New Year’s resolutions about losing weight or organising the garage may not last more than a few weeks, but it’s possible to start the year with plans for your business that will persist for a full 12 months – or even longer.
Resolutions that push for incremental progress or for simple clarity of thought are the ones that stick, say successful entrepreneurs and business advisors.
Making resolutions means taking a risk, but the thing we all need to do to stay in business these days is to constantly review change. The only way to grow in 2012/2013 is to keep yourself from becoming complacent and find things you can change about the way you operate.
Of course, there’s nothing magical about laying plans in January. Sharp-minded entrepreneurs are always charting the route ahead, no matter what time of year it is.
But January is a fine time to take stock and think deeply about your overall strategy and approach to your business.
Resolutions that work
So forget about that messy garage or the extra inches in your waistline – for now, at least – and instead consider making some of these 15 resolutions that have worked for your fellow entrepreneurs.
1. Give your goals a reality check.
One of the keys to success is having an objective you want to reach, but to get there, you need to set a series of smaller goals along the way. Each smaller goal should stretch you a little more but be reasonable. As you figure out ways to reach each of them, you move yourself toward your long-term goal. It’s a simple, timeless technique — but one many entrepreneurs don’t find the time for.
2. Make your move.
Think about your product or service. Is it right for your particular market or some other one? If it’s not, move – either geographically or in a more abstract way. Don’t stay in the same place, just because it is what you have always done. Change is good and could keep you in business!
3. Tune in to your employees.
Are your employees the type who would willingly help one another or do they just put their heads down and do only their tasks? By discovering what your employees believe is standard practice, you may find openings for profitable changes. Once you’ve found out the reason why employees perform the way they do, give them a better reason to do something different.
4. Get caught in the Web.
Should you set up a Web site or not? There’s no point in waffling anymore – you must have a presence on the Web. For consumer-oriented firms, it may not yet be an urgent situation, but for business-to-business operations, it’s almost mandatory. So many potential clients are now using the World Wide Web to search for vendors that not having a site of your own is akin to opening a restaurant and not putting a sign out front.
It’s the way people do business now. If you want to do business, you have to be there.
5. Give it up.
Don’t let ego get in the way of good management. Although your business may not be sucking the life out of you physically, if you continue to be a control freak, as your business grows you’ll probably lose the mental sharpness and energy needed to keep your company successful. If your business is growing, don’t be a martyr: delegate!
6. Know what you do.
Remember what your core business is. Look for your niche market and stick with it.
7. Admit that you don’t know everything.
Your business was founded on a good idea. Don’t let the tide of other “good” ideas drown your business.
Again, stay with your niche market and do what you do best. Avoid competing with the “big boys.”
8. Make it work.
Discover your strengths to distinguish your business from the rest of the crowd. The lesson that emerges from this is, if you know what you want, don’t back off.
9. Play the margins.
It’s common practice to check in periodically with major clients and verify that your firm is still on their minds, treating them right and deserving of their business. But an entrepreneur who wants to see sales rise will resolve to do the same with smaller and even marginal customers.
Some of these small customers have probably remained small because you aren’t calling on them enough. They want to be treated like important clients, not like also-rans. If they saw somebody from your company more often, they would probably have increased their orders.
These small customers may be on the verge of major growth and could take you up with them. But how will you know that if you only pay attention to the heavy-hitters?
10. Relive your failures.
You didn’t have any? Well done, please share your secrets with us! For the rest of us, the New Year is a chance at a clean slate. Look back on your past mistakes and learn from them.
11. Pay the people who carry the load.
Eliminate bureaucracy. Instead, start an incentive-based performance program for your employees. It’s a win/win situation – increased productivity for you and rewards for your employees.
12. Start a new company every year.
Pretend your company is closing down and you’re starting from scratch again. Think about what you would do the same and differently. Change can happen and nothing about a company should be “set in stone.”
13. Go back to school.
Continuing education, training and self-improvement programs are good for you as well as your employees. Continuing your education keeps you stimulated and gives you vital business and industry information.
14. Pick one long shot and ride it home.
Sometimes it pays to take a risk. To be an entrepreneur, you need to dream big – after all, isn’t that how you got in the business in the first place? When you have that dream – go for it!
15. Ask your employees what your New Year’s resolutions should be and why.
Ask each employee to submit an idea for improving any part of the business, no matter how small. They might come up with all kinds of opportunities you may have missed on your own. Then let them know that the best ideas will be followed through.