We all survived 2016 with varying degrees of success, and whether you are mourning or celebrating the passing of another year one thing is certainly true: it’s time to move forward. How can we walk in to 2017 with clear eyes and bright expectations?
Lofty resolutions have always felt like a trope. I have never felt more or less ambitious on January 1st than on any other day of the year. While I always try to enjoy the present I find it helpful to always assume that the best is yet to come. And so, January is as good a time as any to reflect on the trials and successes of years past and to lay your best intentions for the future.
Here are 7 actionable resolutions for you and your business in 2017:
1. Create Balance: It's likely that you went into business for yourself out of a desire to pursue the things that are most important to you. It is even more likely that promptly after starting your own company you lost control over your personal time like never before. As a Soloprenuer ambition and dedication to your craft can become a beautiful prison. Remember that commitment to your health, family, and creative pursuits are essential to your success. Reassess your weekly and monthly schedules giving gravitas to the things outside of work that you find most dear. A favorite habit of mine is rewarding myself for reading and writing “for work” directly with reading and writing “for pleasure”. For example: After I find/read 3 articles for client X’s social media content I will take a break and read 10 pages in the novel and I am reading. This keeps my skills sharp while building a positive relationship between work and play. My Aunt & Uncle have shared a bottle of champaign every Sunday night through 35 years of marriage, a beautiful ritual that celebrates the mundane while opening time to enjoy the finer things in life. Another friend felt she was unable to exercise because of her long work hours, so she started a running club with her coworkers. Look for the cracks, and fill them light.
2. Invest in Yourself: Commit to acquiring one new skill this year. There is something you do very often that you are not very good at, and you know what it is. A little instruction can go a long way. Look for a tutor, an online class, a local professional group, a workshop or traditional college course that will give you the skills you need to improve your work. Learning something new will give you a sense of achievement, improve your job satisfaction, and help you stay competitive in the work place. There is nothing to lose when you spend time and money on your own skills.
3. Invest in Your Best Customers: Regardless of your vocation you likely sell to 3 - 5 distinct markets, and one these is far more lucrative than the rest. Identify your best customers and think of new ways to improve their experience with your business. These are the clients who deserve the most of your time and attention and who will provide you with the best return on your investment.
4. Fire Your Worst Customers: Bad customers are bad for business. People who don’t value your skills, products, and services are not worth your time. Rather than slashing prices to reach outside your target market or overextending yourself to appease clients who are perpetually unhappy - fire them. You can be sure that clients who constantly complain are not endorsing your brand; they do not generate new business, they negatively effect the perceived value of your products, and they over tax your resources. Move on.
5. Fire Your Worst Employee: Employing people is the biggest responsibility of any company, and it can either be the greatest reward or the heaviest burden. You likely have one employee who is not worth the trouble. If you or your staff could go 30 days without missing this person - you should let them go tomorrow. Every supervisor accepts an extra level of responsibility for each person they manage, and in return those employees should lighten the company load. Don’t let the anxiety of finding a new hire stop you from fulfilling your primary obligation; which is to create and lead a team of hardworking, valuable, and supportive individuals who will bring success to your brand.
6. Revaluate : Understand your value and reassess your pricing. No market is static and so you need to be flexible on how you price and sell your products while also being clear on what your value really is. Take a look at your products, study your competitors, and rethink your pricing strategy for the coming year. Here is a great article by the Harvard Business Review on perception & price.
7. Be Better, not Best : Look objectively at what your ultimate goals are and set a realistic bar to mark improvement for next year. Rather than setting an arbitrary goal like “grow revenue by 15%” or “add 5 new hires”, weigh your long term goals with previous accomplishments and failures and settle on an achievable outcome for this year that will march you toward success.
Happy New Year, get to work!