Navigating Hyper-Growth:

Smily's Journey from Scaling Challenges to Strategic Success with OKRs

Smily, a French SaaS Scale-Up in the travel industry has been growing significantly, onboarding and managing multi-disciplinary teams across all continents in the past year. As they were seeing a strong increase in demand and more and more products and offering development opportunities, it became clear they needed to find a way to structure, focus and align their fully-remote teams. They discovered and implemented OKRs to embark everyone behind common goals and align ways to achieve them. After some internal experiments, they called in OKRmentors to help them impulse this change with the right practices! Here is an interview with Florian Stenström, Co-founder and COO of Smily who opens up about how they leverage OKRs to empower their teams to deliver their best.

Tell us a bit about Smily

Florian Stenström (FS): Smily (formerly BookingSync) is a French company and cloud-based vacation rental management platform. Smily’s goal is to make the lives of vacation rental owners, managers and agencies easier. Smily today represents 50+ team members distributed across all continents and timezones.

Whether it’s managing a booking, generating an invoice, accepting a payment, or issuing a contract, Smily can handle it. Centred around simplicity and ease of use, Smily has developed an intuitive service that is a friend to owners and managers during each step of the vacation rental management process, allowing them to earn on average 40% more revenue than the market.

Why did you decide to implement OKRs in the first place? 

FS: I heard about OKRs several years ago and it was recommended to me as a best practice to facilitate cross-team collaboration and result-driven culture. At Smily we believe in our people and we want to empower them. OKRs appeared as a solution to provide strategic guidance while encouraging autonomy to the teams to define how to achieve goals. And as we needed to implement different product offerings and scale our company, it appeared as a good way for everyone to stay informed of what was going on, how things were progressing in every department and where we could support and help unblock things.

Challenges you were facing when you decided to use OKRmentors coaching services? 

FS: Implementing OKRs often requires training and ongoing guidance, especially in the early days of the deployment. Following initial training, Smily had implemented the OKR method as well as an OKR Champions network to facilitate the successful adoption and ongoing execution of the framework across the organisation. 

Nonetheless, introducing a new method as demanding as OKR in a hyper-growth scale-up like Smily - that moreover has a 100% remote team across many countries with 17 different nationalities - can lead to teams becoming frustrated or misuse the framework, leading to suboptimal results.

For some team members, it was difficult to define meaningful OKRs that would prove useful to help them focus and measure the value they were delivering. We were also struggling to find the best way to align horizontally and vertically the goals defined across the organisation. Essentially, we were doing the best we could but felt we needed to improve our habits to leverage the full value of the framework.

How did you solve these OKR implementation challenges? 

FS: Smily turned to OKRmentors for ongoing strategic and OKR coaching and guidance of the Champions and Leaders team. OKRmentors served as a primary external support for the OKR implementation and creating the good habits, helping Champions and the wider organisation understand and apply OKRs effectively, overcome issues, and drive alignment and focus towards Smily’s vision. This included OKR training, OKR definition workshops, retrospective, OKR Check-in management as well as leadership updates.

What can you share about the impact after a year being supported? 

FS: Better leveraging OKRs has really allowed Smily to channel the organisation’s energy to deliver hyper-growth. The impact of OKRmentors’ services and an improved implementation of the OKR framework was diverse: 

  • The process of defining OKRs at the beginning of a cycle can be challenging, therefore the ongoing coaching on best practices and feedback helped build good habits and knowledge within the teams
  • The coaching deepened the OKR culture within the Champions network and the wider organisation: more knowledgeable and seasoned OKR practitioners able to overcome most issues with the implementation of the framework
  • It helped to get further buy-in from all team members, especially those not used to goal-setting frameworks like OKR
  • OKR for change management resulting in a shift in mindset and habits by tackling typical hypergrowth and scaling issues successfully
  • Better horizontal and vertical alignment through the OKR framework, which is often complex and time-consuming but is now a quick process at Smily
  • Improved alignment between the Smily teams day-to-day work and the global strategy and vision
  • One of the benefits of OKR, it made sure that all the teams go in the same direction with common objectives
  • Clearer, more consistent communication about OKRs and the wider strategy.

All in all, the impact was instrumental and allowed us to successfully evolve our business model, increase product coverage, growing the teams while keeping everyone super engaged! 

As we are growing, we now have enough capacity and expertise to manage the full OKR process on our own and OKRmentors are helping to ramp up our own OKR lead to allow that.

A word about what you feel about working OKRmentors?

FS: I love it, and the team too! The opportunity to be coached by experts that can draw from other experiences in various industries deploying the OKR framework was very valuable and made us save tremendous time. The expertise allowed us to upskill and avoid common mistakes in the process.

Getting guidance from their team allowed us to predict the potential pitfalls and focus on what’s important to assist towards better results. Knowing what to expect down the road is of great help for leaders to prepare, anticipate and take action with more efficiency.

We would definitely recommend getting help and external expertise if you are considering implementing OKRs or facing difficulties when rolling it out -we’ve been there, done that!.

The consistency in the support provided and the reliability of the interlocutors has been an asset in developing a strong relationship with OKRmentors.

The ability of OKR mentors to tailor the consulting and guidance to our needs since we started was key for us, in an ever changing environment.

About OKRmentors

At OKRmentors, we are committed to empowering companies to drive their transformation journeys through the effective implementation of OKRs. We aim to foster strategic clarity, instill collective accountability and increase employee engagement, leading to improved individual and overall performance. We believe there should be more mission-driven teams deliver their full potential and we are committed to support organizations to do so.

Joining on the Journey and Embrace Transformation

Start your change journey with OKRmentors, discovering the power of OKRs. Reach out to us to see the strength of aligning goals and empower your teams to deliver their full potential. Together, we'll lift your organization's path to success.