Just in time for your New Year’s makeover, here is my list of 11 resolutions for business owners in 2011. (Top 10 lists are so Old Year.)
2. Leverage your strengths. If you have strong credibility in your market, look for opportunities to offer more in-depth services for current customers; they trust you and want to do more business with you. If you're a whiz at product development, accelerate upgrades that offer additional features and benefits – then promote the heck out of them.
3. Explore new geographic markets. Pick a promising country or region and get to know what makes it different. Study its culture and business practices, get out and meet business people from that region, and chat up other Canadians who have tapped that market and learned valuable lessons. The future of Canadian business lies in selling to the rest of the world.
4. Look for ways to add more value. In tough times, most marketers look for ways to claw back some of the value they offer their customers, as a way to preserve margins; you can stand out by offering more. Henry Ford said it best: “The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.”
5. Appoint someone on your team to explore opportunities in social media. I'm pretty sure I said this last year, but now I really mean it. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Groupon are growing faster than anyone dreamed. They are changing the way we communicate, and you have to learn to make them work for you.
6. Focus on corporate culture. More and more entrepreneurs I know are recognizing that their best most enduring, and possibly their only competitive advantage is their companies’ culture. With the right culture, you can move faster, out-serve and out-innovate the competition. And you’ll hold on to more of your best people and naturally attract more of the right people.
7. Hire better people. To grow the company, you have to recruit more senior people with greater skills and experience. You may have to pay some of them more than you pay yourself. But that’s okay – you have equity.
8. Invest in your best employees. Some of your staff aren't going anywhere and don't deserve any coddling But the best of them deserve more attention and nurturing than they're likely getting now. Help them upgrade their skills; give them new challenges to tackle. Help them learn, grow, and prove themselves.
9. Give your staff a big audacious goal to focus on this coming year. Present them with a challenge that will compel them to dream bigger, think harder, and innovate and collaborate in new and energizing ways. Be prepared for lots of new ideas and suggestions. While you can't be expected to follow up on them all, be aware that you will be expected to put your weight behind the best ones.
10. Find a mentor. Join your industry association. Create an advisory council or a customer advisory board. As you upgrade your company, you have to become much smarter and more resilient – and only other business people can help you do that.
11. Make yourself more interesting. Book a die-for vacation, take up an adventure sport, hone your artistic talents, set yourself an impossible challenge. The more interesting and memorable you are, the more other people will want to be around you. It will also make you a happier, more confident and well-rounded leader. Why, 2011 could be your best year yet.
(Adapted from my National Post column, Dec. 27, 2010)