Building customer success from the ground up

June 27, 2022

Building customer success from the ground up – an interview with Jerome Lefebre

Meet Jerome, our ultra-marathon-running, travel-loving, customer success manager. Described by his colleagues as the human embodiment of our culture here at AhoyConnect, his infectious positivity and love for life make him an inspiration to our team. 

In the first installment of our Humans of Ahoy interview series, we discuss his fascinating career journey so far, what motivated him to join Ahoy, and why bringing value to people through our work matters. 

So, Jerome, I understand you've had a rather unusual and interesting path to AhoyConnect. Let’s start at the beginning and work forward. Could you tell us about where you grew up and your early career? 

I was born and raised in Luxembourg. It's a very small country. My mom was born in Africa, my dad was born In Canada, then they met in Germany and moved to Luxembourg. So I come from a very diverse background. 

From an early age, I felt a need to escape the small borders of my home country. I spent a lot of weekends in Holland, Germany, and Belgium, and I ended up in a diverse circle of friends that were very wild. 

We would party every weekend. I could see myself getting in trouble. So when he was 18, I decided to take the train down to Strasbourg, to the office of the French Foreign Legion. I didn't really give it too much thought, but I felt like I needed to become something else than I was about to become. 

During the first couple of weeks, I remember thinking, “Did I do the right thing here?” I went from my parents’ house into this very cold environment where everybody was screaming at me all the time. 

But I think it was a great choice. Because when I look at the people I grew up with, some of them aren’t with us anymore. Others are in prison. I needed some structure and discipline.

Clearing landmines in Afghan highlands during Jerome's very first mission with the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment

Do you think the experience of joining the Legion has shaped the person you are today? 

Absolutely. It really helped me become a man, take responsibility, and grow up. During those times when you feel things can’t get worse, I now see these moments as opportunities, or as the start of something positive. 

“I like putting myself far beyond my comfort zone, and I try to see a lot of good things in a bad situation. This has helped me a lot. I have seen how some people live in third-world countries. I've seen a lot of really bad situations. So it makes me embrace life much more.”

I'm a very happy and active person. And without having spent five years in the Legion, I wouldn't be the person I am today. In fact, there’s a chance I wouldn’t even be a person at all.

After leaving the Foreign Legion, how did you take your first steps into the conventional world of work? 

I spent the first few months getting out of the military mindset and trying to re-socialize myself. I traveled a lot. And then I realized that with a high-school diploma, I wasn’t going to get very far. So I signed up at the University of Vienna to study business administration. 

Besides that, I started working during the holidays in a hotel. Once I got my degree, I was about to go and talk to the boss and resign, but he offered me the chance to become the restaurant manager. 

He just didn't want to let me go. So he offered me a house, a car, and five hours of work per day. He knew that I was an ultra marathon runner, so I could run the mountains during the day and work during the evening. So I said, “why not?” I didn't have any experience as a restaurant manager, but he didn't care. He loved the way I dealt with people and made them smile. 

It was a great experience, but after a while, I got fed up working when other people are off. So I decided to move on.

Jerome is an ultra marathon runner. This is him finishing a mountain race in Austria. 

What did you do next? How did you transition from the hospitality industry to the type of work you are doing today?

I ended up in Malta, where I got a support job in the iGaming industry. I started on the lower level of the chain, talking to a lot of gambling addicts who had lost money and were calling in to complain that the machines weren’t working correctly. 

That was a good start because I had to deal with a bunch of different mentalities while still being able to hit targets. But it was super tiring, having all these people screaming at you and absorbing all that negative energy. 

After two years, I got promoted to team lead. Then, later on, I was offered the country manager position. But one year into that job, I became tired of the industry. At some point, I started to ask, “What are we actually doing here?” We weren't selling any value. We were just taking people’s money. So I left. 

While living in Malta Jerome organized a charity bet against the president of Malta and ran around Malta covering the astounding distance of 110km

Did you carry on working in support? How did you eventually find your way eventually to AhoyConnect?

After spending some time in the Swiss Alps, I got a support job at Dropbox, based in Greece. This was my first job in the tech industry. And it was a good start, but Dropbox was already massive at that time, so a lot of the processes were already in place. 

I have a very creative mind. If you put me in a box where I’m not able to be creative or improve things, I get tired. At Dropbox, everything was set in stone. There wasn’t much room for improvement. So I decided to move on again. 

I found a job in Budapest just before COVID kicked off. After a few months, we had to shut down a lot of the support functionalities. I had to start firing people that I didn't even know yet. That hurt a lot. 

I didn't sign up just to fire people, so I left and moved to Paris, where I got a job in the FinTech industry. There was a nice remote-work policy there. But as COVID eased up, they decided to introduce these back-to-the-office policies. 

I was living on the outskirts of Paris, next to a river. We had a nice little house with a garden. It was beautiful – exactly like in a movie. But they wanted me in the office three times a week. I had to travel on a packed metro full of unfriendly people. I like my personal space, so I realized this wasn’t going to work for me.  

