“We are all operating in a permission-led, customer-centric landscape” – CEO Q&A with Tommy Kearns, CEO of Xtremepush

CEO Q&A, Technology | Wed 3 Mar | Author – Business & Finance
Tommy Kearns, CEO of Xtremepush
Pictured: Tommy Kearns, founder and CEO of 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?

At the highest level, my priority is to define the collective goals of our organisation in 12-month phases.  Crucially, within that, I define the specific pillars of activity that will drive these goals.

From here it’s about ensuring there is alignment of purpose, and clarity around our objectives, specifically among the top-line leadership team and, to an extent, middle management.  On a day-to-day level, I’m making sure these teams have everything they need, and a clear path towards their individual and collective KPIs. And, of course, the CEO must always lead the charge in defining and living up to the culture of the organisation.

What are your biggest challenges as a CEO?

An ongoing challenge is striking the right balance between the time allotted for operational and day-to-day functions, and the time needed for more strategic, long-term planning. There are never enough hours in the day.

At a higher level, it’s a challenge trying to determine the right pillars of growth.  The objective tends to present itself quite clearly, but determining the best path takes a huge amount of analysis and planning.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

As an organisation, we place massive emphasis on our culture.  One of the biggest demotivators is a toxic working environment, where people feel undervalued.  It’s important to me that each member of the team understands the impact they are having, and how it relates to our collective goals.

What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

At the heart of ecommerce and digital development, our industry is experiencing massive growth.  So I don’t see challenges as such; it’s more about the opportunities presented and how we seize them. 

There is significant change happening around the ethical collection and use of customer data, in particular third party data.  We are all operating in a permission-led, customer-centric landscape.  Companies in our space that have not planned for this on their product roadmap will find it increasingly difficult to compete.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

The biggest trend is towards consolidation of services and technologies.  Where the landscape was once dominated by point solutions, buyers are now looking for unified solutions that offer better ROI, a faster time-to-value and advanced capabilities.  

That’s exactly where we play, and why we’re winning business. This trend has been reflected over the past 2 years by the volume of mergers and acquisitions activity in the martech space. This will continue throughout 2021 and beyond.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

This is a sector that moves at a tremendous pace, so changes tend to happen naturally and are typically led by consumer demands.  As one of the leading players in this space, we are at the forefront of these advancements, identifying optimum solutions to grow consumer engagement.

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

I wouldn’t say there are gaps in the market, but the competition for top-tier talent is as fierce as ever.  That’s especially true in Dublin, where our global HQ is.  It has long been known as a tech hub, with brands vying for the very best in both hard and soft skills. 

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

Our strategy hasn’t changed.  I would say it has been crystalised.  As the world moves more and more activity online, the need for a solution like ours to help brands connect with their digital audiences, across all touch points, only intensifies.  So our mission is as clear and vital as ever. 

With respect to the banking sector, it’s been one of our core verticals from the very outset. We understand the unique challenges of this industry and the threats it faces from mobile-first challengers who aren’t burdened by legacy tech.  Our message to banks remains the same; we can help you to accelerate your digital transformation and connect with customers on a personal level at scale.

How has Brexit affected you, have you started to feel the effects already?

I’m not sure that any organisation which has a foothold in Ireland, the UK and much of Europe, as we do, can say they are Brexit-proof.  But we were as well-prepared as any organisation could be.

We maintain data centres in both the UK and the EU (as well as North America), which ensures we are legally compliant for all potential Brexit implications.  This is one of our USPs, and it will be an important factor as we scale globally.

In terms of new business, the opportunities for us remain the same.  Ultimately, we’re a global business; no matter what happens as a result of Brexit we will take it in our stride and continue to grow.

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

I come from a hugely entrepreneurial background, and I think that has fuelled me in life and in business to strive for success.

One thing I think is vital within any organisation is to really celebrate the smaller successes along the way.  So, for us, that’s taking the time to enjoy the product updates, the new business wins, the positive feedback from clients and so on.  We never dwell on these moments too long, but collectively we mark them.

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

When you are building a business, go out and validate your gut feelings, and your product, with real customers.  And do this as early as possible.  This initial feedback is vital to your success.  You really don’t know what you have, or the true value of your offer, until the market has experienced it to some extent and responded.

And I think this applies to any project or initiative.  Never let “perfect” be the enemy of “good”; start the feedback process as soon as possible, and iterate again and again as needed. 

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

The way in which our people embraced and adapted to remote working without losing a beat was exceptional. 

I also have to call out the recognition of our solution by the global industry analysts at Gartner.  We saw our position in the Magic Quadrant for Mobile Marketing Platforms rise yet again in 2020, with serious praise for the features and capabilities we’ve developed.  And towards the end of last year, we broke into the top 10 of the Deloitte Technology Fast 50, which is testament to our sustained growth.

What’s next for your company?

2021 is already shaping up to be very exciting for us.  We will continue to drive growth in the business, whilst driving profitability at the same time.  In terms of product development, the roadmap for the next 12 months offers several new revenue streams within our key verticals.

What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2021?

Organic growth must always be a priority.  One of our core objectives for 2021 is to continue to expand our North American footprint.  We have terrific clients in this territory, across multiple verticals, so it’s about building on that momentum.

We will also continue to explore acquisitions, if the right deal presents itself.  We completed two very successful acquisitions in the last 3 years, adding significant value in terms of talent and new business.

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

This time next year, Xtremepush will have cemented our place in North America and continued to grow across Europe.  I expect to have added a multitude of recognised brands to our client portfolio.

We have very serious aspirations to be the leading multichannel provider globally.  We are within touching distance of this, and we have the people and product to achieve it.