The new year is always looked at as a “fresh start,” though as entrepreneurs most of us never stop. Starting a business is often a goal that tends to either contain or subsume all other goals. So it is worth taking a moment to focus on what we want to accomplish for the year. Many of us have goals, both short and long-term, and the beginning of the year is often a time for setting new ones or modifying old ones.
Venture Capitalist Charlie O’Donnell sent out a list of goals for entrepreneurs to consider, and I’m going to cherry pick a few of the best suggestions he made. Additionally, I’m going to do a little bit of your homework for you, as I believe making some of these goals actionable makes them easier to start. (Charlie’s weekly emails, while primarily about NYC Events, often have good advice at the beginning.)
1. Find Ten People I Should Know, But Don’t.
Small businesspeople always need a bigger network, and not always in the social networking site sense. People who you communicate with and share knowledge with in an interactive (as in conversational) fashion are key to your growth as a person and an entrepreneur. How will you find those 10 people?
Ask yourself, “In what areas do I need to grow?” Are you a good salesperson, or do you need to improve your technique? Do you understand the marketing needs of your business, or could you benefit from some pointers? When your accountant goes over the books at the end of the week or month, do you really get what she’s telling you? (This also helps you with another goal O’Donnell set out: “Three things I’d like to learn.”) Then identify some people that you admire in business, either in the community or the world at large. Ask for introductions from friends, if you can find common connections. This is where LinkedIn or Facebook can be a good companion, because, especially on LinkedIn, you can find people who are both connected to you and your desired connection.
Once you connect, buy the coffee and bring some value to the exchange first. How can you help them? If you truly have nothing to offer now (and I doubt that’s true), then discuss a mentoring relationship – and show the other person how it will benefit both of you. Perhaps you’re up on trends this person isn’t seeing, or you have “street knowledge” they’re not getting in an office suite. Make a regular check in with this person – every other month, perhaps – and make sure you let them know how they’re being helpful to you.
2. A Physical Goal (a time, a measurement, or just being able to be more bendy, less creaky, etc.)
Face it. Sometimes you put your business in front of taking care of yourself. I’m writing this article when I should be working out, so I know how it feels. Having a physical goal doesn’t have to be about losing weight, but it could be. It can also be about gaining endurance, or just keeping up your health and removing stress when you are in what is arguably one of the most stressful times of your life – starting a business.
Here’s where an app or social network can provide a good, positive feedback loop. Many of my friends are starting to use FitBit or Nike Fuel Bands to track their movement on a daily basis, and ensure they’re actually moving from their desk, counter or home office at least some amount. These devices can remind you to take the stairs instead of an elevator, and to park farther from the supermarket to get in extra movement. Think of it like putting yourself into a video game, and you’re trying to “level up.” If you’re not into the devices as a way to measure, apps like Map My Run and Map My Ride let you track not only your primary activity but gym workouts, food you ate and more. These types of apps also let you post results so friends can see your workouts and support you. Be careful not to post too often, but the occasional “I just biked 20 miles” will get you lots of positive reinforcement and keep you motivated. Plus you can look back and see your own progress.
3. Three Things That You’ve Been Procrastinating On That You’re Going To Get Done.
As I wrote in my “Make Sure To Do Your To Do’s” post, there are many ways to keep track of your outstanding list of things to be done. But no software, pad of paper, or mental check list is going to make you do the thing you’ve been putting off. Whatever it is, you have to tackle it this year. Break the item into pieces, and do each piece, one at at time, until you’ve chipped it away. Last year, I took some medical tests I had put off, and it was all good news and just a little discomfort. Reward yourself at each step for completing the pieces. It helps.
Alternatively, figure out if you really need to do the items you’re procrastinating about yourself. Could you delegate it to an employee? Could an outsourced contractor or worker handle this and just get it off your plate?
Finally, you have my permission to decide that you’ve procrastinated long enough, and that this is something you’re just not going to do. Sometimes, by inaction, we’ve made a decision, and an opportunity is lost or it wasn’t an opportunity at all. You put it on your list, but by not following up after a conference that person may have moved on or have found a different solution to their problem. There will be others, so mark them off your list, move on, and find other goals to conquer.
Good luck in 2013. May it be the year in which you accomplish great things.