If your business is still standing after this challenging past year, congratulations. Let's make the next one happier and more successful by vowing to follow some simple practices in both our professional and personal lives.
I recently read a statistic about the futility of making New Year's resolutions since most of them (67 percent) are abandoned by spring. So after arguing with myself all week about whether or not to even write this column, I've decided I can't forgo thousands of years of tradition. To be clear, these are not my personal New Year's resolutions, or "intentions" as one of my friends puts it, but rather more global resolutions for all of us to think about.
Repeat after me, "In 2010, I vow to":
Stop Thinking. Obviously, I don't mean that literally, but more and more I hear from entrepreneurs who are mulling over their next moves. The problem is the mulling takes months and analysis paralysis sets in. While it's important to research and analyze new markets and ventures, at some point, you need to stop thinking about it and, as they say at Nike, "just do it."
Quit Whining. Enough already of the "woe is me" attitude. We're emerging from the worst economic period this country has seen in 80 years. The fact you're still standing is something to be proud of, celebrate even. Sure, we're going to have to continue to work hard (and smart), but most signs point to a somewhat better 2010. Stop waiting for your "handout," because it isn't coming. The fact is, our fate is in our own hands, and isn't that why most of us became entrepreneurs in the first place?
Dump the Cliches. It's time to look beyond business cliches. Maybe "thinking outside the box" was once sage advice, but now it's just a hackneyed phrase that means nothing. Do you need to think creatively? Of course you do, but that is hardly a new or innovative thought. You also do not have to be passionate about what you do, though you shouldn't hate it. There's plenty of opportunity in the mundane. And please, stop being fearless. As I mentioned in a column earlier this year and as Mark Twain wrote, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -- not absence of fear."
Get Web-Savvy. I'm certain you're all not included in this, but a shocking number (about half) of small business owners don't have Web sites. This isn't just wrong, it's stupid. You not only need a Web site, you need to make sure it's attractive, easy to navigate, and well optimized so the search engines can find you.
Get Real. At this juncture as we (hopefully) leave the doom and gloom behind, it's a great time to do a reality check on your business. Look at what you're doing/selling/making. Are you and your staff as productive and efficient as you can be? Is your technology up-to-date? Have your target markets changed? You should already have drawn up a growth plan for 2010 and 2011.
Be Social. This goes beyond merely having a presence on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You actually have to engage with people there. I am a big Twitter fan. I use it to maintain relationships, meet new people, learn from the experts, and stay up-to-the-second (literally) on what's going on in the world. I've even found new clients there. But beyond social media (and do check out smaller social business sites), you need to actually be social. Get out of the office. Join your local Chamber. Attend conferences and seminars. Meet people for breakfast, lunch, or drinks. Talk to people on- and offline.
Give Back. Try to donate time, money, or products. It doesn't have to be a lot. Every month my partners and I send $100 to a different charity. I've told you this before -- it's karma, don't mess with it.
Be Courteous. My pet peeve is people who leave you hanging, who don't answer e-mails, or return phone calls for weeks on end. Ask yourself how you'd feel if the situation were reversed. It takes seconds to e-mail someone back.
Be Present. My good friend Beth taught me this. Being present means paying attention to what's going on around you, listening to people, and focusing on the situation at hand and not on the thousands of other things that assault your brain daily.
Never Settle. That doesn't mean you shouldn't compromise, but don't settle for less than you deserve or do anything that goes against your core principles.
Play. Building a new business is tough. I work too many hours a day. I love what I do, but one of my best memories this year was going to the new Yankee Stadium with my brother. I vow to play more in 2010, read more books (fiction), see more movies, go to more plays, just have fun. You never know what's going to happen, so remember to live life to its fullest.
Be Joyous. One of my partners has proclaimed 2010 to be the "year of joy." After what most of us have been through, we could all use a little joy. So with that thought in mind, I wish you all a healthy, happy, prosperous, and joyous 2010!
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