The New Year's Resolutions You Must Keep

It's that time of year again. The time when we make the same old New Year's resolutions that we make every year. The very same ones we break within the first few months (weeks?) of the New Year. But there are some resolutions that are absolutely critical not only to make, but to keep if we want our small business venture to be as successful as it deserves to be.

Resolution #1 - Get organized.

Start by sorting through all those yellow "stickies", and scraps of paper on your desk. Keep only those notes/documentation that you really need. Toss the rest. Transcribe the remaining notes/documentation onto 3x5 cards with appropriate headers. Create those files that you've been promising to create for the last year. Purchase that file cabinet which will house all your business files. Read Kathy Gillen's excellent Get Organized! article, in this edition, for additional suggestions. Maybe, just maybe, that old chestnut, "a place for everything, and everything in its place" is true.

Resolution #2 - Manage time effectively.

People have built entire careers revolving around time management. My seminars on time management were always well attended. There are myriad books, videos, and seminars on the subject. Surf the Net for information on time management. I do know that when you boil down all the advice, it basically consists of : Write it down Prioritize it Check it off Remember, not everything can be a "1A" priority!

Resolution #3 - Don't rest on your laurels.

You did a great job on your last project. Your customer gave you great reviews. Now, how are you going to top yourself on your next project? There's lots of competition out there. What can you do to differentiate your business/service/product from the competition? Maybe I'm just a wee bit prejudiced, but I believe the "Idea Site" to be a shining example of an outstanding product. Just look at the creative graphics. Notice how the author's photograph is scanned into each article. Check out the various catalogues, and notice the superior ad copy in the successful ones. Constantly challenge yourself to "up the ante."

Resolution #4 - Keep your promises.

Aren't I a terrible nag? Aren't you getting tired of my mentioning "keep your promises" in all my articles? That's because I believe so strongly that the best way to get customers, and to keep customers, is to be a business person who always keeps his word. Do you know a single airline that brags about never landing on time? Of course not! The airlines are ecstatic when they can announce that they are #1 in on-time takeoffs and landings. Your customer needs to know that you are consistently on time, and within budget. If you choose to make only one resolution for the New Year, this is the one to make.

Resolution #5 - Be a friend.

Just as attorneys perform pro bono work, we should be performing/supporting other small businesses. Life can't always be quid pro quo. But, I can assure you that you will always get back more than you give. Can you provide mentoring or tutoring to other small businesses just starting out? Just pass along those hard-earned lessons you learned along the way. You'll make life-long friends in the process. Resolve to attend networking groups. But, don't sit there like a "lump". Contribute! You'll truly have fun, make friends, and learn some additional lessons while sharing your business experiences.

Resolution #6 - Create a professional environment.

This is a pop quiz. Look around your current work environment and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I have a special area set aside for my home office?

2. Do I have a comfortable chair in front of my PC, or one that wobbles

all over the place?

3. Do I have sufficient lighting in my work area?

4. Do I have the proper "tools" that are critical to the success of my business?

5. Do I conduct at-home business in clothes that won't embarrass me if someone comes to the door?

The final question in this pop quiz is: don't I deserve to work in a professional environment? If the answers to any of the questions above are a sheepish "no", resolve to create that professional environment for yourself this very month.

Resolution # 7 - Keep the customer satisfied.

There is nothing more important than your current customer base. This is the best source for references. Don't be so busy looking for the future customer that you neglect your current customer. For example, in the past, I've had to communicate with a certain Internet service. When you call the sales department of the Internet service, you receive an immediate response. Should you have occasion to call tech support group (and I hope you don't) you're kept on "hold" forever. What message is this company sending its current customers when it staffs the sales department with more folks than the tech support group?

Resolution # 8 - Don't give up on your slow months.

We all have slow months. Be creative, and turn it around. For example, a local deli/cafe in my neighborhood had very few dine-in customers on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings. They started offering half price sandwiches to the dine-in customers on those slow evenings. Now I'm mad because I have a problem finding a table on those nights! Just kidding. I'm truly glad that they're experiencing the success they so richly deserve. Be creative and resolve to find solutions that will keep you going through those slow times.

The best New Year's resolutions are the ones that only you can make, that you believe can be accomplished, and that are measurable and quantifiable. Please share with me the New Year's Resolutions that you've made for your small business, and I will print them in my next column. And by the way, have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!