James Maskell

5 Things I Want to Get Better at in 2013

02 January 2013

2012 was a year that I believe will turn out to be pivotal for me. I launched Vinetrade, converted our first customers, raised a round of funding, hired our first employees, made significant progress and suffered some setbacks.

The learning curve was steep, but having learnt by doing, I’m now in a position where I properly understand what it means to be an entrepreneur, to see opportunities, to build products and lead teams.

At the start of 2012 I didn’t have much direction, but I now have much clearer long term ambitions and goals (both for myself and Vinetrade) and a better knowledge of what I need to do in order to get there.

Below are five things that I believe I need to get better at, and which I plan to focus on in 2013.

1. Help others - public speaking / mentoring

I benefit a huge amount from events and talks given by others, blog posts I read, and most importantly, face to face advice.

I’m now in a position where I have a good amount of experience under my belt, and want to do more to help those who are where I was last year. I aim to do this by writing more regular blog posts, speaking at events (I’ll be speaking at Tomorrow’s Web in February) and also scheduling some time with those who would benefit from it.

2. Building a product

In 2012 I learnt how to do customer development, build out MVPs and a lot about the relationship between design, UX and development.

In 2013 I want to refine these skills. I want to do more customer development work, get MVPs and iterations released more quickly, and focus more on UX. I’ve been learning lots about agile processes and writing good user stories which have recently had a positive impact on product development.

I also want to get better at running tests and using metrics to make decisions. We currently track a range of stats - but could do much more and be better at analysing the data we have.

3. Managing teams

While I had some management experience from previous jobs and my first company, before Vinetrade I hadn’t had to go out and hire employees (especially the type whose skills are in high demand) and manage them on a daily basis. Not surprisingly I was very naive about what this involved (e.g. I thought posting job ads and being able to pay near market rate would generate a ton of applications - it didn’t).

This year I want to get better at finding good people (e.g. by attending meetups, building relationships with people in advance) and do a better job of supporting current team members (e.g. regular sit down meetings, highlight successes and tackle problems quickly).

4. Being decisive

One of our biggest problems in 2012 was an inability or slowness in making decisions. We’d often deliberate for weeks and often never make a change. In 2013 I want to be more focused and make decisions quickly.

This should mean that everyone is clear on the direction in which we’re heading, increased efficiency (wasted time has a significant financial cost) and hopefully faster growth.

I particularly want to put more effort in to making tougher decisions (e.g. major changes to our business model, a person’s position on the team) more quickly and be more confident in those decisions.

5. Managing my psychology

Startup life is all about the ups and downs. The ups give you a great high, the down days can be very hard to take. While I’d read a lot about this, I discovered for myself just how much of an emotional roller coaster being a startup founder can be. One notable thing that I learnt last year was how to take these emotional swings in my stride, remain calm and keep going.

This year I want to get better at stepping back and letting go, taking time out to rest (or getting a change of scenery) and switching off more often. It is easy to work long hours, to read emails the instant they arrive, and to do everything yourself. In reality this isn’t the case and my productivity and my ability to make decisions decreases the more time I spend working. I’d much rather put in 8 productive hours per day than 12 underproductive ones. It is the end goals that are more important than the specific route taken.

What are you going to focus on this year? Do you have any feedback on my resolutions?

Let’s discuss - I’m @jmaskell on Twitter or james@jamesmaskell.co.uk by email.