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Balancing the Grind with Nick Stanley, Chair of FitMyCar, SettleEasy & Runway + MD of Skills Base

Nick Stanley is an early-stage venture investor and active founder in a number of companies, including FitMyCar and Skills Base.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve been involved in tech and high growth businesses for about 20 years. I launched my first startup in 2004 and then sold that in 2010, I founded another in 2011 which was then acquired in 2014.

I ended up working for the acquirer, a company called Tribal Group, as their MD APAC then for the next couple of years which took me back to a corporate headspace. I left Tribal then in 2017 having just co-founded another startup called FitMyCar, which is now a high-growth scale-up and which I now chair.

Since 2017 I have also co-founded Skills Base, which I am now the Managing Director of, and Settle Easy, which I am also Executive Chair of. Finally, I also set up an ecosystem accelerator and incubator in 2015 called Runway. I am chair of that as well.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Controlled chaos is the best way to put it! I like to be busy and I am proud of my ability to manage multiple threads. You have to be able to do this in a startup environment, which a lot of people do struggle with. Particularly men (sorry brothers!).

From my experience women tend to have a better capacity to be able to multi-thread, which should mean that more women are leading executors in startups; so we should be supporting that more.

I am careful to manage according to priority and be disciplined with the things I know I have to get done. I never miss a deadline, never. But with that being said, I make sure to prioritise family and lifestyle and so I balance both and look for ways to combine them creatively.

On any given day I might be working across 5-10 different things. In fact, as I write this, I have things I am doing for four different projects that are all unrelated, following which I will make sure I go for a ride and the gym, during which I will listen to some podcasts, etc, and catch up on news and things I need to stay on top of. Multithreading all the time!

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Absolutely and this has always been the case in terms of my career and what I do. I have travelled, and continue to travel, extensively for both work and pleasure and it’s usually a mix of both.

I remember being in Prague 10 years ago when I was working on one of my startup businesses and meeting with a client. The day I arrived was the most marvellous weather, mid-20 degrees (Celsius) in Prague. What a day.

In between customer meetings I went for a run across the Charles Bridge and marvelled at how lucky I was to be mixing business and pleasure in such a way. It’s important to smell the roses on a daily basis!

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

It’s about tempo. You need to listen to your body and headset. Startups are a marathon and not a sprint. Despite all of these overnight success stories you hear of, most will have a backstory of the five years they did before the three year overnight success.

So, you need to stay strong and fit for the long-hall. And like a marathon there are headwinds and tailwinds, hills and valleys. Some you can see coming, some you can’t, but you need to be ready for whatever might come. It’s also important to recognise that when things are crazy and it’s like the World is trying to squash you, it will turn, because it always does.

I make sure to stay disciplined about fitness which I find is a great outlet. Many will eat into this time they set aside because a meeting runs over, or an opportunity presents to do something else. I won’t.

I need that outlet and I schedule it in like a very important meeting with a big investor; nothing will cause me to miss it (well, almost nothing, if Elon Musk or Marc Andreessen wanted to talk about investing then I might make an exception!)

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Yes, I’m conscious of getting good sleep. This makes a massive difference. People talk about alcohol intake, foods, coffee, etc. It all leads to one place, how you sleep and most of the bad things you do cause you to sleep badly, which makes you less impactful and effective.

I am really about balance and moderation to ensure I get the best sleep whenever possible. This is one of the challenges around travel; I find a routine really helps in this case (and also avoiding too many of the complimentary drinks in flight!)

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I read Never Split the Difference a while back and always recommend that! I also got a lot out of Peter Diamindis’ Bold.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

My laptop. Full stop. Nothing else has the same impact (touch wood).

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be? 

The President of the United States. Looks like a big job with a lot of uncompromising responsibilities, I’m amazed they don’t suffer burn-out.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Two things have stood me well; never miss a deadline and never give away your time.

On the first, this doesn’t mean I always get everything done when I say I will, but I never forget about a commitment I make and, even if it looks like I am running late on that, I will manage that expectation. Too many people just go silent and this then often leads to a crisis situation.

Secondly, don’t give your time away and be disciplined with what time you commit to something. Most meetings run over; I try to avoid this. Push things on and get to the point in the time you have allowed, otherwise you will be constantly re-prioritising as you continuously run over, or worse.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.