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With her four restaurants affected by the shaky economy, Jennifer Sarver, 32, founder of the $3 million San Francisco Soup Co., got creative. "I resolved to diversify our business [in 2003] and start selling our soups wholesale," says Sarver. To do so, her company's central kitchen first had to become a USDA-inspected facility. "We then had to develop packaging processes for selling wholesale and invest in new equipment," explains Sarver. She also found a distributor who delivered to independent grocery stores in the Bay area.
Diversifying her business became her primary focus for the next eight months. "Even though we were making our soups in larger batches, it was our goal to produce the same quality product. In the beginning, however, we had consistency problems," Sarver recalls. "The soups were too thick or too thin."
Learning to fine-tune equipment and train new staff helped with consistency, but not before Sarver donated hundreds of gallons of chicken noodle soup with broken noodles to the local food bank. Ultimately, Sarver's resolution did earn extra revenue, offsetting the slowdown in her restaurants.
Dian Griesel's resolution was to pay off debt-$240,000 on her line of credit, which covered payroll when her business decreased in 2002. "My associate was spending more than we were making, and I didn't want to lay anyone off. I believed I could turn things around somehow," says Griesel, 42, president of New York City-based The Investor Relations Group Inc. , a $3 million corporate and financial PR and marketing firm.
Her resolution plan included getting rid of the associate and going back to basics-selling services based on the merits of her work and not face-to-face meetings with high travel expenses. She also revisited old business leads and stopped taking a salary.
"Try something every single day that moves your business one inch closer to where you want it to be."
"I wasn't always able to pay back the amount I had in my mind each month," Griesel admits. "I had hoped to be out of debt by June 2003, but something always came up." What came up that year included moving offices and signing a new lease, upgrading phone systems, buying more computers and purchasing more software licenses. But she did it! Despite those challenges, her debt was paid off by the end of the year.
For Ceslie Armstrong, 42, editor-in-chief and founder of Grace Woman , a magazine for "real-size women," her business resolution is going strong. "We made the decision not to accept weight-loss and tobacco advertising in the magazine," says Armstrong, even putting out a press release explaining her magazine's stance.
But her resolution didn't come without challenges. Recounts Armstrong, "For our first issue, we received an ad of a young woman-probably about 16-in a bikini on the beach. I explained to the ad agency that the image would be a major disconnect with our readers, and unless they had an alternative, it would be better to cancel the ad." Armstrong's conviction paid off-the advertiser sent a different ad. Armstrong continues to reject ads if the photographs aren't age-appropriate for her readers, who are in their 40s.
What can help other business owners make their business resolutions a reality? Says Armstrong, "Be proactive in communicating the reasoning to your staff, your investors and the consumer."
Advises Sarver, "Expect unforeseen obstacles, and be ready to tackle problems as they arise. Don't shy away from the challenges."
Griesel's advice? "Be realistic and confident. Try something every single day that moves your business one inch closer to where you want it to be. All the sweat really does pay off if you single-mindedly believe it."