5 tips for winter running

My girlfriend and I have a deal when it comes to running. She gets us out of the house, and I make sure we go far and fast. This works great during the summer. In winter not so… It’s freezing! How can you run? She has a hard time convincing me that running is fun. But she is right: no-one ever regretted a good run. Even though it’s winter.

Here are five tips for winter running.

Run in the afternoon

Winter is cold, so plan your runs carefully. Run on the warmest moment of the day: the afternoon. Temperature typically peaks around 2pm. If the sun has done a good job, and there is little wind, then it can feel like spring! Running in the middle of a workday is not possible for everyone. My work typically stops at 5pm. So that’s when I run.

Wear enough, but not too much

Make sure you wear enough clothes, but don’t sweat. You know that you are wearing enough clothes, when the first ten minutes will feel cold, and it is fine after that. On mountaineering trips, the ten-minute-mark is the classic moment for taking a break and taking off your coat. I like to take a hot shower before I go running. Then my body is warm, and I don’t have the ten-minute-problem. Once you are warmed up, temperature will not be a problem at all.

Run on paved roads

I love running in the snow. Especially when the sun is shining. It’s great how the whiteness of the snow reflects the sun rays. Fresh snow is absolutely not as slippery as many people think. Ice on the other hand is a real problem. Better avoid that stuff. Also avoid muddy trails. Although you can rinse your shoes and wash your clothes, you don’t want to run with wet feet.

Be visible, and stay close to civilization

Running in winter is a bit more dangerous. It gets dark early. And the falling of the night can surprise you. So wear a high visibility shirt. You can wear lights and prolong the Christmas spirit as well. Be aware that if something happens to you, there will be less people to help you. So don’t go all the way out there, and don’t run during a storm. If something goes wrong: you will cool off quickly. Bring a mobile phone, and some money. Just in case.

Motivate yourself by setting a goal

If you don’t have enthusiastic friends who are runners, then you need to motivate yourself. New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me, but maybe they work for you. My most important motivator is entering a spring race. This year I am running a half marathon on the 8th of March. Apart from that, I love to be in shape for skiing tours and just in general when spring starts.


Artisan Startups walk the thin line between innovation and incompetence

Entrepreneurship is all about flawless execution. An entrepreneur has to be competent and aware of his own limitations. Doing the wrong things, or the right things wrong, does not propel the business. It hurts. It is nothing more than a waste of time, money and talent.

Flawless execution is an impossible task for Startup entrepreneurs. They are exploring, innovating and trying to make sense of the fast changing worlds they are creating. Uncertainty is the status quo. The whole point of the Startup is to learn through experiments. This can lead to great successes. But it is also accepted, that failures are part of the game.

This innovative character is a pitfall. It is all too easy to innovate in all areas of the business, also where execution should be done in the most straightforward manner. In a world where curiosity and innovation are at the core of an organization, it is surprisingly difficult to separate the research practice from the down to earth practice of running a company.

For Startups it is especially challenging to not reinvent the wheel. In an exciting young business, everything is new. And in a Startup it is hard to acknowledge that some of the business activities are actually ancient. The general practice of business is understood, documented and taught in schools around the world. Selling, bookkeeping and working well with others are universal skills for any entrepreneur. Although the company may be high tech, the underlying principle of business management are the same.

Failing to separate what is new to the world, from what is new to the entrepreneur is an indication of incompetence and arrogance. As harsh as this judgment seems, I genuinely empathize. Only after the wheel is reinvented, the realization dawns how easy things could have been with a little hindsight. So we struggle, and carry over our experiences to the next adventure. We learn and improve not just the company, but also ourselves.

Starting, establishing and growing a Startup is challenging, but it is by no means a black art or wizardry. Competent Startup entrepreneurs can walk the thin line between innovation and incompetence. They have the skills and experience, and brings in outside expertise when needed. They craft beautiful Startups effectively and efficiently. These Startups are works of art.

I call them the Artisan Startups.

My fourth year without pants

Working without pants is an expression, coined by Scott Berkun, who wrote a book about remote working at WordPress.com. A super successful company where everyone can work from home, or wherever he or she wants. In this blog post I will chronicle my remote working experiences.

Over a decade ago, I was hired by a company that did not have an office. We were with four people, spread out over the Netherlands and Belgium. An office was not practical, so we all worked from home. This was a bad idea. We were disorganized and we didn’t communicate well. Working from home was one of the reasons why the company only lasted a year.

Years later, I set up a company in Australia. We arrived at Sydney Airport with two suitcases and two backpacks. Since we didn’t have anything but ourselves, a separate office space was a ridiculous thought. We worked from home. And so did the first employees we hired. This worked reasonably well. We were all the time confronted with our work, making us work 24×7. And going on vacation was a bit weird, knowing that other people work from our house during our absence. After a year the timing was right to rent a proper office.

Coming back from Australia, I started my freelance career. Again without an office. I worked from home, in a room specifically setup to be my office area. That worked well, although I mostly worked from my clients’ offices. Being with my clients gave me the opportunity to scout new projects. And working from home was lonely. It did not take long, for me to join a company that had a proper office, so I moved my desk once again.

