2017

Was 2017 brachte…

Wow: Mein letzter Beitrag im Blog ist tatsächlich vom Januar 2017, seitdem erschien auf diesem Blog kein einziger Artikel. Zeit für ein Update…

Ich habe 2017 fast ausschließlich an meinem Island Blog gearbeitet, welches sich auch entsprechend gut entwickelt hat. Seitdem hat sich auch die Island App sehr gut gemacht, was mich besonders freut.

Dieses Blog wird dann wohl in der Zukunft wieder viel mehr zu meinem persönlichen Blog. Vielleicht erscheinen hier auch wieder mehr Einträge, sollte ich mal wieder privat verreisen. Mal schauen. Für 2018 habe ich ehrlich gesagt noch gar keine wirklichen Pläne.

Was das Jahr 2017 bringen würde…

…fragte ich im Januar in diesem Beitrag. Ich wollte das ein bisschen für mich etablieren um zu schauen wie gut ich darin bin die Zukunft zu antizipieren bzw. besser darin zu werden. Die meisten Annahmen habe ich einigermaßen vorsichtig getroffen, dachte ehrlich gesagt sie wären auch recht offensichtlich. Schauen wir mal:

Annahme 1: Die Aktien von US-Amerikanischen Autobauern werden im Schnitt im Dezember mindestens 20% mehr wert sein als im Schnitt im Januar

Ford: 12,56 –> 12,76 (+1,6%)
GM: 35,99 –> 42,79 (+18,9%)
Chrysler: 10,42 –> 17,61 (+69%)

Selbst ohne Tesla (+29%) kann man also getroßt sagen: Das passt.

Der Dow Jones hat im gleichen Zeitraum 23% zugelegt, die Autobauer haben da also gut outperformed.

Ob man das jetzt Trump zuschreiben kann (muss): Weiß ich nicht.

Annahme 2: Rocket Internet wird zwei Beteiligungen erfolgreich an die Börse begleiten. Lieferheld im ersten Halbjahr, Home24 oder Westwing im Zweiten

Done. Ich hatte zwar mit den Möbel-companies gerechnet, aber darum ging es mir gar nicht.

Rocket hat seine Ziele da gut erreicht und auch wenn man „erfolgreich“ nochmal zerfleischen will: DH hat seit Börsengang gute 30% gemacht. HF bekommt gerade Rückenwind von den Analysten und viele haben die Position im US Markt nicht ausreichend auf dem Schirm IMHO.

Annahme 3: Ein Bitcoin wird über 1500$ wert sein

Wow. Boy, was I right! …oder auch nicht.

Als ich die Annahme aufgeschrieben habe, lag ein BTC bei ca. 800$ und hatte im Dezember Höchststände von über 20.000$. Ich kenne derzeit 2 Menschen, deren BTC Konten mittlerweile siebenstellige €-Werte ausweisen.

Schade, dass ich nicht so recht an die Nachhaltigkeit dieses extremen Wachstums geglaubt habe und viel zu früh ausgestiegen bin.

Annahme 4: Die AFD wird bei der Bundestagswahl im September die viertstärkste Partei, direkt nach den Grünen. Die Regierungskonstellation bleibt Schwarz-Rot mit Merkel als Kanzlerin.

Wissen wir ja noch nicht, ob es wieder eine GroKo wird, aber tendenziell lag ich hier richtig: Die AFD ist sogar die drittstärkste Partei geworden.

Die Grünen mussten sich von FDP und Linken allerdings weit nach hinten schieben lassen. Die Piraten gibt es nicht mehr und ihre Wähler sind offenbar zur FDP gewechselt.

Annahme 5: Trumps approval ratings werden weit über 50% sein

Nunja, es sind 37%

Annahme 6: Android wird sich als das mobile Betriebssystem manifestieren

Man hat da oft die westliche Brille auf, aber weltweit hat Android heute einen Marktanteil von fast 90% und den Rest schnappt sich Apple. In Afrika, Indien, Asien ist Apple in den meisten Märkten quasi nicht existent.

Hier auf meinen Seiten verteilt es sich 50/50, was ich im Alltag nicht nachvollziehen kann: Ich sehe immer mehr Menschen mit Android Geräten. Höre immer öfter, dass Leute es mal ausprobieren und dann dabei bleiben.

