Welcome back. If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you took things a lot easier than usual this past summer. Perhaps your slowdown was purely self-imposed, a well-deserved respite from the day-to-day challenges of building your business and/or meeting payroll. Or maybe things got bogged down because so many of your customers, suppliers and staff were taking a break of their own—all of them at different times, of course. (Enact a law forcing everyone to take off the same two weeks in July? The lineups for the zoo would be a killer for a while, but imagine how productivity would soar for the rest of the summer!)
In either case, it’s time to get in gear for another year. Indeed, Labour Day marks the beginning of the real business year, with a solid 10 months before the sun and fun of July and August force companies to take their foot off the gas once again. Account for the Christmas break and the fact that you’re reading this no sooner than mid-September, and you have nine months or less to accomplish a year’s worth of business-building goals. You’d better act fast!
To help you get started, I thought I’d offer up three tactics that have been powerful drivers of growth and profitability for so many of the successful entrepreneurs I’ve met personally or through the pages of PROFIT. If you think that: a) they’ll work for you; and b) you can bring yourself to do them, then post them at eye level above your desk, and ask someone to hold you accountable for executing them. (All credit for that piece of advice belongs to Greig Clark, the founder of College Pro Painters, who this issue rejoins us as a regular columnist after a six-year absence; see page 27.)
1) You’ve probably heard of peer-advisory groups such as the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, TEC, the Innovators Alliance or Virtus, all of which assemble business owners in facilitated, monthly discussion groups in which they explore and collaboratively resolve their individual management challenges. Join one. Attend your meetings without fail. The investment in time and money (annual membership fees are a couple grand and up) will pay off many times over before the end of the year.
2) Complete a 360-degree performance review. Self-awareness is one of the key traits of most great entrepreneurs, because it allows you to believe—not just say—that you’re not the best person for every job, and then to identify your weaknesses so that you can work on those areas and/or get other people to cover them. The confidential feedback that a 360 review collects from colleagues and employees (and your boss, if you’ve hired yourself one) can help you build a complete and objective picture of yourself as a leader, especially if you’re one of those Type-A personalities to whom self-awareness does not come naturally.
3) Write a mission statement. Not one that says your company “provides market-leading solutions” or “creates value for customers,” but one that’s specific and actionable enough that it could direct an employee’s actions under any circumstance when all other guidance is lacking. Once you have a good mission statement, it will provide the laser focus that can help you cut through the intellectual clutter of strategic planning sessions, employee goal-setting, product development and the like, and come to more certain decisions, quicker. Because you only have nine months.