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Kenneth W. Keller: New Year’s resolutions for the business owner

Brain Food For Business People

Posted: December 29, 2009 9:30 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.
The idea of individuals having New Year’s resolutions is timeless. It is a means of taking stock of where a person is and where they want to go, and filling in the gap with plans and intentions.

Along those same lines, it would be a good thing for every business owner to sit down and take the time to write out a few resolutions for the organizations he or she leads.

Research suggests that some of the top individual resolutions made include losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier foods, quitting smoking, going back to school, finding a better job and getting out of debt.

Here are seven New Year’s resolutions for any leader for better business health and general well-being in 2010 and beyond. These can be used as a starting point to create a more personalized business list.

First, let 2010 become the year in which you further strengthen the business base by losing the clients you do not wish to do business with any longer, and by adding more of the kind of clients you want to do business with. Consider this as “losing weight.”

This isn’t likely to be done “cold turkey” by simply calling a current client and telling them “You’re fired!” but if time is taken to develop a strategy and a plan, half of the resolution can be taken care of during the next 12 months.

Likewise, if a strategy to target better clients is developed and executed, it can happen. The hard part is execution. This is similar to “exercising more” because it will allow your company to live longer and be much healthier in the process.

Second, let 2010 be the year in which you make and act on the difficult decisions that will improve the business for the long term.

This is the same as making the decision to quit using all forms of tobacco. Making the decision is far easier than making it happen.

But when it takes place, you are far better off having done it and see almost an immediate improvement in health.

This might mean investing in new hardware, software or new office furnishings. It might mean closing a division or ending the production and sales of product lines.

It might mean having fierce conversations with long-tenured employees no longer doing what needs to be done. It might mean saying goodbye to some of those same individuals.

Third, let 2010 become the year in which you make and honor a pledge to become a better business person, learning what you need to know. This is the owner’s version of “going back to school.”

More than anything else, making this resolution happen is being vulnerable; saying out loud and admitting to yourself and others “I don’t know it all.”

It means being honest enough to say: “There are things I need to know to become a better business person,” and it starts by making the decision that you need to learn more; that you do not have all the answers.  

Fourth, let 2010 be the year when you make the transition from owner to leader. This is like finding a new job, because it is finding a new job within the organization.

An owner focuses on three numbers: sales, expenses and profits. A leader determines key performance indicators and tracks them to see what people are doing to drive sales, keep expenses in line and grow profits.  

When an owner sees an employee they see an expense. In the mind of the owner, those expenses must be kept to the minimum to improve profits. The leader sees people on the payroll as an investment and continually asks “How can I better make use of the talents, strengths and abilities of this person for the company to excel?”

Fifth, let 2010 be the year when you invest in your people. This is sending people back to school within your company. If people are the most valued asset in your company, shouldn’t some money be spent making sure they are keeping current with what they need to learn to make sure your company stays ahead of the competition?

Sixth, let 2010 be the year your company operates from a written plan instead of the seat of your pants. Let your people know that you have a plan and share the information with them.  

Seventh and last, let this be the year that everyone in the company hears directly from the owner: “Thank you for your hard work and service to our clients. It is appreciated by our clients, your co-workers and by me.”

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Brain Food for Business People” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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