Start wherever you are and start small. -Rita Baily
With each past year behind us with hopefully more good memories than not, business owners around the country usually spend this time of year looking forward to how to make the best of the upcoming year. Like with New Year’s resolutions, most plans never come to fruition. It reminds me sadly about how many business plans are started and not finished, nor ever looked at again even if they are. Considering the renewal of the calendar year, I think it’s an appropriate time to “kick the tires” and look at some often-overlooked areas of your business as we kick off this January. So, even if you haven’t looked at that business plan sitting in your desk drawer (which I also recommend that you do!), reviewing and acting on any of these business areas will improve your 2015 outlook. This is a natural time for getting ready for business in the new year.
Leadership & Professional Development
It never hurts to think about one’s own success to start. This is especially as important when you are the leader of your organization. When I started my first administrative position in a boutique law firm, I would never have thought one day I would running companies. However, I realized early on that my skills were depended upon by everyone in the firm. I was a leader as much of myself, as of the people who followed me when I was chosen to take the lead on a case. I learned quickly that I needed leadership and other professional skills that I wasn’t taught in school, and I needed them quickly!
There are so many more resources today at your fingertips thanks to the proliferation of edtech (i.e., educational technology, primarily here on the Web and Mobile). Here are a few resources you can use to build up your leadership skills:
- Check out this free video course, “Introduction to Strategic Management” – taught by Professor R. Srinivasan out of the IISC Bangalore.
- Take the “Principles of Management” free course on iTunes taught by Professor Nicholas Beutell, PhD, from Iona College.
- You can also take the free Coursera course, “Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence” given by Case Western Reserve University’s Richard Boyatzis.
- If history is your thing, you may want to check out the free course on EdX, “Was Alexander Great? The Life, Leadership, and Legacies of History’s Greatest Warrior,”
- Subscribe to Harvard Business Review; it’s the best $6/mo. you can spend on keeping abreast of the latest in business. Also, the Leadership book in the HBR’s Must Reads Digital Boxed Set (6 Books) (HBR’s 10 Must Reads) is well worth the investment also, if you want to dive deeper.
Corporate Philanthropy & Community Service
The next phase of any great company new or veteran is learning to invest in their values as well as making a profit. It turns out that you get when you give; it’s a natural part of community building. There’s something almost mystical about how this works, but I assure you are wired to get more when you give than when you receive and this also works on the greater, business scale. Here are three ideas on how you can build some giving and volunteer opportunities for your business:
- Join Google One Today, a program that has you donate just one dollar a day, every day, to a charity doing something great for the world. Encourage your entire company’s staff (perhaps you can match or pay for the donations) to join Google One Today and share your giving experiences via your business Social Media networks.
- Think about creating a Corporate Philanthropy program, which is easier than you would think. A small community grant can mean the difference between a local organization making a great impact in your community (of course, tied to your business’ brand), or not being able to do it at all. In-kind volunteer support programs can even build up some organizations to a point where they can then become paying clients. There are many ideas and opportunities; click on the link above and get creative.
- You can additionally start a Community Volunteer program at your office, and require every staffer to give a certain percentage of his working month (say, 1.5 hours per calendar month, which is about 1% of 35-hour workweek). You can find many volunteer opportunities at Volunteer Match. It’s a marketplace for finding volunteers, and as its website says, “We bring good people & good causes together. Find a cause that lights you up. Get in touch with a nonprofit that needs you.” Why not bring this volunteering under one umbrella and coordinate the efforts with your company’s name at the forefront of benefiting your community. It’s the epitome of “doing well by doing good.”
Exit Strategy Planning
In the end, you cannot lead forever. While the science of rejuvenation is likely to see monumental progress in our lifetimes, endeavoring to possibly doubling some young generations’ lifespans, you will not live indefinitely. And, so you won’t be running your company that long either. Whether it’s by death, dissolution or deal, you will leave your company’s helm someday; why not decide how?
If you haven’t lately (or ever), now is a good time while you’re healthy and in positive spirits to call your trusts, estates and tax lawyer to work out details about how you want the disposition of your assets (including intellectual property) to be handled if you were to leave this life untimely. If you don’t have a legal adviser in an estate and tax advisory capacity, it’s best to find a specialist here at The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel; these are specifically-trained individuals to help you.
Of course, some of you hope that someday you will be able to sell your business for a billion dollars like Instagram or WhatsApp. Okay, perhaps something a bit more modest, say, a million dollars so that you can retire (if a million dollars is really enough to retire on nowadays). In this case, you might want to grab a copy of William Bumstead’s E4: Evaluating, Entering, Enhancing, & Exiting Privately Owned Businesses. A recommendation from my go-to exit strategy advisor and business broker, Lou Kastelic of Jordan-Crandus, E4 provides some valuable information on preparing your business for sale at any time during the phase of the company life cycle. Before or when you are ready to sell, I highly recommend touching base with Lou and seeing what your business’ value is and how to best position yourself in the marketplace.
Once you’ve made the first, small step in the direction of progress in any of these areas of business, you will feel like 2015 was already worth its weight in gold. What areas of business are most often not talked about and that you would like to make progress on in 2015? Leave your thoughts in the comments.