A strategic thinker with the vision to see the bigger picture, Kevin Buckley has led Spearline to significant growth since it was founded in 2003. The company achieved its remarkable growth by expanding our global infrastructure, introducing new product innovations and increasing their international customer base. Their dedication and investment in customer experience excellence have set us up as industry leaders.
Spearline is a leading market intelligence company in the telecommunications industry. The Spearline platform enables large enterprises and telecommunications service providers to test the connectivity and quality of their global telecoms network.
Operating in over 60 countries, the data gathered by the Spearline platform allows companies to significantly reduce downtime, manage service quality and improve customer experience. Their proactive testing service identifies critical outages across global customer-facing contact numbers. Organizations all over the world have the ability to identify in real-time if contact numbers are failing to connect or experiencing audio quality issues.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Kevin Buckley: My name is Kevin Buckley and I am CEO and Co-Founder of Spearline, an Irish global telecommunications company that assists organisations such as Unified Communication and Enterprise Contact Centres to diagnose, escalate and resolve issues with their communications channels. Since 2003, we have seen Spearline experience growth of 350% and now, we have four offices globally, with expansion plans in place to double our workforce this year.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Kevin Buckley: The COVID pandemic threw multiple curveballs at businesses, including ours, over the past number of years, but thankfully, we were able to spin it to our advantage and learn from the experience. A huge issue for all businesses was having to adapt to the new world. At Spearline, we quickly realised that staying on top of remote innovation would be a determining factor in successfully navigating the challenges presented by the pandemic. Maintaining a high level of innovation within the company is a key focus for us.
Surprisingly, we have also seen some benefits off the back of COVID-19. Traditionally, we always required employees to work out of one of our global offices, but with COVID, we had to adapt. As a result of this, we decided to introduce long-term, flexible hybrid and remote working models and this has empowered us to begin hiring worldwide, building a uniquely talented and diverse workforce. Having a team of people with different skills, outlooks and experiences, makes a huge difference. Not being constricted to one or two locations is a major advantage.
One thing that is worth noting, however, is that an office environment can be hugely beneficial to younger people who are starting off in their careers, and a professional workspace can contribute greatly to an employee’s growth within a role. That said, it really is wonderful to have the option now of remote and flexible work environments.
Another thing we have done very successfully since the switch over to working from home is offering a very high level of support to the entire team, now that staff are remote and not in an office environment.
We have brought in activities such as “coffee roulette” which allows people to take 15-30 mins out of their workday to join a group call and chat with each other. This spans across all of our teams globally, so staff can easily join a group chat that has team members from all over the world and get to know them in an informal setting. This was introduced as a way to combat people feeling isolated when the teams couldn’t come into the office during the pandemic. It worked so well that we’ve kept it going, and it allows our teams to get to know their counterparts all across the world.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Kevin Buckley: I think we have all learned how extremely volatile world markets and economies actually are, but at the same time, it’s important to remember that they often bounce back just as strong.
In business, I believe the best way out of a problem is through sales and it is also vital that you are aligned in your thinking. I’m also a big believer in the importance of surrounding yourself with brilliant people. You need the right people, the right products and the right attitude. Once all of that comes together, it’s hard to fail.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Kevin Buckley: I touched on this briefly, but the move from in-office work to a 100% working from home model required significant planning and adapting for all of us here at Spearline. In early 2020, we had been closely following the situation regarding COVID-19 and decided to pre-emptively begin preparations for harsher restrictions in the workplace. When we closed the office and sent everyone home, our intention was that this would just be for two weeks. Now, two years later, we are still out of the office, but we are thriving.
From the outset, we made sure our employees had access to dongles, softphones and broadband, as well as an internal system that kept everyone connected with team members and clients. The last thing we wanted was for our service standards to dip due to a disruption in the way we operate, so we committed 100% to remote working.
In terms of industry changes, customers are now looking for technologies and innovations that support remote working. In light of this, we acquired testRTC, an Israeli WebRTC company that allows for advanced web-based applications. Telecommunications technology is evolving so quickly and it is an exciting challenge to keep up with industry advancements.
We can see the importance of WebRTC and collaboration tools growing, but there has also been an increase in the reliance on traditional phone lines since the beginning of the pandemic. In an annual telecoms report that Spearline will be releasing, there is a reference to inbound voice being the predominant contact channel preference, representing 54.9% of the total channels – a notable increase on the previous year. I think the industries affected by COVID-19 and in need of remote working initiatives are going to be very interesting over the next 3-5 years.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Kevin Buckley: I am a big believer in win or learn and I suppose patience is something we can all improve on. I sent everyone home and said “see you in two weeks” – and two years later, we are still all at home. There was a lot of patience needed, but with great difficulties comes great resolve and you find you can trust your team implicitly. There is a lot to be said for giving your team more responsibility. As I noted earlier, I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with brilliant people, so once you have done that in business, it’s important to trust your team and enable them to succeed.