A year ago, I joined the ranks of the remote workers for the fourth time. Inspired by my girlfriend and brutally aware of office costs, I decided that my new company would be a remote company. That means that everyone can work wherever he or she wants.

Working remote has many practical advantages. There is less travel time, more flexible hours, less costs and it is possible to tailor work conditions to the individual needs. There are practical hurdles to overcome. For example, since the office is virtual, it has to be paperless. Luckily that’s not a big challenge with today’s technology.

The real challenge of a distributed team, lies in the remoteness itself: being distanced from your colleagues and not being able to see each other makes it easy to get out of touch. We have found that we regularly need to meet, and work together. These meetings create a bond, which allows us to be a real team.

Being together is not that hard to do. We literally live 15 kilometers away from each other. In the current market, we could easily rent a cheap office in a dull industrial zone. But the truth is, we don’t want that. We like to work when we want, how we want, and where we want.

Working remote is a great idea, as long as you are aware of the challenges and committed to each other as a team.

p.s. For those who are curious… I do wear pants when working remote. 😉

Airbnb is not a hotel, it’s an experience

My girlfriend and I travel a lot and love adventure and experiments. So, when we heard about Airbnb, we ditched hotels and now sleep at random people’s houses instead. Our Airbnb experiences are varied. Some sleep overs and hosts are perfect. Others could do better, with a little effort and guidance. For the latter category I wrote the following 10 tips. They are inspired by our stay in Paris this weekend, but are the result of our consolidated experiences of the last years.

It all boils down to two things: you have to manage expectations up front by being honest, and you have to realize that other people will view and use your house differently than you do. Let’s dive in.

  1. What works for the host does not necessary work for guests. As a host you know that that one cupboard drawer next to the fridge is a bit fragile. As a guest, you don’t know this, and it will break. We have stayed in a house once where a lot of fragile items were placed in precarious positions. You couldn’t look around without breaking something. This is no fun for the host (who has their delicate china broken), nor for the guest who feels they are walking on egg shells.
  2. Not all houses are the same. You need to explain how your house works. For example: the water in the shower is only lukewarm – unless you turn the magic dial on the heater, then you get hot water. Or this one: the bedroom features a skylight, so the sunshine wakes you up at 5 in the morning. The ceiling is too tall to reach, so the next morning your day starts again at 5am. Then you find a remote control which allows you to cover the skylight. Brilliant, if you know about it. Write these workings down, but also mundane things like how the heating works, how to turn the lights on, and where to put the trash.
  3. Using the same logic, explain where the nearest public transportation and supermarket are. Do you have a favorite restaurant or bar? Point them out on a map. Realize that guests are new to your neighborhood.
  4. We spent last weekend with another couple (friends of ours). We love them, but we also wanted to wander the streets of Paris on our own. Here is the dilemma: we only had one house key. We overcame this problem, by hiding the key under the doormat. As a host (and as guests) this bypass may not always be what you want. It is good to provide two sets of house keys.
  5. My girlfriend and I are internet junkies (as internet entrepreneurs we actually need it for our work). We would never book an Airbnb that doesn’t have Wi-Fi internet. Yet, we are often disappointed. Sometimes there’s no internet at all, sometimes the Wi-Fi password is nowhere to be found, and sometimes the only place with decent reception is the bathroom. If you don’t have Wi-Fi, then don’t advertise it. It may not be important to you, but it may be for your guests. Never use false advertisement, always set realistic expectations.
  6. To us it is a no brainer that the house must be clean. Reality is different. Dirty cupboards, yoghurt with mold in the fridge, personal items that I don’t want to know about in the bathroom. We have seen it all. Admittedly, we can be slobs a little less tidy at times, but not when we have guests over.
  7. Twenty years ago I bought a king size bed, and have never regretted its awesome size. I realize, that only your own bed sleeps as nice as, well, your own bed. But a 120cm mattress on the floor is not a double bed. Make sure that all advertised beds are real and decent beds. And if they are not, be clear about it in descriptions and pictures.
  8. When travelling, you live out of your suitcase. Still it is nice to have some shelf space in the bedroom and the kitchen. It doesn’t have to be much, but it prevents guests from making shelf space themselves.
  9. You don’t have to be at your house when guests arrive. Especially when guests don’t know at what time that will be. However, it is crucial that you are available for guests by phone. Be it for last minute directions to your house, or to promptly solve problems during the stay. It is fine to have a friend on pager duty, as long as he or she knows the house as well as you do.
  10. Be clear about additional costs. Typically towels and bed linen are included in the stay. If you want to charge extra for these additional items or services, that is fine. As long as you communicate in advance. Nothing is more frustrating than finding a bed, where the bed linen comes at a ransom.

This being said, one reason to choose for Airbnb, is to experience how other people live. Airbnb provides that genuine experience, including all the up and down sides. If you are looking for a professionally managed room or apartment, then Airbnb may not be for you. Airbnb is not great, but for us, it’s good enough. We like it, and hope these tips will make the experiences for both guests and hosts even better.

PS: One tip for guests: Understand that your host is (just like you) not a hospitality professional. You have to be easy going, communicate openly about problems and be cooperative in finding solutions.