BY SUSAN ROSE
Getting into shape or drinking less are always worthy New Year’s resolutions, but what are you resolving to do better with your business as the calendar turns? We have a few suggestions for your business’ year-end checkup, with a few personal goals sprinkled in for good measure. After all, what good are resolutions if they don’t lead to stronger leadership, right?
Resolve to Listen: Did you hear that? We mean actively listen to employees, not just nod your head or shuffle complaints down to your managers. Hiring is hard when the market is good (see page 20 if you don’t believe me), so you want to keep your effective team players. Work on better communication—which doesn’t necessarily mean more communication. Often, email clutter is the problem. Streamline effectively.
Resolve to Get Your Sh*t Together: If your company runs on adrenaline and putting out fires, then this one is for you. Whether it’s failing to plan, not having enough staff, or just being plain disorganized, it’s time to get your act together. Sit down and make a list of what needs to be done—or admit that you can’t and brainstorm with an organized and trusted right-hand man who can. Attach a deadline to each for urgency but don’t just half-ass it to get it done. Build in extra time for the tasks that are going to affect you long term like hiring, creating a marketing plan, or updating your mission statement. Ask for help if needed. You will never sustain growth without organization.
Resolve to Streamline: I know of a company that enters its client data into its accounting software, prints and scans those invoices before sending, and then saves those prints in storage for seven years. Worse, they now use MORE paper than before they decided to go “paperless.” Holy triple-redundancy, Batman! That is time consuming for their accounting team, which is understaffed and 60 days late in sending invoices. Tech is supposed to be a complement to your business, not an impediment.
Resolve to Get Serious About IT/Web Security: Our industry loves their latest smartphones but has a blind spot when it comes to protecting their infrastructure. This isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing: This should be on your monthly to-do list. You’re NOT too small to hack. We’ve covered the myriad ways that hackers can access your network through your own website, lapses in security through internet-connected devices (internet of things), and bad judgment by employees with email scams and browsing. For businesses that handle customer data and credit cards, this is a serious resolution. The Federal Trade Commission has information to help you get started or tighten it up here: fcc.gov/general/cybersecurity-small-business.
Resolve to Step Back: We know that you Type A personalities love to be tied to your business 24/7/365, but taking a break from the company is beneficial to you, your organization, and your employees. Relying on them to keep things running while you’re away builds their—and your—confidence, and it may inspire new procedures that you wouldn’t have considered on your own. So, step back, take a week off, and put the trust in your team, while resisting the temptation to check in every day (or five times a day ... you know who you are). And geesh, put down the phone for a while, will ya? We love social media, too, but do you really need to post tonight’s dinner?
Resolve to Think Beyond You: I hate to break it to you, but you won’t be around forever. Regardless of where you are in your professional career, you need to have an exit strategy roughed out in case something happens to you, or so that you can wind down your involvement with the business properly when the time comes. Your employees are relying on you.
Resolve to Network: Trees never stop growing and neither should your network. While we don’t think this industry is dying, it is becoming more and more nuanced and relationship-based as the price-choppers run to TNCs. Is it time to get involved with a new charity, organization, or committee? Conversely, is there a committee with which you need to cut ties? If your network is only transportation professionals, then you (or a senior staff member) have some work to do.
Resolve to Dream Big: You’re more than just your company, we hope. Take an online course (visit edx.org for a boatload of free and low-cost classes that are as regimented or self-paced as you want) or one through your community college, read a book a month on something non-business, follow your favorite band on tour for a couple of weeks, go camping or hiking, or finally learn to play the guitar. Have a hobby that complements the business side of you. Never stop learning or growing.
Resolve to Do the Same for Your Team: Even the best employees get in a rut. Encourage your staff to take on new challenges, even personally. Motivate them to think outside the job, to tap into their creativity, or to finally take those classes that will help them grow, too. You never know where that next great business idea will come from. [CD1217]