Naja. Hier lag ich falsch, bin aber gespannt wie es weitergeht.

 

Fazit

4 von 6 würde ich mir mal als Treffer notieren. Bei den approval ratings lag ich krass daneben (gut!) und das mit Android ist mir zu schwammig.

Auch wenn ich bei Bitcoin richtig lag, habe ich leider nichtmal annähernd so stark davon profitiert wie ich es gewollt hätte. Ich habe im Jahresverlauf BTC, ETH und IOTA ge- und wieder verkauft: Bei allen wäre es besser gewesen sie langfristig zu halten.

Aktien hatte ich von Rocket, Zalando, Hellofresh und ein paar US Unternehmen. Auch hier habe ich jeweils zu früh verkauft und hätte länger halten sollen.

Als Trump gewählt wurde, habe ich alle Aktien verkauft. Das war mein größter Fehlgriff dieses Jahr und hat mich viele Gewinne gekostet. Ich finde es trotzdem traurig und irrational, dass die Aktienmärkte damals keinen großen Einbruch hatten.

 

Jetzt setze ich mich erstmal an den Artikel für 2018. Einen guten Rutsch euch allen!

Improve team performance… by breaking your team

You are leading a team of professionals, be it in online marketing, software development or in sales / operations and you get to that point where you either want to or have to improve team performance. Maybe your boss is telling you to or you realised it yourself.

If you’re a teamleader, chances are you have an analytical way of problem solving and probably an educational background that drives you towards analysing your team.

Another, less scientific approach could be: Make your team break down!

Why?

„A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.“

That saying is true in many ways: If you have a team of high performers and you bring in a low performer, then the team’s overall performance will tilt negatively. Example: If your buying team is composed of the best negotiators in the field but the guy who actually does the contracts is a corrupt asshole, then your overall buying performance will not be good.

It does not necessarily have to be about a person’s performance though, it could also be that your workflows are not optimal or that your processes are not well-defined. It could be because the compensation is not good enough to motivate for top performance or even that you as the manager have failed the team in leading the way.

How?

Define what you want to achieve. If you don’t know what your goal is, you’ll never get there.

Give your team assignments that can hardly be met, like double the deployment frequency, set a 50% lower max. price for buying, 100% more reach in advertising with 75% of the budget. Figure out some numbers, that even you think are basically impossible to meet and then: Lean back and watch closely.

With that I mean: Detach from the team. Be there for hard questions but do not join the team emotionally, do not struggle with them, don’t be empathic to their being overwhelmed. Focus on finding out, why that is the case: Is there too much private stuff involved in business cases? Are they struggling because they do not have a striving mindset anymore? Are they overwhelmed because you failed to be a good manager?

Example: I watched one of my teams struggle with being overwhelmed at one point. As much as I thought I could solve the problem with bringing in new tools, processes, motivational speeches and such, in the end I had to admit that I failed them as a manger: I had missed the point where the team had to be scaled up and then the workload was just too much.

(We managed to double the team size in a short time after that and got the team back on track.)

What you are looking for:

  • How is everybody dealing with the stress?
  • If the team finds an approach: Why does it succeed / fail?
  • What is the general attitude: Positive (Let’s do this!) or negative (We’ll never get there…)?
  • How is communication? Positive, negative? Does it change or stay the same?
  • Is the team willing to get out of their comfort zone, try new things?
  • Is the team willing to walk an extra mile?

When you decide to take this approach, give yourself some time before actually implementing it to study the team before. It’ll give you hints for comparison later.

What then?

„Twist the knife.“

If you have identified a specific problem within your team, then point it out, loud and clear. Like embarrassingly loud and unequivocally clear > Print it on a piece of paper, get the whole team into one room and put it on the wall. The enemy, the monster under the bed… for everyone to see!

Then you talk it through, you wrestle it down and you find a solution.

As soon as you have the solution, even if it is a very abstract one, you put it over the problem. Now the problem – something negative – has been replaced by a goal – something positive – and your team has something to strive towards. This is where your managing skills are required: Listen to your teams ideas, analyse what they need to achieve their goals and plan ahead how you can support them in doing so. This is where you can go ahead with what your work as a manager is really all about: Enable your team to achieve their goals! Fun!

