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Gaining Ground

December 1, 2002
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/57108

While most people make their new year's resolutions closer to January 1, I'm going to make some now. And I'm going to suggest you do the same. This way, you'll have time to think about them, and you'll be ready to implement your resolutions by the time the new year comes around.

Actually, this is more of a joint resolution-you entrepreneurs and me. Together, we're going on a diet. No, we're not resolving to drop pounds (though that's not necessarily a bad idea); we're going to lose our bad habits and our negative attitudes and start 2003 with a new, "healthier" plan.

First, we need to acknowledge that 2002 was not a normal business year for most of us. And we need to realize a lot of that stemmed from a number of factors beyond our control. We have no assurance that 2003 will see us in control again, so we have to understand we can only change what we can control.

As I write this in mid-October, consumer confidence has hit new nine-year lows. Surely this affects your sales. So we need to resolve to find new approaches to maintaining (and yes, increasing) your company's revenues. Have you surveyed your customers and clients lately? Determined their hot buttons? In tough times, everyone-businesses and consumers-cut back on purchasing what they want. But most of us will still buy what we need. Figure out what it is about your products and/or your services that people need, and make that the focus of your sales and marketing efforts. Don't go into 2003 thinking "It's going to be another bad year." Instead, ask yourself "No matter what happens to the economy, how can I make 2003 better than 2002?"

Next, resolve to get stronger. Examine your business. Where are its weak spots? What are your strengths? Do you have enough salespeople? Is your marketing team doing its job? Is your infrastructure bloated? Do you have the right number of people doing what needs to be done? Are the people you rely on still reliable? You need staff who can take you to the next level, not just keep you where you're at.

Now let's ditch the fear of spending. I'm not saying, "Let's go on a spending spree." But take a look at your technology. Is it still working for you? Sure, the hardware and software innovations aren't as earth-shattering as they were a decade ago, but new technology is being introduced constantly. Check it out. You may find a few new computers or upgraded (or new) software is exactly what you need to give your business a boost.

This year, I got hooked on a Blackberry. For an initial $500 investment, this little device has greatly improved my productivity and efficiency. It helps me manage my time better and keeps me in touch with my staff-no matter where I am. That's a lot of value for less than $75 a month.

Entrepreneurs have always been, by definition, leaders. But lately, too many of you have developed a sheep mentality, blindly following your corporate brothers. Let's lose the follow-the-leader routine. It's time for entrepreneurs to jump back to the head of the line. After all, you're the innovators. You're the initiators. You're the ones who make it happen. So what are you waiting for?

Build the better mousetrap again. Look for the holes in the market. Believe me, they're still there. Sure, "find the niche and fill it" is Entrepreneurship 101, but the principle still applies. To get customers to spend their money on your products or services, you need to offer them things not already in their closets or PDAs.

There are undoubtedly other areas of your business that need shaping up. Only you know what they are. If you take the time to figure out where you need to lose, you'll discover what there is to gain. Like all resolutions, it's going to be tough to keep all the ones you make. But if you come out of this exercise with even one resolution intact, your business will be healthier. Don't put off your diet until the proverbial tomorrow. Do it now.

We at Entrepreneur would like to wish all of you a joyous and peaceful holiday season.