In his blog, Roope Heinilä, CEO of Smarp, shares his learnings from a decade of managing a successful company. Read this blog post to find out what Smarp's growth looked like from the driver's seat and what predictions can be made for the company's future.Last month Smarp turned 10. I can’t believe it has already been a decade since we started Smarp in our student apartment with two of my classmates. Back then, Smarp was something completely different than it is today, and to be honest, I could not have imagined that ten years later, we would be working on multiple continents and with many of the world’s largest enterprises! I want to thank all of the current and former Smarpers, partners and most of all our customers for getting us this far. Long gone are the days of having to eat the same microwave lasagne every day or asking new team members to bring their own laptops not because of a fancy BYOD policy, but instead to save money. While looking back at these memories is always pleasant, I have to say that I am happy we survived and outgrew that stage 😊
Over the past decade, we have seen Smarp evolve from a dorm-room consulting company to creating not just one, but two completely new enterprise software categories first in “employee advocacy” and later in “employee communications”. Creating a new category is never easy as in the beginning you need to create demand by educating the market on the category and its benefits which is especially hard with limited resources. It has sometimes felt we are a few steps too far ahead of where the market is and while that may well be true, it is a damn lot more exciting than being a few steps behind! Overall, taking on this challenge of creating new categories has been one of the most rewarding experiences of the first decade.
Our Journey so far
After a few hard years of barely getting by and a failed first product (a story for another day), we launched the world’s first employee advocacy platform in early 2013. The initial product was fairly simple but the idea of turning employees into brand advocates utilizing social networks was revolutionary in that it created a whole new market that today has grown into a megatrend especially for large enterprises. The subject was even covered on BBC World News in 2014 as we were just getting started.
But defining one new category was not enough for us. We saw that there was something more we could help with that would shape the employee experience of the future by bringing consumer-grade communications to the enterprise. We realized the platform we had originally built for employee advocacy could be expanded to create a new way for companies to reach their employees with targeted and personalized communications through a variety of channels instead of requiring employees to actively go out to look for information or relying solely on email. Thus was born the category of “employee communications” that we launched together with G2 in 2019.
What has enabled us to grow and define these categories has been the team we have built over the decade and the people who have taken part in it along the way. Having a strong and supportive team is the most important part of being able to run the marathon and not just the sprint. Hiring and developing our people is still the single most important task we play as that defines our team which in turn defines our business.
Today, we are lucky to get to work with some of the world’s largest enterprises powering their employee communications and advocacy programs. Our customers are at the center of everything we do and we are proud to get to work with them. One of the parts I am most proud of has been how our customers stay with us as I see it as a validation of the value we create and how our technology and team can support them in achieving their business goals.
For me, the first 10 years have above all been about learning. Not just about learning new skills but also learning how to think and reflect in a constantly changing environment. The ability to take in new information while admitting and learning from mistakes is essential to growing at the fast pace a scale-up requires. The pace only accelerates as the company grows which also means the pace of learning needs to accelerate with it to be successful in the next stage.
It is an incredibly exciting time to be working in employee communications and advocacy as the sudden change to work from home has forced companies to rethink how they communicate and engage with their employees. While we all hope we can get back to more normal circumstances soon, I believe this change in modernizing employee communications is here to stay.
With a decade of experience under our belts, we are uniquely positioned to help enterprises in this sudden change and not just manage and be successful during the pandemic, but also after in the “new normal”. We will keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible and looking for new ways to provide even more value to our customers while safeguarding the culture that has enabled us to get to this point. While the first decade was quite a ride, the next one is shaping out to be even more exciting!