Caution!

This is a harsh approach, please do not use it lightly! If you put your team on the edge, like you do here, it can easily lead to situations that are hard to handle. It can even lead to a team falling apart.

If you do want to approach it this way, work together with your HR department, closely! If there is even the slightest doubt, do not use this approach!

Don’t ever be an asshole about it, never refuse to help and never drag it to a personal or emotional level: All the goals have to be plain and simple and with a clear link towards business!

This is in no way an approach to develop your team in terms of team spirit, working surroundings or personal problems that your team members may be having: If on of the surounding factors is not in place, take care of that first!

Summary: Improve team performance

In a nutshell:

  1. Define goal of the attempt
  2. Set goals for the team, impossible to reach
  3. Detach and analyse
  4. Twist-the-knife workshop: Define the problem, find solution and set the path
  5. Be a good manager: Enable, motivate and support your team!

3 ways how you do not attract talent with your job offer

During the last two years I have recruited for a few companies and have been on interviewing marathons for many weeks. I have tried to master the art of finding good employees and have been able to land some good hires, thanks to my amazing HR teams. During this course, I also came across many, many fatal errors in recruiting and HR management, here are some of them:

(Obviously) bulk-hire for quantity

An ex colleague of mine once posted a job offer in a private forum that was headlined:

We are searching for 50 developers (PHP, Ruby, Python)

That, ladies and gentlemen, is an insult to everybody who is looking for a challenge. The only place where you will find excitment for a job offer like that is in a place where people are desperately searching for any job to pay their rent.

The way to destroy all excitement about any job offering is to make it look like your are just filling a gap, just searching for workforce. You take all the meaning out of a man’s or woman’s career if you make it look like something that just needs to be done. It is the single most unmotivating thing you can do in the long haul and it starts with job offers like that.

Ask the top dog to deliver quantity and do the dirty work

Programming – for example – is craftsmenship: You can learn it and almost everybody can do it, some way or the other. Software engineering is something different and has to do with creativity, experience and many forms of intelligence. To a developer, creating software is like creating a table for a carpenter: It can be done easily and you can do it in a few hours. You can make it look nice with a little more effort and you can even make it look amazing if you have a little bit of an artist in you.

Yet, if you want to create a masterpiece, you will go about it differently: You will research where to buy the finest wood. You will look at different techniques to handle it. You will talk to other people that work in your area of expertise and you will create a masterplan of a table and then you will either build it on your own or tell someone to do it for you, exactly the way you want it!

My point being: If you ask someone to build a table, just any table and he or she actually does it. Go on with your search!

Try to sell a job, that you don’t actually have

When the average person sees a job advert, they ask themselves:

Do I have what they want?

The approach that many companies go for is a different one: They look at what other companies that already hired excellent talent (Google, Faceook, etc.) can offer their employees and try to copy it. The assumption that will make this approach fail is, that the talents those companies hired were actually joining them because of those benefits. If you hire someone with the benefit of a kicker table in the office, fresh fruit every day and a coffee machine and you are successfull at it, then you are extremely lucky. Or the complete opposite, because that person was not very ambitious from the start.

Alongside that, many companie’s then try to create jobs that they actually do not have. They pretend to be searching for an IT architect when they really just want to hire a dozen developers. They say they are searching for someone ‚with analytical skills‘ when all they need is some poor schmuck to fill out speadsheets and do some adwords campaigning.

Talented people are not searching for a job, but they are looking for opportunities!

Summary

  1. Do not bulk hire, don’t search for  X developers or X writers
  2. Do not try to make smart people do boring or even stupid things
  3. Do not pretend to have a job opening for a postion that you actually don’t need to fill

Maybe in a few days there will be an article with some techniques that worked out quite well for me, so stay tuned!

Four big mistakes when building an IT team

So you are building a company, right now. You chose to do E-Commerce,  social media or something else. But no matter what you are founding: You’re gonna need an IT team for that. It doesn’t matter if you’re building a startup from the ground up or if you have entered an incubator or accelerator program: You’re most likely in desperate need of an engineering team to build your product.

