The Un-Buzzed Way to Build a Great Company

Aha! product management book

People are unhappy at work. That is obvious. In a recent post I strongly suggested that leaders have a responsibility — to treat everyone with respect, set a positive example for the team, and create a framework for what success looks like. But what happens when leaders do not own up to that responsibility?

We know what happens. You have seen the cringe-worthy headlines. Outbursts from ego-obsessed CEOs. Gross executive misconduct and institutionalized prejudice. Breaking the law to grow at any cost. Companies with billion-dollar valuations — yet no real revenue and high-pressure expectations to grow the business. No wonder so many people are miserable at work.

Success and integrity are not mutually exclusive. Achievement does not have to come at the cost of people. There is a gentler, saner way to build a company.

I know it is possible because the team at Aha! lives it every day. We are one of the fastest growing companies in the United States. And we are publishing a new book explaining our unconventional approach — how we built a high-growth business in a human-centric way.

We call the engine behind that growth “lovability.” (It is also the title of our book.) And it is nothing like the growth-at-all-costs thinking you see from startups today. Lovability puts value over hype, people on the same plane as profit.

Besides, relentless pursuit of money is not guaranteed to make you rich. In fact, research has shown that a cutthroat workplace could actually hurt your bottom line. And judging by the blistering headlines we have seen about toxic workplaces, I bet most of you who are reading this would agree with those findings.

No, love may not grab headlines. But it is the better way. It propels an organization forward with consistent growth and earnings — while also building sustainable happiness for everyone involved.

Here is what a lovable company looks like:

Old-fashioned
Our grandparents were not obsessed with super-fast growth and valuations. Their focus was on helping people and creating a company that would endure. Lovable companies embrace these same time-tested values. At Aha! we do this by building a product that we feel good about — software that helps product managers and their teams build better products. And we are dedicated to doing so with integrity.

Employees-first
It is possible to achieve both profit and happiness without hurting people in the process. When organizations adopt a “do anything for growth” mentality, they risk turning their employees’ lives into collateral damage. Lovable companies do the opposite. Instead, we prioritize employee joy, infusing them with greater meaning and purpose. The results? Employees who are happy, a culture that helps them grow, and the ability to attract and retain the best people.

Customer-centric
Too many founders and executives are so busy chasing dollar signs that they lose sight of how to build value for their customers. That is why lovable companies are always asking, What do our customers really need? It is a simple concept that many seem to forget — your job is to solve your customer’s problems. In return, customers will not only give you their loyalty, but they will also become your most powerful marketing asset.

Un-buzzed
Flashy startups and VC-backed darlings get a lot of buzz. But are they built to last? Are they loved by their employees and customers? Rarely. Lovable companies are immune to the buzz that constantly buffets the technology industry. You have to be un-buzzed — your focus is on building a company that can endure. That means your actions must be rooted in a thoughtful, meaningful approach that benefits everyone involved.

This gentler, saner approach can help you avoid the most common company-building traps — ego, hype, and self-delusion.

Sure, it might not mean a $100-million company valuation in 12 months. Steady, organic growth is also not likely to make headlines. But why do you need it to?

Lovability gives you the chance to do something much more powerful — build a company that is loved and will be meaningful for a very long time. That is how you create real value.

How do you practice #lovability at work?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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