When Leanne Beesley joined Giggster, she had one primary mandate—lead the company’s rollout across the United Kingdom and Europe and scale the business to be international.
It wasn’t an easy mission. Although the filming locations and event venue platform startup had a US presence, Beesley had to start from scratch in Europe. The company was founded in 2017 when serial tech entrepreneur Yuri Baranov got a knock on the door of his Los Angeles mansion. He came face to face with a woman who had been location scouting, and asked Baranov, “Listen, before you moved into your house, I saw it on a property website last year. I know what your backyard looks like. Can we offer you $75,000 for a weekend to film one scene for CSI Miami?”
“He was like, hang on a minute, what is this industry, where there is so much money at stake, and there’s someone knocking on my door in the hot LA sun?” Beesley recounted. Realizing the apparent gap in the location booking market, Baranov launched Giggster. Nowadays, the company is known as “the Airbnb for filming locations,” and is infamous for reportedly listing the Montecito estate owned by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (the listing was supposedly taken down once media reports began to circulate.)
Beesley recognized the potential that the UK and the rest of Europe posed for the company. But she needed a tool to get started, identify the most significant priorities, and stay on track without getting distracted. Enter OKRs.
OKRs and accelerating growth
Before becoming Giggster’s Europe General Manager, Beesley co-founded a global online marketplace platform (which has since been acquired). “It was a similar business model to what I’m doing for Giggster,” Beesley explained. However, it was also Beesley’s first experience managing people and working in a high-growth startup. "As I started scaling the team and scaling the company, honestly, I felt a bit overwhelmed. I wasn’t from a business background.” She recalls being unsure of where to even start.
Two and a half years into founding the company, Beesley stumbled across Andrew Grove’s “High Output Management,” and discovered OKRs. One of her biggest takeaways from reading that book was that as a founder, the collective output of her team was her responsibility, and that OKRs can act as a tool to accelerate that output.
“As soon as I worked with the team to implement OKRs, our growth just skyrocketed,” Beesley says. Within a year, their revenue increased by 2628%. Before the company used OKRs, she said that it sometimes felt like each team was building “separate houses.” They all had their individual quarterly plans that weren’t always necessarily connected to a cohesive vision. OKRs allowed the teams to create plans that moved them forward toward a common goal, says Beesley. “So we created a really strong foundation for success by laying the bricks together to build one epic mansion.”
“As a founder, I felt so much relief. We had this clarity, we had this roadmap, and it was like a weight was off my shoulder.” Seeing the positive results, Beesley admits she “felt like an idiot" that she hadn’t discovered OKRs sooner. “It would have made our growth a lot quicker at the start, and it would have relieved me so much more as a founder.”
A framework for growth and tool for scaling a business
Armed with that experience, Beesley turned to the tool to kick off Giggster’s expansion in the UK and Europe. Even though the company doesn’t use OKRs across the whole organization yet (they are looking into adopting it in the next quarter), she still felt it was the best tool that would allow the company to hit its goals for scaling overseas.
Before setting her OKRs, Beesley hashed out the company’s expectations for Europe with Giggster’s CEO, Tyler Quiel. Based on data and the company’s performance in the US, they created a roadmap of where they wanted Giggster Europe to be in a year. From there, she looked at what departments of the company needed to have a separate European division to meet those targets and made plans for each of them. Those departments include marketing, product, search engine optimization (SEO), and a ‘concierge’ division, which takes care of relationships with major studios like Netflix and Hulu.
Based on those plans (which range from as short as five pages and as long as 36 pages), Beesley then set the OKRs for Europe and specific ones for each department. One objective she shared for the SEO division, for example, is “to be known as the number one platform to find and book filming locations in the UK.” The key results of that objective are as follow:
Beesley stresses the importance of setting key results beyond numerical outcomes (such as ranking filming location pages in the top 10), because those outcomes don’t often happen until two or three quarters later. In most cases, the outcomes are also something that people have very little control over. Yet Beesley feels that when one is just getting started with OKRs, it can be easy to fall into the trap of setting only outcome-based key results. At the end of the day, “OKRs are a planning framework to help you move forward faster and with more clarity, and get everyone on the same page to move together towards a common goal.” Achieving a long-term goal often requires a mixture of outcome-based KRs, and those based on inputs (such as creating a blog post) and outputs (like having 10 plus backlinks to the filming location pages).
A North Star for achieving what matters
Of course, working towards a long-term goal is rarely a straightforward journey. Beesley has also found value in seeing OKRs as a north star when it comes to determining day-to-day priorities. Sometimes, there is a need to deviate from your OKR or push back the timeline on an objective. “A great opportunity might come, something might break, or something might change,” she says.
Beesley found herself with such questions when a significant opportunity presented itself after she had decided on the quarterly OKRs. “I had created my business development plan for the quarter, but then we had the opportunity to collaborate with a major cinematography magazine with over 20,000 subscribers. It was quite a large opportunity, it would have involved some tech work on our part that I hadn’t scoped for. If I want to bring in this new project, it probably means I’m going to have to drop some of my other stuff because we don’t have unlimited developers.”
“In those situations, you really just have to reflect,” says Beesley. “Is that change in circumstance a big enough opportunity, a big enough issue that we have to address this quarter, or is it something that we can fix next quarter?" For Giggster, saying yes to the collaboration meant gaining a significant stream of additional revenue— a key focus for the European division. She decided to push the project forward even though it wasn’t in the initial OKR roadmap.
Beesley has one piece of advice for companies thinking of implementing OKRs, but isn’t sure how it might work for them: just start.
Far too many people get too caught up in figuring out the “best” way to do things when in reality, it’s all about trial and error, she says. The first time you do OKRs, you might find yourself falling short of your key results, she says. But rather than seeing it as a failure, it’s essential to take the opportunity to reflect. “Oh, we didn’t achieve this, why? Is it because of the OKRs we set? Were they too ambitious? Were they too vague? Were they not specific enough? You really just need to make mistakes along the way.”
She concludes, “But within a couple of cycles, you’ll have something that works really well for your whole team.”