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
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
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!