If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably making up a list of new year’s resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, be nicer to your in-laws. While those resolutions may be long forgotten by February, I’ve got a list of resolutions you’ll want to keep to help you succeed in your small business in 2017.
1. Simplify. You’re almost certainly doing too many things in your small business life. The New Year is a perfect time to pare things down. Do you have many different product or service lines but only a few big sellers? Focus on those that bring in the most money. Do you have meetings about meetings? Cut them out. Still doing your accounts, payroll (or anything else) on paper or an old-fashioned way? Find a faster, better online solution. Finally, hire some help. You can’t do everything yourself.
2. Say no. Entrepreneurs are people who say ‘yes’—they take on challenges, join in, help out. But if something won’t get you ahead, bring you joy, or build your community, why do it? Are some business activities now just habit and no longer profitable? Could you eliminate or outsource them to free up time for more profitable—and enjoyable—activities?
3. Take a risk. What? Your whole business is a risk. But if you’ve been running your small business for a while, you’ve probably gotten in to a rut. It’s time to grow. Identify one area where a calculated risk has a good chance of return without distracting you from your core business. The risk might be calling on a big potential customer you’ve been afraid of, bringing in your first employee, or expanding to another location. Don’t be rash, but extend your reach.
4. Choose a “theme” for 2017. Having a theme for your year helps you focus on your goals. For example, in my small publishing business, 2009—the year after the economy fell off a cliff—was our “spaghetti year.” To survive, we knew we had to “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” to make money. Much of it stuck, and we had a great year. 2012 was “the year of the cloud”—when we devoted ourselves to moving all our processes to web-based solutions.
In 2017, our theme is “active optimism.” The world seems fairly gloomy these days, but entrepreneurs are by their very nature, optimistic. They—we—see the possibility of a better life, a better way of doing something, a better world, and we work hard to make those dreams come true. We know that optimism isn’t just a passive positive outlook, but a commitment to work diligently to make our best hopes and dreams come true. We’re going to expect—and work—towards positive outcomes in all our endeavors.
5. Be kind. In an optimistic world, there’s room for kindness because you don’t view the world as a zero-sum game, where for every winner there’s a loser. Do something nice for others, especially the people who help make your small business a success. Thank your employees, referral sources, and suppliers more often. Take your spouse, family member, or friend to a thank you dinner to show you appreciate their support. Spend a special weekend with your kids as “honored guests” to recognize the sacrifices they make for your work. Remember what really matters.
Use your area of expertise to help strengthen your community. For example, if you’re a caterer, you could hire at-risk youth and teach them culinary skills. A yoga studio could offer a free class to seniors or adults with disabilities. Try to make the world a better place.
6. Live in the moment. Entrepreneurs are visionaries—they can imagine things being different, better, in the future. But we often fail to concentrate on what life is bringing us right now. Sure, we’re on top of the “fire” that has to be put out with our biggest customer, but we often fail to appreciate the freedom that having our own business was supposed to bring us. We wanted more time to spend with our family or friends, to take time for exercise or travel, but we often become slaves to our business. When you run your own small business, be sure to enjoy the ride.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2017
This article originally ran in USA Today on January 4, 2017