After that experience, I was looking for a fully remote role, and that's when I got in touch with Kacper and Tomas. They told me all about this amazing community intelligence platform. I had no idea what it was all about at first, but we had such amazing talks. So I decided to jump in.  

Was there anything in particular that motivated you to join AhoyConnect? There are so many opportunities out there. Why did this one stand out? 

I could see that the founders are just so passionate about what they are building here. And when I see people doing something with all their heart, with everything they have – I want to be a part of it. 

On top of that, it was the opportunity to set everything up from scratch. I joined as the first customer success manager, and there was no CX team at all. So I was in the right place to get into this creative mindset and set up everything in the most efficient way.

“If you want to do something, you can do it. Tomas gave me all this responsibility and told me, ‘If you think it's good for Ahoy, go for it.’ I love this approach. It makes things so much easier, and we can move forward so much faster.”

I think that was one of the reasons why they chose me. They don't have time for micromanagement, so they needed somebody who could make decisions. 

Could you tell us what an average day looks like for you as Ahoy’s one-and-only customer success manager?

I’m an early bird. When I wake up, I check if anything has come in from the Americas or Australia. I check our Slack channels, look into any comments, and then I start connecting with some of our existing customers. 

I also look into our engineering team’s Slack channels to see what releases we are planning.  I keep our knowledge base up to date and make sure all changes have been documented. Then I connect with all our internal teams.  

I work closely with our product team, making them aware of all the feedback I have gathered from our customers. I also work closely with the sales team as well, who hand over new clients for me to onboard. Then I have regular syncs with the marketing team. 

I think we’ll definitely look to grow the CX team soon, allowing us to provide support over multiple time zones more effectively. I cover most of Europe, but having someone who could take care of America would definitely help. 

Jerome presenting at the AhoyConnect's offsite at Mallorca in October 2021. 

You mentioned earlier that you left a job because you realized you weren't bringing any real value to people. Does your role here in customer success tick that box? 

Definitely. I think the COVID pandemic showed us how important digital communities are. And they will only get more important in the future. In order to keep these communities as 

healthy as possible, we need to give community managers and teams the best tools and support. 

It's not just that we want them to grow the numbers. We also want community members to be as protected as possible.

“With the direction we are moving in, we will be perfectly placed to provide a tool that helps teams worldwide build communities that are healthy and vibrant. That’s one of the key drivers for me to be in this position in this industry.”

You have been described by your colleagues as an inspiration, the heart of the company, and a living embodiment of the AhoyConnect culture. What do you make of those comments? 

I feel very honored that people see me that way. The success of the product is important, but I also feel that internal communities are important too. And if we all do our bit to keep the Ahoy team connected, it will also help the Ahoy brand. This is how we’ll project ourselves to our customers and partners. 

In this digital, remote world, it's very important to keep the company together. And I love 

playing my part. I love using Slack to the fullest. I like having fun together. I think having fun is vital to keeping attrition low and engagement high. 

AhoyConnect has been remote-first from day one. What are the benefits and challenges of working this way?

Being fully remote suits me perfectly. I love to travel, and I’m able to work effectively while moving from place to place. So the remote-first approach at Ahoy allows me the freedom to live the life I want to live while performing at my best. 

I have a place in Sardinia, for example, but my girlfriend lives in Barcelona. I can easily spend my time between the two places. I love the freedom of it. I can see the world without having to sacrifice holidays.

One of the biggest challenges for me is finding a stable internet connection to be able to maximize the opportunities that remote work offers. The connection in Sardinia can sometimes be unreliable. 

I'm really looking forward to Elon Musk's Starlink and being able to put it on my mobile phone instead of just having this static line. That would give us a whole range of options. I mean, you could hire a boat and work from the middle of the ocean. That would be amazing. 

Working and chilling by the pool at the company offsite.

What has been your best Ahoy memory so far? 

There are so many, but if I had to choose, I would say the Mallorca retreat. It was right at the start of my time in the company, and I got to meet all the engineers who are helping me on a daily basis. We had a few beers and played ping pong. That was a great start for me. 

I can't wait to see these people again and spend some quality time with them. Despite being a fully remote company, I think these moments are crucial in keeping the team together.

What would you say to anyone thinking about joining AhoyConnect?

Just go for it. You will be able to make a real impact. The team will set you 

up with all the knowledge you need to know, then you get a lot of room for creativity. There's no micromanagement here. 

“Most teams work asynchronously, which means you have full flexibility. You can plan your day around your capabilities, preferences, and personal circumstances.” 

And the team is amazing. We have some really talented people here. I'm not going to mention anyone because I don't want to leave anyone out, but everybody on this team is pulling in the same direction. 

On top of that, the stuff that is happening this year is crazy. We are really going to make a difference in the market. I'm not going to say anything against our competitors, but brace yourselves, Ahoy is coming! 

Our yet tiny team back in October 2021 at Mallorca. 

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