If you’re the kind of person who winds up breaking your New Year’s resolutions by February, here’s some advice: you’re reaching too far. Face it, you love Thin Mints, you look forward to a beer or four on a Friday evening, and you’ll never get along with your brother-in-law from Florida. So accept these things and instead concentrate on a few resolutions that you can achieve and that will actually improve both your personal and professional life.
Here are five that I recommend:
Save money. Want to still be in business ten years from now? Then understand what my most successful clients know: there will be another recession. There will always be another recession. Times aren’t so bad right now and many business owners are optimistic about 2017. When times are good, that’s the time to stash money away. Resist the hesitation to spend (unless you’re investing) and instead save it. Build a big pile of cash and roll around in it. But understand that you’re not as rich as you think – that the cash will be needed when the economy slows. Having cash makes all business decisions easier when times are tough. In 2017, resolve to build up a six month nest egg.
Stick to a quarterly schedule for evaluating your people. This is not a cliché: your biggest asset is your people. They are the ones providing service, running machines, mailing invoices, and answering questions. If you have no people, you can make a living. But if you have people, you can really build a successful business. Your people require something in return: attention. In 2017, resolve to meet and evaluate your key people quarterly. It doesn’t have to be formal – it can be a lunch or a coffee. But give them feedback and re-affirm your commitment to them. Consider sending them away for some training too. Doing this will generate a substantial return on investment in the years to come.
Clean up your data. If you’re like me, and many of my clients, you’ve been expanding your technology over the past few years. I bet you’ve been moving more online, you rolled out a customer relationship management (CRM) system, upgraded to a cloud accounting service, or revamped your website. And I bet you’ve been collecting lots of data that you never had before, and it would be great except it’s a mess – duplicated, out of date, inaccurate, missing key parts. Sound familiar? If so, then resolve to clean it up in 2017. Hire a college kid, give some instructions, and have them do the grunt data entry work to put it all in good shape. Other than your people, your data is a huge asset to your company and if in good shape you can leverage it to drive more sales even in the slower years to come.
Visit two existing customers a month. Just two. No need to go overboard. But these should be existing customers, not prospects. Everyone wants new customers. But what about the good customers who keep coming back each month with orders? Resolve to stop by, say hello, go to lunch – even if it means jumping on a plane to make the visit. Take a walk around their offices and look around too. How else can you be helping? What other products or services that your company provides could make this customer happier and more profitable? More importantly, when was the last time you just shook hands and said “thanks.” We all learned in Business 101 that the cost of acquiring new customers is many times greater than cost of selling to our existing customers, so why do we keep forgetting that. For the price of a plane ticket you could increase your sales to that company in Michigan by ten percent.
Pay attention to yourself. In 2017, resolve to exercise at least twice a week. Really exercise, where you sweat and burn calories and get your heart pumping. Resolve to take two vacations a year with your family. Resolve to get away to two out-of-town conferences where you can network with others in your industry and stay on top of trends. All of this will relax you, provide balance, and make you better. When you are better, your company is better. When your company is better, all the people who rely on you and your company – your employees, family, partners, customers – are better. If you want to make the world a better place, start with yourself.
Resolve to do these five things and you’ll have a better 2017. And go ahead – have a few Thin Mints. You’re human, and by God, they’re delicious. As for getting along with your brother-in-law? Maybe next year.