10 Surprising Lessons From Our First Year at Aha!
August 20, 2019

10 Surprising Lessons From Our First Year at Aha!

by Brian de Haaff

Woo-hoo! Time to celebrate. You just reached the one-year mark at your company and things are going great. But no one else seems very excited about your milestone. Your manager and co-workers are silent, and it just seems like a regular day at work. You begin to wonder if anyone even notices all you have done — let alone appreciates it.

Our team at Aha! takes a different approach. We see work anniversaries as a valuable opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments and reflect on all we have learned.

We take these anniversaries very seriously. In fact, we have our own name for them — “Aha!nniversaries.” The entire company gets together over video to celebrate, and teammates share a favorite memory from the past year. We also commemorate anniversaries over chat, with pictures and a heartfelt message so that everyone can give congratulations and share their support with emojis.

Each teammate also has an annual check-in with their manager to talk about the last year and identify areas to focus on going forward. Both teammates and managers invest a lot of time and thought into preparing for this because it is a valuable opportunity to grow.

I recently asked a few team members to share what they learned in their first year at Aha! — the answers were insightful. These are product and marketing experts, some with decades of experience building and marketing software. Even still it was truly humbling to hear their reflections.

Here is what they learned after their first year working at Aha! — from best practices to team spirit:

Strategy guides all
“So many organizations do not tie their product and product marketing plans to company goals and initiatives. But if your work is not aligned with strategy, it is difficult to know what to prioritize — or what success even looks like. Helping our customers connect their plans and goals in a single system of truth revealed just how impactful strategy really is. A goal-first approach is your best path to achievement.” — Amy Woodham, Customer Success

Responsiveness counts
“Our entire team follows what we call The Responsive Method (TRM). This is a framework for how we approach interactions with customers and teammates. Giving quick feedback or offering an opinion on a potential feature enables everyone to complete their own work faster. And rapidly fixing an issue or implementing a suggestion helps customers get on the right track super fast (and often blows their minds).” — Austin Merritt, Product & UX

Customer experience matters
“When I joined the Customer Success team, I quickly saw the value of focusing on the Complete Product Experience (CPE). This encompasses all the surrounding customer touch-points of a product, such as go-to-market communications, help documentation, and a comprehensive support channel. Optimizing each component of the CPE is how you grow a world-class product.” — Tahlia Sutton, Customer Success

Work on what you build
“Understanding how people actually use the product you are building is key to delivering something great. Every single team at Aha! uses Aha! to build plans and complete our daily work. This intimate knowledge of how our software functions helps us empathize with our customers and build a product that users love. Many of the fixes and enhancements we ship daily are suggested by cross-functional teams within the company.” — Ron Yang, Product & UX

Workflows are crucial
“To deliver meaningful updates to customers nearly every week, you need excellent collaboration between product management, engineering, marketing, and other teams. We have incredibly well-defined processes so that everyone knows exactly what needs to happen to sustain our weekly go-to-market cadence. This builds trust with our customers, who see that we are committed to continuously improving our application and giving them the best experience possible.” — Claire George, Marketing

Communication is everything
“Working with an entirely remote team, you quickly have to become a masterful communicator. This is not just about the words you choose — although distilling the concept that you want to convey down to its essence is a good exercise and shows your teammates that you value their time. (No one likes reading a novel when a sentence would do.) More than words though, it is about understanding who will be impacted by your work and what they need to know to prepare and contribute. It takes a holistic mindset.” — Molly Jane Quinn, Marketing

Bigger is not better
“We deliver new functionality to customers every single week. It can be tempting to want to increase scope and include every suggestion or use case. But making a feature more sophisticated does not necessarily make it more lovable. Sometimes you have to turn down ideas to focus on exactly what is needed to accomplish your goals and serve your customers well.” — Nathaniel Collum, Product & UX

Questions get answers
“If you do not understand what motivates people, you cannot deliver true value. I learned to ask questions and then take the time to understand what customers, teammates, and executives are really asking for in their answers. This is how you help others and cultivate a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.” — Jennifer Bloom, Customer Success

Transparency equals speed
“Our software makes it possible for teams to collaborate easily. It still amazes me that I can view my teammates’ tasks, goals, work boards, and mockups! When you have this level of visibility, you can move faster on your own work — no more waiting until next week’s status meeting to find out who has done what.” — Bryan McCarty, Marketing

Kindness always wins
“Throughout my career, I was told that I needed to be more aggressive to be a successful product manager. But that never felt like me. Thankfully, Aha! values kindness. We may not agree, but we take the time to listen to each other’s perspective — which results in an even better product and a happier team.” — Julie Price, Product & UX

Even past that first year in a new role, there is always more to learn and ways to incorporate those lessons into your future work.

If you want to gain more skills and expand your knowledge, take time to regularly think about what you have learned and how you have contributed. You might commit to doing this exercise every year or six months — even if your company does not have a formal program like Aha! does. What is important is that you incorporate a routine of reflection into your work.

You can then use your learnings to define your goals and plan what you will accomplish over the next period of time. This is how you maintain momentum over the long term and move forward in a thoughtful, meaningful way.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned at work?

Help your team do great things — sign up for a free trial of Aha!

Brian de Haaff

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

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