I have been doing that for about three years now and here’s the top three mistakes that I saw people make in that process…

Hire experts that are divas, assholes or idiots

It is the single biggest mistake you can make and it is not even dependent on IT: If you hire top-down and there is an asshole on top, there will be assholes in the middle and at the bottom very soon. Your company will be poisoned by an ego-driven or unfriendly genius that will mainly hire the kind of employees that can be pushed around easily and  are insecure. He or she will not hire the best people for the company but the best people for the purpose of making him or her seem even smarter.

When I assemble teams, I go for the humble, smart guy with an insecure look on their face when I do trick-questioning in the interview (even if they know their answer is right). I avoid the person that is arrogantly trying to deny answering simple questions, because it is beneath their ’superior knowledge‘. I would much rather work with someone who still wants to learn than someone who thinks they know it all. Don’t confuse this with going for the B candidate instead of triple A: You want the best man for the job but keep the big picture in mind!

Sometimes you will have the situation, where you have the experienced and smart asshole and the humble, smart but inexperienced guy in front of you. If you can, get the asshole as a consultant and hire the humble guy fulltime. It is much easier to gain knowledge than to unlearn being an idiot.

Start with too inexperienced people

Some of the time that I have seen companie’s IT teams implode was when the point in time came when everybody realized: We do not have what it takes to build this product. This can actually happen due to many reasons:

  • Missing expertise
  • Missing knowledge of tools and the stuff that you work with
  • Missing teamleading skills

If you hit that point, you only have one option: Learn how to do it. But you can go about this in two different ways, either you can learn slowly by self-teaching or you can buy knowledge. Self teaching can lead to deep knowledge over time, because you will make painfull mistakes and you will never forget what you learned the hard way. It can also be what breaks your neck because you run out of time and your time to market was just too long in the end. Hiring / buying knowledge can be very expensive and you run the risk of loosing core competencies to external people. On the other hand, it can save you time and trouble.

Missing trust

When the shit hits the fan – and that will happen during your first weeks of development – everything will go down the drain if the managing directors have no trust in their team. That goes for all business units, but since product is the most important one in the first days (prototyping –> demoing –> $$$), the tension is huge here. In the first days, IT has such direct business impact that every little failure is prominent and annoying.

You will have arguments like ‚That is not what I wanted‘ – ‚Well, then you should have said so!!!‘ and the like. Those can be mind-numbing and they can bring you to the absolute edge. The understanding of IT and business are normally far from each other and in small companies there is no translator like a product manager.

These discussions can be settled quickly, easily and without any further damages to the companies startup-spirit if the stakeholders (MDs, VCs, angels…) can put their trust into the professionals that they hired and recognize that they may have done great work, even if it’s not visible to them. The way they can do that is usually to get a third partie’s opinion and most likely this will be either

  • One of your business angels
  • A mentor or and advisor from your acceleration / incubation program
  • Someone else you completely trust in regards to IT (make them become one of the above!)

The one advise I can give to you in this situation: Calm down and get good advise! Do not argue with your IT team because you have no common ground at this moment and it will end in not being productive.

Means to create trust inside the development process are very clear communication, detailed specs and requirements, a well-structured development process with well-defined milestones and constant feedback all the time.

Miss a chance to get information

When you find someone who you think could be a great match for your company and who you think has the technical knowledge to build your product, then you should not hire them right away. What you want to have is as much feedback as possible on the person as you can get. The best sources of information are:

  • The IT crowd: Google the shit out of that person
  • Former colleagues / bosses: Maybe you have a connection on Xing / LinkedIN to them?
  • Advisors & mentors: They usually know some names in the business and if not, then they can do interviews for you

You never ever leave a piece of information on the road here. Even information from idiots can be validating that the person you are about to hire is not one of them!

Go through several rounds of interviews, make them as informal as possible, i.e. have lunch dates, coffee breaks, quick calls to brainstorm or chat sessions. Make them provide small proof of concepts for you. Get work examples from previous projects. Whatever you can get will be helpful and will increase the foundation of your decision. There is no such thing as too much information when it comes to future employees of your IT team!

Summary

  1. Hire professionals that are able and willing to learn quickly, no assholes.
  2. If your team does not have expertise, get it from external experts and build knowledge inhouse.
  3. Trust your team, create means of trust and communicate well.
  4. Get all the information you can on people you’re about to hire.