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Hidden Gems: Meet Peter Messana of Searchspring

Today we’d like to introduce you to Peter Messana.

Hi Peter, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
In my 16+ year career, I’ve spent the majority of my time in the retail and technology space. Early in my career, I served as a project leader for Home Depot and a senior manager for Dell Financial Services.

Then, in 2005, I actually co-founded Austin Canoe & Kayak, which was later sold to Summit Sports. After 13 years as an entrepreneur, I decided to return to my roots and started a job as the SVP of product and support at Groupby, where I was later promoted to chief operating officer.

Then, in 2019, I was appointed the CEO of Searchspring. I was inspired by Searchspring’s technology and quick growth trajectory. The company was originally founded by two friends in Colorado Springs in 2007 and has now become an international success with offices in San Antonio, Denver, Toronto, Krakow, and Sydney.

In fact, Searchspring was named to the 2021 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in the U.S. and has been ranked the Best Place to Work in San Antonio for three years running.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
We’ve all heard it before, but the COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of challenges. I found this true for both Searchspring and for me.

When the pandemic took us from a 100% in-office workforce to a 100% remote workforce, I had not yet completed my first year as CEO of the company.

Since I was so new in my tenure, supporting the team through all these changes while promoting a positive company culture was very challenging. Thankfully, the team is pleased with our efforts. This year, we have named the Best Places to Work.

The “Great Resignation” also impacted our business in terms of our ability to recruit new talent and fill open positions. As a result, we have doubled down on employee benefits and culture, regardless of where the team is physically working.

With our employee well-being central to everything we do, Searchspring has emerged from these challenges better suited for long-term success.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Searchspring?
Searchspring is the global leader in e-commerce search, merchandising, and personalization. Searchspring gives retailers total control over their e-commerce site, ensuring that shoppers actually enjoy the visit. Online shoppers hate it when they visit a site and can’t find what they want.

In this scenario, they’ll likely go to a competitor’s website and make the purchase there, meaning the original retailer loses the sale. However, with Searchspring, retailers get the right product in front of the right shopper at the right time. It’s all about improving that shopper experience.

This is especially important today when every sale is critical to margins. As retailers wrestle with inflation, supply chain disruptions, and more, Searchspring’s ability to increase cart size, improve conversions and engage repeat customers has never been more powerful. We’ve helped clients around the globe improve the shopper experience, including Chubbies, Pura Vida, Moen, Fabletics, Peet’s Coffee, SKIMS, West Elm, Specialized, Wildfang, and Ripcurl.

Internally, Searchspring has a really strong culture. We understand the difficulties facing employees today, from remote work/life balance to burnout. We recently announced that our employees will earn a four-week sabbatical after every five years they stay at Searchspring. This uninterrupted time off allows employees to fully step away without feeling like they should check in with the team.

For new hires, we also implemented a new program called “Start Fresh” which I’m very excited about. This is a two-week paid time off at the start of employment. The flexibility allows new employees to take a break between jobs so they come in fresh at the start of their new career with Searchspring.

Our focus has, and always will be, on fostering a purpose-built team and these programs allow us to ensure our team is supported.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Fail fast and publicly.

When I was working on the launch of homedepot.com in 1999, I made a major mistake that turned the public site into a complete mess. The next day I had a decision to make, and it is a decision that defines me today. I could’ve tried to hide the mistake, fix it, and hope that people didn’t see the errors, but instead, I decided to come clean.

Luckily the CIO at the time was forgiving and said something along the lines of “Thank you for bringing this problem forward and not hiding it, do not worry about the mistake, it is how we learn from our mistakes that makes us better.”

That moment taught me the importance of making mistakes and sharing them. No one is perfect and any mistake that we learned something from is a mistake worth sharing to help those around us.

We incorporate this lesson into Searchspring’s culture today. We even have a Slack channel where people can publicly share their mistakes so we can all learn from them and be better teammates and employees as a result.

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