going into 2023 and beyond. And secondly, ensuring our platform is a market leader. 

This allows us to meet two key objectives. Support our customers by leaning in and help them achieve their own objectives. And to grow in key industries and markets globally. 

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

The biggest challenge is recognising the role of CEO isn’t one job, it’s twenty. You have to be able to understand everything from finance to marketing to development. Not so you can do those jobs yourself but so you can understand and support the people in those functions, and make informed business decisions.

As a CEO, I have to protect the vision and culture of the business and so I have to constantly measure what we’re doing against our values and objectives and ensure we’re on the right trajectory on all fronts: people, product and customers.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

We have team members all over the world so we start and finish the week with an all hands call so we can share in the successes and challenges of team members we would otherwise never get to see or hear from. It helps us to break down silos and to get to know each other. That makes it easier for us to reach out as colleagues when we need help with specific challenges (and solve them quickly), but as friends too.

I think Xtremepush is very fortunate to have a team of people who all genuinely care about each other and the work we do and the impact we make with our customers. We spend a lot of time making sure we share the same vision and objectives. That clarity brings motivation and drives us to achieve what we’ve set out to do.

We also believe it’s important that everyone feels valued at XP. We have a social committee who work hard to put on events and activities year round but we also believe in rewarding individual effort. If someone does a good job we make a point of calling it out and reward them where appropriate.

But our biggest event in our corporate calendar is our annual internal Xpression event. We get the entire company together, from wherever they are in the world, and spend a week together.

It’s an opportunity to talk about the year we’ve had and the plans for the future. But more than that, it’s an opportunity for everyone to bond. The experience is one of the reasons Xtremepush has such a strong culture. Especially as distance makes physical meet-ups normally a challenge.

It’s common for Xpression to be the first time people who have worked together for a year, or more, to meet in-person. It’s a very special time for everyone in XP.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

The growing global economic crisis is going to have an impact on businesses in most industries, including martech. As with any industry there will be those who don’t fair so well and either downsize or go under.

Our industry specifically has a few challenges to wrestle with over the next few years. The cookiepocalypse and the issues around privacy are two of the big ones. 

The cookiepocalypse has been looming for a while but both issues centre around third party data and the user’s right to say how their data is used. 

There is an opportunity for us as technology providers and for customers to create an environment to gather first party data through omnichannel marketing that focuses on delivering value and building trust.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Like the industries we serve, martech doesn’t stay still for very long. Some of the more exciting trends are around microautomation and AI driven personalisation.

These innovations help to drive better outcomes for the consumer, whether that’s eCommerce, banking, SBG or publishing and also for the business itself.

Delivering better experiences for the end user boosts retention, shortens the sales cycle and increases profitability.

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

For the last 24 months there’s been a real shortage of talent, but the recent layoffs from tech companies big and small has resulted in a glut of incredibly talented people entering the job market all at once.

This means there’s we can get the people we need at realistic market rates.

How has Brexit affected you?

We’ve been reasonably fortunate when it comes to Brexit. As a SaaS business we don’t have to worry about moving a physical product across borders. 

We also have a UK based subsidiary which overcomes a lot of the challenges associated with hiring UK employees. 

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

We weathered the COVID-19 pandemic reasonably well. We were able to adapt to remote working quickly and easily as we already had remote workers and offices in other countries.

So moving to a remote first way of working didn’t pose too much of a challenge. And to immense credit to the whole team, the transition was pretty painless for us and our customers didn’t experience any outages or drop in service.

After the pandemic we adopted a hybrid approach for those who were office based but our recruitment strategy is now far more focused on talent than geography.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Our measure of success is directly linked to our objectives as a business. Delivering outcomes for our customers on an ongoing basis.

Making a long lasting impact on the martech industry with a next generation omnichannel customer engagement platform with a built-in CDP.

Driving a consistently high growth and profitable business.

Being recognised as a leader by the independent global commentators.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Steve Jobs said it best: “I don’t hire great people to tell them what to do, I hire great people to tell me what to do.”

What I mean by that is nothing good comes from micromanaging your people. Invest in them and support them, then get out of their way to let them succeed. 

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

To be honest, there have been a number. We’ve grown significantly these last 12 months, both in terms of working with some exciting new customers and our head count has increased considerably as well. 

We’ve also invested in enhancing our platform to deliver greater value to our customers. As a result, our customers’ own successes have multiplied as well. 

Xtremepush also hosted two of our own in-person events this year, one in Dublin and one in London. Both were big successes with some world class speakers in attendance. It’s our aim to make this a regular part of our wider offering.

What’s next for your company?

Well, we’re committed to being the go to omnichannel customer engagement platform with built-in CDP in the martech industry. Everything we’re working on now and in the coming months is geared towards that objective.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

We have some internal targets both in turns of revenue and headcount but our focus is to be the go-to platform in several industries such as retail banking, eCommerce, sports betting and gaming and publishing and media for omnichannel customer engagement.

Xtremepush as a business strives to be synonymous with innovation, expert knowledge, trust and customer service within the martech space.

Read more interviews with leading CEOs below:

Karl Flannery of Storm Technology

Danny McCoy of Ibec

Barbara McGrath of Brightwater