When working in a business on a fast-track to growth, there’s plenty of room for improvement. The challenge, however, is road mapping a practical strategy to achieve the end goal. Insurtech company, Hyperexponential (hx) share the common challenges of fast growing start-ups – inconsistent focus, weak internal engagement,
and little-to-no structure for goal alignment and engagement.
Hyperexponential realized they needed a framework to manage rapid growth, drive focus, and coordinate goal-setting — three inhibitors to their success. Uniting the focus around these challenges would enable Hyperexponential to employ practical tactics for rapid growth. With OKRs, Hyperexponential improved lagging points in their business to prime for rapid growth. The company’s change to bottom-up goal setting, onboarding reformation, and remote team coordination through OKRs has prepared their organization for a successful scale.
Hyperexponential (hx) is a London-based insurtech company that has developed a SaaS pricing platform, Renew, aimed at insurers, data scientists, underwriters, and actuaries.
Founded and led by former actuaries, they have made it their mission to create the pricing software they always wanted when they were in the industry. In June 2021, hx closed $18 million in funding led by growth capital fund Highland Europe. Launched in 2017, hx now services a client base responsible for $50+ billion worth of premium.
The company is on an aggressive growth strategy, which includes planned expansion into the lucrative US market.
We spoke to Amrit Santhirasenan, co-founder and CEO of hx, about the decision to set off on the OKR journey and the experience to date.
What was your challenge?
We are building for the long term and growing extremely fast. We are no longer a small co-located team anymore, employing around 45 people to date (January 2022) in a remote hybrid structure, with plans to hit 100+ employees in 2022. Such growth demands greater focus, with coordinated, directed, and well-aligned goals.
How did your OKRs journey begin?
We’ve had a long journey with OKRs, beginning several years ago right after we started the company. One of the directors had read the book Measure What Matters by John Doerr. Unfortunately, we weren’t ready. Our initial run of OKRs turned into a list of things we identified to do… but then didn’t do. Our OKRs ran out of steam as we focused on the early development of the business. As we started growing in 2019-2020, we brought OKRs back to the business after identifying the risk of hx pulling itself apart. Managing 20 employees as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, we began to lose focus amid the growing stress and uncertainty.
We tried to start OKRs but we didn’t have a good set of goals. We needed help, which is where Auxin came in. Our initial chats involved working with the leadership team, getting buy-in, focus, and framing. Before cascading down to teams, we agreed on three principle goals, or Objectives:
- Prepare the organization for scale
- Earn the right for our customers to love us
- Hit and ideally exceed turnover expectations
Why did you choose AuxinOKR as a partner?
We recognized our need for coaching help. After a personal assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of coaching options, we chose AuxinOKR. AuxinOKR stood out for several reasons:
- They were the least cookie-cutter;
- They are a small consultancy;
- They appear transparent in how they work;
- We liked the composition of the people, as we place importance on people even in a tech-led environment.
What were the initial obstacles to implementing OKRs?
Our Key Results (KRs) were too top-down, lacking the driving and engaging elements needed in our teams. It seemed okay to set the Objectives at the top, but the KRs needed to be bottom-up. Most of the resistance has been in engineering. OKRs quickly became part of the daily life on the business side, among the account handlers, but engineering presented a different challenge. This manifested itself through being late in capturing data and subsequently missing targets. As we grow, some people have had bad experiences with OKRs. Some people lean on anti-establishment. We need to continue educating and communicating across teams.
After you’d set your initial OKRs, did you make any adjustments?
We’re still in the early days of our OKR journey. We have encouraged a more bottom-up focus on developing KRs. For our Objectives, we review every quarter and have added to the original three. A point of improvement for now and the future is our onboarding process. We’ve started well but the process doesn’t stop — it’s a continuous journey. hx is a rapidly growing business, and a growing business has growing pains. I would like to tighten our Objectives to better manage this.
How important is communication within a successful OKR roll-out?
I constantly assess communications across the business. It’s a priority and a considerable time commitment for me.
Effective communication is critical to a successful roll-out. We’re doing okay but we need to do better, especially as onboarding recruits become more important. We want people to understand OKRs — what they’re about and why we’re doing them. We want to increase accountability and the work that’s getting done. Better communications empower people, encourage ideas, and make hx a place where people enjoy their work.
Can you identify 3 key positive outcomes since embracing OKRs?
- Discipline: Doing tasks we didn’t want to do, but are important (onboarding data)
- Communication: Dialogue with conflict and tension help create better ideas
Alignment is also important, but as a business, that was our strong suit prior to OKRs.
What contribution has AuxinOKR made to your OKR journey?
AuxinOKR offers high-level impact and value, not a copy-paste playbook of conventional goals. They are challenging and make us focus on the ‘why?’
Now well into our journey, OKRs are making a difference. As we continue growing, they will only become more important. The insurance industry is experiencing unprecedented growth, with data and technology as critical strategic drivers. Our software is a must-have for new entrants in the sector. We provide tools to help clients go to market with best-in-class analytics, combined with the functionality that incumbent insurers require to transform.
Photo credit: Hyperexponential