Five New Year’s resolutions for entrepreneurs

The number of unused gym contracts and abandoned diets by the first week of February is enough to make anybody cynical about new-year’s resolutions, but David Morobe, Business Partners regional manager, urges entrepreneurs to think differently about it.

The lives of entrepreneurs differ from those of the employed in the sense that the work is never done. There is always that idea that needs to be taken off the back burner, several pitches to prepare, neglected systems to fix and formalise, the next contract to win, and an inbox that never stays clear for long. In such circumstances, it is good to use any opportunity for a pause, no matter how brief, to step back, evaluate, renew and to tighten resolve.

For most entrepreneurs, the new year is an excellent opportunity for such an exercise. It needn’t be a sprawling review of everything in your business. Morobe suggests ordering it into a checklist of five areas into which you can delve as deeply as you need to:

Revisit your business model

All business owners have to rethink their value proposition which, in essence, addresses how they create, capture and deliver value in an ever-changing market. New technologies take hold, new competitors emerge, clients’ preferences and tastes change, demographics shift. The way you do things can very quickly become sub-optimal.

“You don’t need to turn your business model on its head,” says Morobe. Very often, all it needs are small changes and incremental improvements.

Break down your business model into its two key aspects in order to think clearly about it: The value proposition which encompasses your target segments, products and services that your offer your customers, and your pricing structure. The other key aspect is the operating model which addresses the question of how you profitably deliver the offering.

Check your control levers

For Morobe, the question “Are you in control of your business?” is directly related to how well you use your financial statements as a management tool. “Is your cash flow under control? Can you meet your payments when they are due? Do you have a handle on the ageing of your creditors and debtors? Are you getting a return on your investment?” All of these fundamental questions link to your use of financial statements. If you don’t use them, this is the one new-year’s resolution that you can’t afford not to make.

Check your team

In owner-managed businesses, the entrepreneur is the single most important worker, but very often they impede the growth of the business because they try to do too much. It is therefore good for entrepreneurs to review the balance between their own workload and that of their team of workers, says Morobe. “When you start out on your own, for example, just having a receptionist in front to make sure you don’t miss those important calls can make all the difference.”

Ideally, a business owner needs to build a loyal team of talented individuals with whom they can work amicably, but who are also not afraid to challenge the boss and push, when necessary, for ways to do things better. Morobe acknowledges that finding such people – and being able to afford them – are much easier said than done, but it is an aspect of business that requires regular attention. Make sure you select talented people who fit into your team’s personality and character. As team leader, review the extent to which your team members are focused on the goals that you have set them, and check their training and development needs.

Connect and reconnect with your network

The large numbers of contacts that business owners build up even if they don’t network consciously is an enormous store of value that is seldom mined. “Entrepreneurs tend to take for granted all the work they put into networking,” says Morobe.

The secret lies in following up, which can be as easy as picking up the phone to say hello. You don’t need much of an excuse to meet someone for a coffee or breakfast. Birthday calls work, says Morobe, and modern social media can be harnessed to take much of the hassle out of staying in touch.

Get your work-life balance right

It is no secret that entrepreneurs tend to lean over very far towards the work side of the work-life scale. Perhaps less known, but really plain to see, is how an entrepreneur’s neglected home life can come back to bite the business. No review of a business is complete without a careful look at the work-life balance of the entrepreneur. Set a minimum amount of time for family, friends and self-indulgence, and try to stick to it.

Self-management is just as important, says Morobe, and by this he means keeping up energy levels by getting sufficient sleep, eating well and doing enough exercise.

Remember that it’s all about balance, so don’t embark on a hectic diet or exercise programme. It will just make you cynical about New Year’s resolutions.

Morobe says: “I’m certain that all of us have taken various resolutions for 2015. While yours as an entrepreneur may be a little different to those of others, it is worth your while to ensure that they are feasible and reasonably challenging as you embark on the 2015 business journey.”