In 2022 I would aim to improve our level of engagement in an in-person capacity. And if that isn’t possible, I would continue our efforts to make every employee feel a part of the team, no matter where they are. For obvious reasons, we haven’t had summer parties or Christmas parties, and I do feel that those kinds of social events are important for team bonding, so in lieu of in-person events, we all need to emphasise engaging and communicating with each other. That goes for our customers too and we are looking forward to being able to visit them in the United States and around the world as we did before.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Kevin Buckley: We would expect to continue to grow, especially online. Yes, there will be human interactions, in the B2B sector more so, but the online part of business is definitely going to continue to grow. Prior to COVID, I was in the US 13 times in one year. That’s not going to happen as much anymore. Of course, I’ll still travel, but there is much more of an appetite to get as much done as you can on a remote basis. Certainly, it’s great to meet up and have real-life human interaction, but online is going to continue to go from strength to strength.
The online element also brings a lot of opportunity for companies that might not have experienced an international export before now. The virtual business world makes doing business, globally, so much easier. I also think that 2022 is going to see a huge period of growth for industries that are innovating in the telco and online sectors.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Kevin Buckley: Somewhere between 10 and 14 hours daily, I would say. In pre-COVID times, I was still doing those sorts of hours, but it was broken up by in-person meetings, or meetings over coffees or lunch.
Screen time also extends to our phones and iPads now, and I would also do a lot of research work in my home environment, sitting on the couch with my iPad. One habit I have though is that I never bring my phone or any device to bed with me. They’re always left downstairs at night.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Kevin Buckley: I am a great believer in storytelling and Irish people, in my opinion, are the greatest storytellers in the world. I always use examples of stories when I am trying to communicate new ideas or innovations. Even this morning, I was using the analogy of a supermarket putting seasonal items in the front of their display units, and how we as a company need to have a similar policy for our webpage. Certainly, when you can convince people with real-life examples, it is an effective way to gain someone’s confidence.
The topic of technology is so broad, and at times complex, so to be able to explain it on every level, through storytelling, is a very effective tool to have in your toolbox. An example I often use, to explain how we operate is this – you have a person arriving at their Airbnb in a foreign country. They get there late and don’t have the combination for the door. They ring the toll-free number in that foreign country and Spearline ensures that the phone number is always up. They are guaranteed to get through to the Airbnb agent and get into their room. That is often an easier way of explaining an aspect of Spearline than going into the heavy or technical jargon.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Kevin Buckley: A real challenge for technology companies right now is the worldwide unavailability of software developers. We, like all companies, are experiencing that difficulty. To overcome that, however, we are working on really strong, new technologies, like WebRTC and AI technologies. Software developers love to work in areas of exciting and new innovation, so that enables us to attract and retain a high-quality workforce.
In addition, we are going to keep evolving our remote working policy and hopefully, that will also help us to attract the talent we need. In recent months, we have hired people from Switzerland, France, Brazil, the US, Ireland and more countries. By the end of March, we will have software developers in over 10 countries. Before our expansion and remote working plans, we were locked down to about three offices in a 50-mile radius. That is how you overcome difficulties. We have great technology that people are excited to work with and we don’t restrict ourselves to just Ireland or North America.
As well as that, our goal is to have 40% of our global workforce made up of women by 2028 – and this is well within the committed 40% by 2030 within the technology industry as a whole. As part of this, we will be looking at ways to encourage women to look at STEM as an option for third level education or career opportunities.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Kevin Buckley: I want to further my understanding of how customers think. At the rate we are growing the company, it is vital that we have an in-depth knowledge of customer demographics
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Kevin Buckley: Yes absolutely, a good leader should be able to look at that data and recognise where they need to improve. Communication is always key and remote working is actually allowing more people to be heard, especially in the COVID-19 era, where the majority of people are not in an office.
We combatted a lot of the early pressures by sending out regular surveys to better understand what our employees needed from their work lives and also how they could best navigate the complications relating to the pandemic, such as isolation and a lack of in-office engagement. It’s important for leaders to take the time to speak with their employees one-on-one and to spend time in the same space as their team, if possible. Everyone is busy and it isn’t always easy but we have to make the effort.
I think a large part of the great resignation is coming from people who have returned to work but would prefer to work remotely. It’s up to the employer to put in place an effective flexible or remote working arrangement. Once they can put that in place, I think they will find that it can be a major advantage for a business. If it is done correctly and the employer, employees and HR are aligned, you can build a strong working environment, regardless of location.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Kevin Buckley: Now there’s a question. I have watched all the films in relation to superheroes and their powers so I have a few answers for this one. I have always thought it would be very handy to be able to fly. That way, I could drop in on our customers more often.
Another business superpower I would enjoy would be around the optimisation of data. There is a wealth of data available online and it takes real skill and patience to consistently and correctly analyse it. I would love the power to be able to just look at a dataset and to know instantly whether it was genuine or not and where it stood in the grand scheme of things. The decision making born of a superpower like that would be immeasurably valuable. Yes, I think that is the business superpower I would like to have.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Kevin Buckley: On a personal note, my wife and I have five young children between the ages of three and nine, so once they are happy and healthy, that is a success in and of itself.
From a business perspective, I would be hoping to see Spearline continue to grow and expand into the United States and globally. Not just for myself and my co-founders, but for our employees and our clients who have come to rely on us.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kevin Buckley for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Kevin Buckley or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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