New Year’s marketing forecasts have focused on a wide array of new and improved technological advances across the industry. In my primary arena, I’m looking forward to increased targeting and engagement options in the digital media landscape and a greater willingness for more small companies to invest in the acquisition of well-written, diversified content. I’m excited by these prospects for new business, but only time will tell whether any of them will live up to expectations.
Whatever your professional profile, if you own a small business, you know that technology is just one element in the overall composition of factors leading to your satisfaction and success. In this post, I’m putting technology aside for a brief moment, to make a few “tech-free” suggestions for enhancing your likelihood for growth in the coming year.
1. Stay true to your core values. Whether you recently launched your company, or have been in business for many years, as the founder, your personal identity is indelibly etched on your brand, product or service. I may have deliberately chosen to carve my name on my shingle, yet not everyone does. Regardless of your company moniker, your personal profile is reflected in everything that you and your company do. Clients decide to place their trust in you (and are willing to pay you) because of your smart and creative ideas, your stellar reputation and your commitment to excellence. They want what you have to give and choose to engage with you for your given talents. Whether or not you employ a staff of workers or have chosen to maintain your solo status, you are responsible for upholding the original values you brought to your company on the day it began. The longer you’ve been in business and the larger your company becomes, the easier it is to lose sight of this understanding. However, your company’s success depends upon whether or not you are able to maintain this high level of personal consistency.
2. Take care of yourself. There’s no denying that your potential for stress and anxiety exponentially increases when you own a business. It’s all part of the equation. Knowing that everyone processes stress differently, relief will take many forms. Above all, it’s crucial to listen to both your mind and body, being careful not to ignore those alarm bells when they start ringing. And, trust me, they will ring! For some people, alleviating stress on the job means practicing daily meditation, going for a run, or keeping a journal. In my case, I’ve learned the hard way that I need to allow myself enough food, sleep, and exercise in order to perform at my best. For me, this means eating frequent, smaller meals throughout the day to avoid experiencing those dreaded blood sugar highs and lows, getting to bed relatively early and making sure I get out for a long walk or hit the rowing machine at least four or five times a week. I’m a better planner, negotiator, writer, mom and wife when I’m not trying to subsist on too little fuel. Most days, it’s a balancing act for me, and I don’t always get it right. There will always be too much caffeine and too little green tea, too much wine and too little water, but if you start practicing being more aware of your internal cues, you’ll feel better over the long haul.
3. Give yourself a break. Childhood fairy tales promise us happily ever after at the end of almost every story. We, business owners know that’s not always going to happen. Early on in my first year of business, I lost an important account, and the immediate affects on me were devastating. It wasn’t because I didn’t try my hardest, or put my best efforts towards making it work. I lost the business because the connection between my client and me ultimately wasn’t sound. At the time, I allowed myself to wallow in the failure. I blamed myself for doing something “wrong” when, in reality, there was nobody at fault. I expended precious energy getting mad at myself when I could have been using it towards more productive things. Looking back, it was clear I didn’t handle the disappointment very well. Hindsight has taught me a lot about failure since then. I’ve learned that untangling myself from that client was actually a positive step forward. Only when I let myself off the hook, and shined a little forgiveness on myself for a change, was I able to see that my intentions had been good, even if the relationship didn’t last. Losing the business, while admittedly an incredibly stressful and financially challenging experience, freed me to pursue other work that has ultimately been more satisfying.
I realize that my suggestions may not be feasible for everyone. It’s not easy to stay true to your business persona, find healthier ways to alleviate stress or let disappointments roll off easily, at least not all the time. Even with the best intentions, the chaos of day-to-day living and running a business will always get in the way. I encourage you to let the approaching New Year be your excuse to try out at least one of these changes. Here’s to all of us finding continued fulfillment and prosperity in the year ahead.