OKRs have disciplined us to prioritize and pursue only the most important development projects. The discipline… has a huge role in the overall business success of our company.
About the Customer
VanKing is a Poland-based company that distributes car parts, specifically parts for vans. VanKing is a challenger in the industry. Most of the other companies in the automotive industry are either distributing car parts or truck parts, meanwhile VanKing specializes in vans. In such an enormous industry, it’s important that VanKing’s distribution and logistical operations are up to par. For automotive companies, price, competitiveness, and inventory all matter a great deal.
Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with the CEO of VanKing, Jakub Sierzchała, and discuss the history of his company, their experience with OKRs, and how they found the Profit.co software. Jakub shared that “What we try to do is not only challenge the status quo in terms of the market segmentation, but we also try to implement some of the modern management and marketing techniques, which are not that common in our industry.”
VanKing was a rebrand that took place in 2018. Before that, under a different name, the company had a nearly 30-year history on the market. VanKing has kept up with the development of technology over the years and has a robust online platform where they can interact with their clientele of small businesses, garages, and distributors.
VanKing faced it’s biggest challenge with the increasing complexity and size of their business. Jakub reported that each year, VanKing grows significantly– an estimated 20%-25% annually.
With this bigger structure, VanKing had to become more organized. The identity of the company moved from a family-owned and family-based business to a more corporate style, and this shift brought with it challenges. The young team at VanKing had very little prior experience in the corporate world and didn’t necessarily have the toolkit needed to manage a rapidly-growing business in the market.
Finding OKRs & Profit.co
Jakub was the one who first found OKRs and introduced them within the company. While completing his EMBA, Jakub came across the methodology, and remembered this framework when VanKing was looking for a better way to manage goals and growth in the company.
VanKing started their journey with OKRs in late 2019, with a little over 200 employees at the business. Before OKRs, management was left to the will of leaders, and goals weren’t well-defined within the company. Jakub brought Objectives and Key Results to the management team, and they found that the OKR philosophy aligned well with the company’s philosophy. Jakub shared, “On one hand we want to achieve goals, and… we also wanted something where employees can be a part of the solution and we can all build on the culture that we have. OKR seemed like the right solution for us.”
To implement OKRs, VanKing decided to use a consultant. First, the company deployed OKRs with spreadsheets, and their consultant determined after one quarter that they should move to an OKR software. Their consultant conducted his own research and recommended Profit.co.
Implementing OKRs & Profit.co
From day one with OKRs, employees at most levels were using the methodology. While VanKing didn’t go too deep into implementing the solution with individual employees, they ensured that the management team across all departments used OKRs. So, from the beginning, about forty people within the company were using the methodology. Jakub found that everyone within the quarter was eager to learn about it and use it.
Jakub acknowledged that the OKR methodology was one that required a shift in company culture– he made a point to emphasize to his team that the first quarter with OKRs was dedicated to getting used to the framework. The key for their successful adoption was that they took the process slowly, and didn’t put too much pressure on employees– they wanted them to feel that they were a part of the decision to use OKRs, and that it wasn’t just an idea from the executive team, “We wanted them to be part of the process, part of the system, and part of the methodology.”
Jakub also emphasized that VanKing made it clear to employees that there were no repercussions for setting OKRs incorrectly, or not reaching targets in that first quarter– the idea was only to get everyone comfortable with the methodology. This sense of “psychological safety” helped employees avoid unnecessary stress and commit themselves wholeheartedly to ambitious OKRs. As a result, there was a high participation rate, and everyone felt at ease, giving the team time to explain the benefit of the framework, discuss it, and talk out any doubts. Contextualizing the decision to use OKRs and emphasizing that employees were safe from repercussions if they didn’t meet their ambitious goals was the key to a successful OKR implementation.
VanKing just ended their fourth quarter using Profit.co. Jakub told us that their experience using this software was great, sharing that “Some products are just good, and it works! And that’s the case with Profit.co.” VanKing used the online training for users, and implemented the software step by step. Jakub shared that VanKing was a tech-savvy company already, so handling an intuitive software such as Profit.co was easy for his team, “We only needed one or two trainings per group to have it adopted.”
First, they used Profit.co alongside their spreadsheets, and then moved to sole use of Profit.co over the course of a quarter, which was easier and more organized then using an Excel spreadsheet. The team found the use of both the online platform and the mobile platform very intuitive. Jakub shared that “If you use other applications, whether it’s Google or Apple… it’s going to be very easy for you to adopt Profit.” Furthermore, Jakub couldn’t remember needing to contact support for any issues with the Profit, saying “It’s always worked, it’s always worked well… the experience is better than most of the other software I use as a consumer.”
Results & Benefits
Jakub also shared that the company has seen optimistic results while using OKRs and Profit.co. VanKing has managed to organize themselves and set and achieve realistic goals. Jakub referenced the grueling and involved process of creating a new price list, which the company successfully completed with the help of OKRs, “Before OKRs, I would have very strong doubts about if we could actually manage it, but thanks to OKRs and a very clear roadmap of what we need to achieve… I think we’ve succeeded and the project was finished in one quarter.”
Jakub shared that Profit.co and OKRs have also helped VanKing manage the growth that the company is experiencing, and helped them bridge the gap between their strategy and the execution of those ideas. “The company has grown a lot each and every year, yet it was a little blurry as to who is responsible for what and what are the deadlines, and now OKRs allow us to… hold ourselves accountable for what we plan and what we do and how we execute it.” Jakub shared that there’s very little oversight– they let the employees work with OKRs themselves. OKRs have enabled VanKing to track and achieve their goals, fill the gap between strategy and execution, and hold people accountable for their responsibilities.
From the leader’s perspective, Jakub feels that the team at VanKing now has a clear understanding of top company goals and the actions they’re taking to achieve those goals. While it’s relatively easy to detail a strategy, executing that strategy can be difficult. The company put a lot of focus on achieving great execution, and using both top-down and bottom-up alignment. Jakub shared that the software was both intuitive and easy to use– support from Profit.co wasn’t needed, and Jakub shared that it was “seamless”. OKRs helped draw attention to things that they wouldn’t normally define a target for, but were still important to the company’s growth– such as onboarding new clients.
When asked how Profit.co has impacted the company as a whole, Jakub shared the “Managers have a tool which clearly shows what are their priorities, what are they doing, and what have they achieved… If anyone has received too many tasks and is overwhelmed with work, that’s clear in the system as well.” Jakub feels there’s been more participation from managers since the company began using Profit.co.
Additionally, the OKR framework as a whole has had a large impact in VanKing, with Jakub saying, “OKRs have disciplined us to prioritize and pursue only the most important development projects. The discipline of planning and execution of our goals… it has a huge role in the overall business success of our company.”
Finally, we wanted to know how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected VanKing and their experience with Profit.co during this time. Jakub shared that Profit.co certainly helped during the remote work that took place, and that he and his colleagues were able to better track what was going on in the company without the need to hop on a Zoom or phone call. Since about 95% of the company had always worked in one location and in one office, communication tools weren’t in place. Over the past year, even with the Covid-19 pandemic, the company’s EBITDA was up 35%– Jakub attributes some of this to the rise in demand, and to the culture that the company has created surrounding OKRs. Jakub shared that OKRs have “been a great tool to control what’s going on and exchange information without the need for a meeting.”