What's your top resolution for next year?
It's a question we all ask ourselves at the closing of a year, but it's not one we always apply to our businesses. This year, why not set a precedent, take the plunge, and set a resolution for the betterment of your business?
If you haven't got a clue where to start, heed advice from these eight entrepreneurs with clear visions for 2014. You're bound to get inspired by at least one of these resolutions.
1. Hire Faster
"Entrepreneurs have to be a Swiss Army knife in the early stages of their companies—they wear every hat imaginable," says Gautam Gupta, co-founder and CEO at monthly subscription snack provider NatureBox. "After raising capital, taking these hats off as quickly as possible is your first priority."
Post-funding, a CEO's goal is to stock up the company with top talent, according to Gupta. "Ultimately, building your team is the only leverage you can get on your own time. I've sometimes underestimated what the right hire can bring to the table. My resolution for 2014 is to hire for open roles faster. I'd rather over-hire than under-hire," he says.
2. Mentor Budding Entrepreneurs
Sometimes the best way to learn is to teach, that's why Diego Saez-Gil—VP at StudentUniverse and founder of hostel booking app WeHostels, recently acquired by StudentUniverse—resolves to spend more time mentoring and helping other young entrepreneurs next year.
"I learned so much in the last few years, driving our company from an idea in a co-working space all the way to being acquired by a big company, and I want to share all that I have learned with others," he says. "I have received a lot of help along the way and I want to give back."
"Now, beyond the genuine intention to help others, there is a great benefit to mentoring and helping other entrepreneurs," he adds. "You get to articulate your learnings, and in a way, remind yourself of the 'dos' and 'don'ts' that you would like to practice in your own business." In the end, Saez-Gil says, exchanging ideas with other smart, young people is a great source of learning and exploration as well.
3. Meet Customers in the Real World
As entrepreneurs—especially those of the digital sort—we tend to spend much of our time behind a computer screen. Soraya Darabi, co-founder of online retailer Zady, says she and co-founder Maxine Bédat resolve to meet their customers in the real world as often as possible in 2014, to combat compulsory computer time.
Darabi learned the importance of in-person customer relationships out of the success of Zady's holiday pop-up shop, headquartered out of New York's LaGuardia Airport, where the founding duo has been able to meet customers from all over the country.
This in-person experience has enabled the Zady team to refine its company pitch to a mere 30 seconds, memorize each of the brand stories for the products they sell, and understand how to offer exceptional customer service while also creating a human connection with passionate Zady fans, Darabi says.
"All entrepreneurs—yes, including those outside of retail or sales—should try to meet their customers, users or loyalists in person as often as possible," Darabi says. "Think of it as extended, on-going QA [quality assurance]."
4. Be Proactive
While being proactive sounds like an innate quality for entrepreneurs, Joon Yeng Hew, co-founder of real-time conference Q&A platform Pigeonhole Live, says that entrepreneurs tend to actually be reactive, mistaking the behavior as being opportunistic.
"In the long run, being reactive eventually exhausts your capacity and resources in keeping a bird eye's view on the business," Hew says. "My resolution is be for our team to be more proactive, less reactive in 2014. Being more proactive will allow our team to be in control and ready to respond to the needs of scaling growth, while maintaining good capacity to be opportunistic if presented with favorable market conditions."
5. Wake Up Early
Some of the world's top geniuses have been known to stay up late. But Julian Jung, founder of table service booking app Tablelist, says that he and other productive entrepreneurs wake up early. Jung says entrepreneurs should set his resolution, which he's already working on this December. "Wake up super early," he says. "Try 4 or 5 a.m. It's the most productive time of day. No distractions, no phone calls, just 'you' time. I take this time to improve myself and do the really hard things that always seem to get pushed off when other people come into the office. The hours between 5 and 9 a.m, are worth triple the amount, in terms of productivity, when you compare it to the afternoon."
6. Cut Out the Trivial Work
"My resolution is to only do high potential tasks," says Fred Perrotta, co-founder of traveler-friendly backpack manufacturer Tortuga Backpacks. "I'm shortening my to do list and ignoring everything that looks productive but is really trivial, like most social media"
"Retweets aren't revenue," he adds. "Turn off the notifications, put your phone away, and do real work."
7. Take a Walk on Your Wild Side
Staying up late, getting up early, and working head-down all day long can lead to some wonderful successes, but Justin Robinson, co-founder of alcohol-delivery service Drizly, encourages his peers to get wild every once in a while.
"Do something crazy every week," he suggests. "Sleep in the woods on a Wednesday night, do a 'polar bear' plunge, or God forbid, ask the girl/guy next to you in the coffee shop to get a drink. Testing boundaries in your personal life will carry over to your professional life. Every business needs to do something a little crazy to be successful."
8. Don't Neglect Your Personal Life
Entrepreneurs are busy. Let's face it—we all drop meetings, reschedule dinner plans, and miss appointments like nobody's business. Christina Bognet, co-founder of food delivery service Platejoy, urges busy entrepreneurs to prioritize the personal stuff in 2014—by putting important, but non work-related, items straight into your calendar, she says.
"Activities like exercising, hanging out with friends, and relaxing generally get cut in favor of being 'more productive,'" she says. "In reality, these sorts of things should be just as non-negotiable as the other activities because they help restore and balance us."
If you're like Bognet and other time-crunched entrepreneurs, your calendar is your life. Don't let the important things in life escape you. Give them a space on your calendar and live by it!
Feeling inspired yet? Share your business resolution for 2014 in the comments below!