Did Everyone Deserve a 10 Percent Raise?

Together in Key Largo, FL for our bi-annual company meeting | Photo by Aha!

March 22, 2022

Did Everyone Deserve a 10 Percent Raise?

by Brian de Haaff

Freedom is being able to do what you think is right. Many folks have emailed me with their thoughts on the principles we outlined in our recent announcement of the Bootstrap Movement — anchoring purpose, maintaining freedom, cherishing value, avoiding waste, honoring truth, and sustaining growth. Although some beliefs resonated more with certain people, everyone I have spoken with is energized by the overarching themes of integrity and building sustainably.

The ability to stay true to your values and lead with authenticity is one of the greatest benefits of adopting a bootstrap mindset.

My co-founder Dr. Chris Waters and I have always tried to put people, performance, and profit first. Being 100 percent bootstrapped, Aha! was able to evade the typical constraints that most VC-funded tech companies face. And we were able to embrace the freedom of building differently — from working entirely remote and not hiring salespeople to giving back generously to our communities.

One way that we celebrate the Aha! team’s performance is through profit sharing. This program began with the very first teammate we hired in 2014. Until recently, these direct payments were made once a year. But a little while ago, we decided to split profit-sharing into two payments so that folks could enjoy the results of their hard work even more regularly.

And truly, people have been working hard. The last few years of global upheaval and crisis took a toll on many industries. But we were fortunate to experience an incredible uptick in demand for our product development software. The breadth of digital investments that companies are making, the growth of product teams, increased emphasis on strategic planning, and the shift to remote work created a huge tailwind behind our business.

What happens when you put people, performance, and profit first? You have the ability to align all three.

The team’s massive effort and the company’s continued growth deserved recognition. (You may have seen the news that Aha! is now a $100-million business.) So a few months ago, we surprised the team by giving every employee, regardless of tenure, a 10 percent increase on their base salary. Chris and I announced it during our weekly all-hands meeting. People were wide-eyed when they heard the news and thrilled when it settled in. And yes, everyone deserved it.

Of course, Aha! is not the only company evaluating whether annual salary increases work in today’s environment. This is a competitive job market and we are all experiencing increased inflation. But unlike many companies, we had the freedom to make an unfettered decision to increase company-wide compensation immediately. There was no one else to convince that this was right or to get approval from.

This is an example of what the Bootstrap Movement is all about. We often talk about the importance of creating value over valuation. That focus on value is what really pays. And when there is an opportunity to create and share more of it — you go ahead and do so.

Curious what it is like to work at a bootstrapped company? Find out now — Aha! is hiring across all departments.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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