New Year's resolution for entrepreneurs
Yaneek Page, Business Columnist
Question: This year has been very rough for my business and I feel as if I am ready to give up. I need your advice about how to turn things around in 2015. I am tired of the stress and need a solution or else I will have to rejoin the workforce. It would hurt me deeply, as for the last 3 years, I have poured my all into it. I get very depressed when I think of my failure and the shame of having to go back and work for people again. Please respond as I am in need of your expertise.
You should know that 2014 was a challenging year for many businesses operating in Jamaica. If you've been following the news throughout the year, it was dominated by the economy, International Monetary Fund and austerity measures, and chik-V impact and losses. Entrepreneurs, professionals, skilled and unskilled workers, middle class, lower class and especially the poor are struggling to find safe financial ground amidst the economic tsunami that has ravaged the country in recent years. The point I'm making is that you are not alone and are likely not to blame for the biggest problems in your business. Even the best of us, and by that I mean the most experienced, prepared and established entrepreneurs, have been struggling to thrive in this business climate. With that said, if you are to have any chance of turning your fortunes around you must stop berating yourself. Crisis requires calm, strategic, confident and optimistic leadership. Remember, there's no shame in honest work no matter how nominal or even negative the reward.
It's unfortunate that you did not give me more details on the type of business you operate, the goods or services you provide, business model, target market, and specific challenges you are faced with. In the absence of those specifics the best I can do is suggest practical yet promising New Year's resolutions to overhaul your business that you can implement now:
Resolution 1 - Use data to drive decision-making in your business
Too often entrepreneurs make decisions based on emotions without any account for relevant data. I'm not saying that gut feelings don't matter, but they're certainly not enough. Using an evidence-based approach to decision-making is ensuring managerial decisions and business practices are informed by the best available information, statistics and evidence, both internal and external. Internal data includes monthly sales and expense numbers, customer buying behaviour, employee productivity metrics, etc. External data includes GDP, consumer- and business-confidence surveys, unemployment rate, consumer price index, competitor analysis, exchange-rate fluctuations, interest-rate movements, etc.
Resolution 2 - Commit to a long-term vision
One of the single most transformative actions you can take for your company is to outline a clear vision of what you want the business to achieve and commit to it. This will give the business clarity of purpose, direction and focus. An example of a great vision statement is GraceKennedy's "To be a global consumer group delivering long-term consumer and shareholder value, through brand building and innovative solutions in food and financial services, provided by highly skilled and motivated people."
Resolution 3 - Seek opportunities in other markets
If you've been reading my articles, you would realise I am obsessive about identifying other markets for our products and services. You can start with CARICOM given the preferential duties, as well as major trading partners and non-traditional markets with similar tastes and preferences. Remember, although local opportunities exist, our market is small, purchasing power is weak, and businesses that earn foreign exchange are ahead of the game.
Resolution 4 - Invest in Innovation
Innovation is essential for renewal, differentiation, growth and to stay ahead of the competition. Set a target for developing new products each year, improving your processes and your customer experience, etc. Practising intrapreneurship is a good first step, especially when on a budget.
Resolution 5 - Create a strategic plan
"A goal without a plan is just a wish". It's a phrase I use often in my entrepreneurship training and business-coaching sessions. If you can, organise a strategic planning retreat with the aim of developing a comprehensive strategic document outlining your goals for the upcoming period, the actions needed to achieve those goals and how you will proactively manage the risks of failure.
Resolution 6 - Assemble an advisory board
I know it is not easy to establish a board of directors, but at the very least, you should aim for an advisory board. Ideally, this would be a diverse group of people of varying ages, skill sets, talents and experience who can provide wise, non-binding strategic advice and direction.
Resolution 7 - Commit to working more on, rather than in, the business
It's impossible for a business to grow if no one is leading it. Resolve to delegate some operational tasks and direct your time and energy to work on the business - seeking new opportunities, new markets, new partnerships, etc, to grow the business.
Resolution 8 - Seek support
Change is not easy, especially when charting a new course for the success of your business. You can become more effective and resilient if you have a mentor, business advisor or coach to guide and support you, offer solutions and resources, and really push you to achieve your big goals for 2015 and beyond.