After the past few days of having my inbox and social media streams flooded with “must-do now” lists advising me how to be lighter, healthier, happier and more successful, I have decided to reverse my decision to not write a new year resolution post, and chime in.
Although there is something exciting and fresh feeling about a new year, I fail to understand and continually marvel why we are inspired specifically to reflect and renew only at this time…shouldn’t we be constantly revisiting and revamping what we do, striving to do our best and be our best every day? Goals change, priorities shift, we receive new information (and hopefully inspiration), we grow, we face challenges, we build relationships…life happens, work matters.
So, if you have made, or are making resolutions for your business this year, let’s start (and hopefully end) with this list, as it will be the last time you reset and renew according to the calendar. For a successful (and emotionally healthy) business, focus on cultivating consistent and ever-evolving practices that you can, and will keep, for the years to come.
- Evolve constantly. As an entrepreneur, you should always be evolving and innovating. Whether you choose to use paper or an app, record your ideas, and then go over your notes on an ongoing basis. You will be impressed with what you’ve come up with, and it will be a continual source of development for you. A good idea doesn’t guarantee success, of course – everyone has ideas. The value is in the execution of your idea and that’s where your focus should be. Don’t marry yourself to an original idea or business plan if it’s not working for you. What worked last year, might not work this year.
- Decide to grow. Growth doesn’t just happen – you have to put in a concerted effort to get the results you want. Invest your resources in your own growth – mentally, physically, and financially. When you choose to monetize your own values and provide value, you will not only grow sustainably, but will enjoy your work.
- Become financially fit. Create monthly systems and processes for accounting and bookkeeping. Everything about taxes, government remittances, payable and receivables can be “easy” if you have guidelines to follow. Create reports and review your revenues, profits and cash flow on an ongoing basis. If you don’t use a system, I have been using QuickBooks successfully since the 90s, and it’s been vital to my business. Healthy financial tracking, evaluation and action for your business is much more about organization than about your ability to be your own accountant – you should hire one of those!
- Get found. Make it a weekly or monthly task to register your business or your personal business profile on free sites, social channels (you aren’t already using, because you should be), on Google, and in and on local directories. Who doesn’t love free advertising that lasts online forever? These links will help those searching online find you with grand ease.
- Make more money. If you are constantly checking your financials and staying organized, you will be able to evaluate not only what makes you money, but what makes you happy – this intersection is where you develop your own successful and meaningful business. Focus on your long-term sustainability and your profits – not on your cash flow, which is simply keeping the bills paid and lights on day-to-day. There are infinite revenue streams to be created, no matter what product or service you currently offer. Focus on the customers that want to work with you, or buy from you repeatedly. Remember, always ensure you are offering true value and staying true to your values.
- Sell. Many makers and creators think if they are passionate about what they do, produce great work or offer a fabulous service, customers will just arrive naturally. That is not the case – you must “get out there” and sell. Do not worry about rejection – it’s just part of the journey on the way to acquisition and engagement. If you have a fabulous product or service, it deserves and needs your efforts, on a constant basis.
- Get in the cloud. Working remotely has never been easier. When you leave your desk, don’t leave your work there. Having access to your files means being able to take advantage of more travel, even if just to your backyard in the summer sunshine. Not to mention, you’ll be able to find ways to work through power outages (personal experience of my server shutting down multiple times). Always make sure you are getting the best service and price, and that it’s safe and secure – the cloud is getting more crowded every day with more and more oppportunities.
- Audit your suppliers. Is your cell phone bill more expensive than it should be? Are you getting the best price and service for your website hosting? Is your accountant doing a thorough job? Sometimes the key to making more money and feeling great is simply to reduce your expenses. You’ll be surprised what a call to a supplier with a simple request (or maybe a kind demand) for better pricing will do for you. Doing this twice yearly is great.
- Turn off social media. As a huge advocate of social media, and someone who “bullies” all of my clients into actively using the channels well, I still do recommend shutting it off if you find yourself scrolling when you should be creating. A prescription of 30 minutes per day on social media might be enough right now, but constantly evaluate what is working for you, and what return you are getting for the investment of your time.. And, never have notifications on – that is just an unnecessary distraction.
