Happy New Year! For some, a new year represents a new fiscal year or tax time, for others like me, its a time to reflect, plan and design my new year. Exciting right! So here are a few of my own tips for making your entrepreneurial journey a success in 2017:
- The calendar. Yes! The calendar. Consider taking a little time to think about and chart out your milestones for 2017 and put dates to them. Maybe put on a pot of coffee and curl up in your favorite chair for an hour and reflect. Were there projects from 2016 that were not actioned which you know you should be doing that will positively impact your business or take it to the next level? Were there missed events or opportunities in 2016 that will reappear in 2017 that you can recapture and capitalize on? Jot them down and keep your calendar a place where you will see it frequently to help keep you on track.
- Failure is only a perspective. As entrepreneurs, I’m pretty sure we all make mistakes. Take a moment to reflect on the past year in your business, learn from the mistake(s) then let them go so that your “brain power” will not be preoccupied preventing you from opening up your mind to see opportunities and new ventures that you never saw before; and in doing so, redesign your future, the one in 2017! In my opinion, failure is only a perspective. What I thought was a failure, later caused me to achieve some pretty good successes in life, so really..was it a failure then? No! Failure is learning, learning makes you wiser and smarter.
- Set the tone for 2017. Reflect and repeat. Don’t forget to take a moment to look back at some of the decisions you made and milestones achieved that worked out well for you and your business and also positively impacted the lives of others, probably on a daily basis -all just because you are an entrepreneur. Did you create a job for someone or many people? Did the community benefit from you in any way? Did you bring a needed product to market? Did you help a customer solve a problem? Did you finish a successful project? Take a moment to reflect and bring your successes to “the top of your mind” and also think about the steps you took accomplish it. How does it make you feel? Pretty good? Set the tone for 2017, reflect on the positives, how you achieved them and don’t forget to repeat them, share them and toot your own horn!
- Get a better handle on your cash. How do you feel when you are running low on operating capital? Do you frequently ask yourself how you are going to make your next payroll or how you are going to finance that next big job? Are you bordering the line of insolvency? How does it make you feel? Feeling fear and anxiousness while you are trying to run a business is no way to live -or run a business. My life changed dramatically when I achieved a strong handle on my cash flow. If you are a small business, you likely know what is draining your cash flow, so stop it. In 2017 make the hard decision that has been holding you back and commit to making 2017 the year of your best cash flow ever -and probably your best life ever! You will love your business again. Also, I want to address here briefly that a cash strapped business is not necessarily a failing one. I can give you many reasons why you may be in financial crisis and strapped for cash but it does not explicitly mean that you are not profitable or that you are failing. Consider seeking the help of a professional if you are not capable of fixing this yourself. You must not run out of cash.
- Take your business serioulsey because it IS serious. As the business owner and investor you are the one with everything on the line and you are the one who took the risk required to get your business off the ground. You probably invested your life savings, took out a bank loan, utilized your credit cards or maybe you backed your corporate financing with the equity in your house or your kids education fund and/or borrowed from family and friends. Though I do not recommend starting up a business this way, many still do. If your employee, family member or friend from highschool is not performing his or her job or supporting your business to the standard required to keep your investment protected, then maybe it’s time to let go of him or her. Don’t be humble, take your business seriously because it IS serious. Owning a business is no time to be humble when it comes to making the hard decisions required to succeed and safeguard your investment. Always treat everyone with the respect they deserve, but other then their safety, your personal obligation ends there.
- Face a fear. I’m referring to facing a fear as it relates to your business such that if you were to accomplish it your business would be better off for it. I know it sounds cliche, everyone says “you should face your fears” but I didn’t realize just how true this saying is until I absolutely had to do something myself that either my father or my senior operations manager always did for me. You see, my lead general manager moved out of the province, and also after my father left, he had stayed with me for 3 more years. What was I to do when a 2 million dollar construction contract presented itself? When the call came into the office I wondered who was going to land this construction contract for me? Could I still handle myself I wondered? I wasn’t sure, but one thing I did know was that if I wanted the job I had to go get it myself. I had to get out from behind my comfortable and safe desk, board a plane, meet the other subcontractors and sell my company to the owner of the job. Turns out I forgot all about my fear as soon as I stepped foot in the building. Not only was I offered the job, but it didn’t feel like I was closing a multi-million dollar deal at all. The situation restored the confidence I had lost from remaining behind my desk all these years and it only took once to do it. Now, I can confidently go out and close any deal for myself again and that is invaluable.
- Read or seek a mentor. It’s great to learn from our mistakes but preferably we want to learn from other peoples mistakes! Consider finding a mentor in your field who is willing to have a coffee or lunch with you from time to time or consider reading a few books written by experts in your field this year. Someone once wrote, I don’t recall who at the moment, but they said: “smart people learn from smarter people.” That has always stuck with me. If you want to learn from an accomplished accountant, back doctor, psychologist or CEO, consider picking up a few books or audio books. Today I have a large library in my home as I often still like to read in hard copy. Also, it’s lonely at the top, my mentor was very valuable to me when I reached that point. Entrepreneurship can be every bit as hard as they say it is. In my experience, only someone who is in your shoes, such as your mentor, is truly going to understand.
- Ask for help or consider outsourcing. If you are constantly bogged down, and we know entrepreneurs almost always are, but if your working until midnight every night with no end in sight then maybe its time to consider outsourcing if you are in the type of industry that can allow for it. Nobody likes to spend the extra money to pay for a service that we think we can do ourselves, but in the end, if executed properly, it can actually save you money. I’ll do a separate blog on this later, but in the short term, do your research, do verify ones experience and past project history, try to check references, and not the ones they give you; ask around, after all, your trying to solve a problem not create a new one so its very important to hire the right consultant the first time. In the early years I burnt the candle at both ends for a long time until I started making costly mistakes due to being over tired and I had to rework substandard work. Furthermore this took me away from higher level issues that I should have been attending to, like my customer relationships and getting their bills out for example. Bill as quickly as possible and if you can’t, I strongly suggest finding a way to outsourcing it.
- Take care of yourself. Do something for yourself every single day. How we feel seems to be reflected in one way or another in everything we do. If we do not consume proper nutirents and fluids, our body and mind will not function optimally. If we have aches and pains we may be unproductive or worse, not complete tasks at all. In 2017, schedule in appointments for planning your meals, grocery shopping, workout routine, perhaps meditation. Consider seeing your doctor and having your medical issues taken care of. Your company is only as good as its management. A healthy you is vital to the running of your company and is as important as any other task in the day to day running of your business.
- Commit to planning your daily goals and discipline yourself to complete them. The night before, give a quick thought about what needs to be done tomorrow. In the morning make the list and plan your day. Chose the very most important task on the list and discipline yourself to ensure it’s completed that day no matter what. This may be difficult at first but the act of forcefully disciplining yourself exercises your “discipline muscle” therefore, it will get easier each time. If you can not discipline yourself to supervise your company then you must work for someone else who will supervise you.
- Repeat number 4!
I hope you find these tips useful, some of them are based on my own personal experiences. I’d love to hear your feedback and be sure and let me know if making any of these changes helped you and your business in a positive way.