Business Lessons That Can Help You Succeed at 2014 Resolutions
When it comes to ringing in the new year, it's out with the old, in with the new. And that means resolving to change for the better. But often sticking to new and ambitious goals - both for people and businesses - is easier said than done.
At my health company Minimum Viable Fitness we help busy startup professionals and entrepreneurs get and stay in shape. By working in this environment, we have discovered the many lessons entrepreneurs learn can also help them when it comes to setting, sticking with and ultimately succeeding their own resolutions for 2014.
Here is what you need to know:
Have a plan of action. Most resolutions focus on health and wellness, which are not short-term goals but rather long-term endeavors -- similar to running a profitable enterprise. Both benefit from having a concrete plan to achieve objectives.
For us, we have found implementing a positive-feedback loop, or a system where clients see enough results to motivate them to keep going, is a plan that works.
This same theory can work for businesses, as a company must ensure they have a plan to be profitable. If the resources invested into the company outweigh the profits then the company can't exist.
Decide if it is worth the investment. When you decide to start any healthy resolutions, there is a certain amount of friction working against you - the pain of giving up your favorite foods, taking time to exercise or kicking the nicotine habit.
After some time has passed, you will have to determine the results are worth continuing. If the rewards outweigh the pain, then the feedback loop is renewed. If you don't see any benefit (i.e. weight loss, more energy) you don't renew your efforts.
In business this concept is no different. When beginning a company you have to decide if it is worth the "cost" to you. You think about what you might be giving up in order to be an entrepreneur. If your efforts don't yield a profitable reward the business doesn't continue. You stop investing your resources in it.
Do your market research. Doing your homework comes with the territory when launching a business. So why not with your resolutions?
Great entrepreneurs know their business plans are always evolving and many of their original assumptions of what will work turn out to be false. They test what they know and iterate. They base these changes on good data and are constantly measuring the results. They work to know their customer. This dedication to constantly improving business intelligence is a hallmark of a good entrepreneur.
Similarly, there are plenty of things you simply don't know when it comes to achieving your resolutions. The reality is most of what people think they know about the physiology and psychology about "getting healthy or fit" is probably wrong. For example, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, working out for half an hour is more effective for weight loss than an hour and saturated fat doesn't cause heart disease. Before you jump into any resolution, do your research. Otherwise, just like businesses, you could be setting yourself up for failure.
Get to know your customer. In this case the customer is you. Make sure you know what you really want. Clarity of goals matters just as much in setting up a successful resolution as it is for managing a business.
If you want to lose your beer belly but are making yourself do exercise routines that aren't effective for fat loss, it shouldn't surprise you when you don't "buy" into the routine you are mentally selling yourself. Eventually you become a lost customer.
And this lost customer phenomenon happens all the time in the world of startups. Often entrepreneurs focus on what they believe customers want without seeking feedback. Don't fall into this trap. Make sure you are constantly connecting with your core demographic and gathering information.
Don't mistake short-term growth for profitability. Plenty of entrepreneurs (myself included) have applied the "more is more" approach as a tactic to succeed. After all, if a little less eating and a little more moving are good for you, why not eat a lot less and exercise a lot more? Crash dieting or binge exercising is a bit like spending an unsustainable amount on marketing to generate leads at a cost greater than the client is ultimately worth to you. Or advertising a product or service willy-nilly before you know people will buy it. If you had no idea what your margins are on a sale would you keep draining your resources to acquire a customer? Probably not. Sure the vanity metrics look good but will you be able to sustain your progress? The same is true of dieting or exercise. Obsession with doing things at a pace you cannot "afford" can tank companies (and resolutions).