- Build your community. It’s not about numbers, but about real people wanting to engage with you – and you engaging with them, too. Continue to attract people’s attention. Collect email addresses and create and maintain a current list, and use the list well on a frequent basis. Again, if you are offering value, your community will be there for you, and will amplify all you are doing, leading to enagement and virality. I am so grateful for my community, and enjoy being part of other meaningful communities, cheering others on, as well.
- Embrace mixed media. There is no silver bullet these days in marketing. Instead of focusing and investing in one tactic or media, create a plan and a strategy and use as many tools as will be effective that are available (these are changing and being created at lightning speed, so keep on top of trends and be an early adopter). It works. And please, stay involved – what you learn in the process of marketing is critical in helping you make decisions about your business. Even if someone else is taking care of your social media, internally or externally, read your posts and responses at least weekly.
- Keep learning. Read books, read blogs, listen to podcasts, take courses – but don’t fall for those programs where the “teachers” and “coaches” guarantee you will find your passion, or have the perfect workday, or understand life, live your dreams, or earn a 7 figure income really quickly. And, once you learn, use that information – there should be no “un-knowing”, ever. Learning and reading is useless if you aren’t doing!
- Support others. There is no better way to connect with community and develop meaningful relationships and partnerships than by giving. Good people, doing good things, must stick together. Give without expecting anything in return. Even something as simple as writing a LinkedIn recommendation for someone you appreciate or has made a difference in your life or work once a week is a great start, refer someone to another because you value them, not because there is commission, volunteer your time and expertise, share your resources, shop from your own local community and small businesses, and weave social goodness into the fabric of your business.
- Outsource well. Stop trying to do it all yourself. You don’t have the time to be skilled at doing everything well, nor is this a recommended or effective way to spend your time. If you outsource well, you can focus on what you do best and your business will be able to grow, and will be set up for successes. Choose your “thinking partners” and your professional hires wisely – never choose “echo chambers” who will simply cheer you on, but those who will challenge, build, and break down your ideas or pull them apart and have you approach your own work from different angles. Keep notes on professional services you admire in one place, even if you are not yet ready to hire them, so when you need them, you have a good starting place.
- Provide value. I’ve touched on this a few times, but it deserves a point to itself. As much as you need to sell, focus on offering a solution. Be a problem solver. I expect good value for my money, but also for my time, don’t you? Constantly evaluate how you can offer more value to what you are doing so your audience values you and your brand.
- Ignore negativity. Don’t listen to people who tell you that your business cannot survive in our economy, or that your product cannot be sold. If you are offering a solution and value, it’s viable. period. And, don’t invest time in “energy vampires”, don’t let assholes derail you.
- Sign up for blogs and emails (that matter). But unsubscribe from those are no longer of value, or are too frequent. Start or end your day (or week or month) by reading the newest pieces by your favourite thought leaders. I have always enjoyed Seth Godin‘s morning email. Also, a shameless plug for signing up to receive what goes up on our “un-blog” as it happens, or just once per month in our roundup — we think we put out good content about conscious business and healthy living, but you can be the judge – and let us know! Try and add (and unsubscribe as needed) on an ongoing basis.
- Trust your instincts. You should (and do) know your business better than anyone else, so, although it’s great to listen to and to implement other people’s advice that you trust, make sure you also feel right about it. Always check in with yourself.
- Love what you do. Or don’t do it. But loving what you do doesn’t necessarily mean that every moment and every task will be fun. If it were easy, and always fun, wouldn’t everyone be running their own business? Embrace the challenges, but enjoy the process and the reflection. You should be proud of what you are doing, and of your accomplishments on a daily basis.
- Bookmark and re-read inspirational articles, posts, and quotes. Sometimes you just need a friendly reminder about the good your are doing, or why you are doing it, or why you should smile. I hope my 25 Big Thoughts for Your Small Business might be included in your collection.
I wrote this list as an exercise for myself, as much as for all of you reading, and it’s already been helpful in reminding me to take my own advice, as I give it. Like with everything else I seem to create, this post is not comprehensive, and will evolve as I do, and I look forward to it.
Every day, every year, let’s just focus on doing our best, giving it (and others) our all, and enjoying the most we can. Nothing will make for happier, more successful work – and life.