Remote Work At Aha!
* As of December 2019
Aha! Remote Company Q&A
Brian de Haaff, Co-founder & CEO - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
Aha! is the world’s #1 roadmap software. We are one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. — thousands of the world’s best-known companies trust Aha! to build and market products customers love.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Aha! was built on the promise and premise of remote work. We have been an entirely distributed company from day-one, and we now have team members working in locations throughout the U.S. and a few international locations too. Our team is rapidly expanding to meet customer demand for our roadmapping software.
We have a framework for success that we pioneered and named The Responsive Method (TRM). It is centered around the belief that interactions with urgency are what propel people and organizations forward. TRM helps our team work from where they are happiest while still staying on track towards our ultimate goal — to create real value for customers and sustainable happiness for the team.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
Productivity and sustainable happiness. Remote work helps us to be more productive — there are no noisy offices to contend with. And we have the freedom to be available for our family, friends, and other passions without dealing with a life-sucking commute.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
Aha! has never had an office of any size. Employees around the world continue to work from home or other locations of their choosing. While that has helped us grow by reducing our overhead, remote work also gives us access to a larger, deeper pool of talent. We aspire to make employees’ lives better, and inviting them to work with Aha! without asking them to relocate is powerful proof of our sincerity. Remote work means we do not disqualify skilled, values-driven people based on geography.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
Twice a year, the entire company gathers in a destination travel location for a week. We call these “onsites.” This is our opportunity to look back at the last six months and plan for what is ahead. We also take the time to explore our surroundings, volunteer together, and share gratitude for one another over some fantastic dinners.
Spending time with the team face-to-face is invaluable. The bonds we create during onsites are strong — but our meaningful connections do not come from the onsites alone. We consciously work to develop these relationships throughout the year.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
The principles of a successful working relationship with remote teammates do not differ that much from any other relationship. You have to be responsive, goal-oriented, and kind.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
Aha! currently offers 15 days of paid time off to all teammates in their first year and 20 days in the following years, as well as 10-12 holidays. We also offer one paid volunteer day each year so teammates can help support an organization in their community.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
We did not implement a remote work policy. Building a distributed company was our intention from the start. Dr. Chris Waters (my co-founder) and I wanted to leverage the lessons we learned from our 20-plus years working in Silicon Valley. We knew that we could build a wildly successful product and company remotely — if we hired the right people.
Can a remote-friendly company have a healthy culture?
It absolutely can. Just like a company located in an office can have a dysfunctional culture. The key to any healthy culture is having everyone focused on the same shared goals — that is how deep connections are formed.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Just because a distributed organizational structure has worked well for us, it may not be the right decision for everyone. Always begin with the end in mind. Starting with your strategy, ask yourself what you want your product and organization to achieve. If remote work ultimately lines up with your vision and goals, then it might be worth investigating further.
The other advice I would give is that not everyone is cut out for remote work. Hiring the right people is crucial for a high-performing remote team.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
Aha! is growing more rapidly than any other company that I have founded or worked for. Chris and I founded Aha! because we believed so deeply in its need to exist — and we have been humbled by its growth and success. From the very start, it has been obvious that product and marketing managers share the same pain that we experienced when trying to build and market great products.
That growth is terrific — but it also presents challenges. The biggest challenge with rapid growth is ensuring that new team members internalize the purpose of the company and feel connected to its past and future. We also want them to build meaningful connections with their colleagues. This is why we get the entire team together twice a year.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
Remote work has become much easier now that there are so many tools to help teams stay connected and collaborate. We of course do most of our planning and work in Aha! itself. Since everyone is using the same tool, we have transparency into every aspect of the business.
We can manage cross-functional releases, prioritize features and activities, create reports, collaborate on text and documents in real time, crowdsource ideas, and assign to-dos. Anyone can see what their colleagues are working on. This builds trust and cuts down on confusion. We also use other tools like Slack and GoToMeeting for messaging and video meetings.
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
The best boss I ever worked for told me, “She with a plan wins.” I reiterate this statement to the team quite often — it reinforces how important it is to always begin by asking, “Why?”
That statement is the essence of Aha! — we want our software to help businesses define where they are going by starting with strategy. That is how lovable products are born.