Every now and then, it’s nice to hear from people who have successfully walked miles in your shoes. As we near the end of 2013 and get set to welcome in a new year, I asked a few friends in the world of entrepreneurship to share their advice on making the most of the year ahead.
Below are suggestions from some of the smartest people I know in business today. In a few words, they tell you what to focus on for 2014.
1. Go with your gut.
"Ironically, my advice to entrepreneurs and small-business owners is not to follow advice! There are a lot of experts and advisors out there who will tell you what you can't and shouldn't do—listen with an open mind, but true entrepreneurs follow their gut and trust their instincts. As my hero Steve Jobs said, 'The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.'"
Liz Lange, founder of Liz Lange Maternity, author of Liz Lange's Maternity Style: How to Look Fabulous During the Most Fashion-Challenged Time and co-founder of the shopping site Shopafrolic.com
2. Departmentalize your work week.
"Wearing a number of hats is common in a small business, but just because you are responsible for multiple tasks, it doesn’t mean the situation has to overwhelm you. Just as big companies have departments, I decided to departmentalize my work week. Performing different tasks on different days will help to efficiently organize your workflow."
3. Find your revenue drivers.
"Identify what drives the most revenue of your business and pledge to focus your time on that in 2014. Spend more of your time on direct revenue-producing activities and less time on crossing lesser important tasks off your list. Delegate or eliminate those tasks that aren’t the best use of your time."
4. Don't miss expiring tax breaks.
"Make tax moves before the end of the year that will benefit you when you file your 2013 return next year. Talk with your tax advisor to see which actions are suitable for your business, such as buying certain equipment or setting up a retirement plan and taking advantage of expiring breaks."
5. Gather your acorns.
"Investors, customers, and strategic partners are still tentative and slow to commit. The economy is slowly recovering, but has not yet recovered. Owners of smaller companies and entrepreneurs need cash and related resources stored away to weather the storm and deal with delays, shutdowns, procrastination, and a lack of urgency that runs through our markets. The strong, the patient, and the persistent will survive and thrive, but 2014 will be a marathon, not a sprint."
6. Walk before you run (sometimes).
"Before you start a business, go to some local business events and see if you like the people and find what they talk about interesting. A trait of faster-growing businesses is that they were very quick to hire someone, either a manager or a salesperson. Some are now hiring early in anticipation of needing someone so quality stays high when new business comes in and they don't disappoint existing customers."
Joe Connolly, business news reporter for Wall Street Journal Radio and WCBS Radio
7. Keep an eye on crowdvesting and small-business policies.
"Closely follow and engage on policy issues. These issues are becoming more critical to small business, so use your voice—you have power! Regarding a positive development, crowd investing will be fully legal in 2014. Learn about rewards, equity, and debt-based crowdfunding. Opportunities abound to access capital in exciting and affordable ways!"
Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
8. Carefully select your role models.
"Be selective and find a few role models outside of your comfort zone. In excellence, seek those who strive for it. You have more in common than you think. Encourage those who want to change the game. Seek out mentors who want to help. Great ideas come from unexpected people and places. Be part of the inspirational force that helps bring those ideas to life."
Fields Jackson Jr, founder and CEO at Racing Toward Diversity magazine and adjunct professor at Chicago State University
9. Think different.
"When I started working on my current business, Polaroid Fotobar, some people laughed. 'Who needs to make pictures physical anymore?' they asked. 'It's all on your phone. Every picture you ever take is right there.' I had a different view on it. With two billion photos taken every day and more taken this year than in all of history combined, I believed that every person had at least one photo they would love to have on a wall, desk, or shelf. My vision was different. My vision was to create a physical place that helps you liberate your photos in a fun and easy way so they last forever in the physical world. Think different. The more people make fun at your idea, the better it may be."
If I were to add anything to the list, it would be simply to enjoy each and every day. Find something you love to do and people with whom you love to work. If you can do these things, you are well on your way to a happy and successful life—in business and beyond.
Read more articles and see exclusive videos in OPEN Forum’s special section on Managing Your Money.
As the founder and CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian helps entrepreneurs run better businesses. He was formerly the executive director at The Wall Street Journal, overseeing the financial and small-business markets across the WSJ franchise. From 2002 to 2010, Brian ran Veracle Media and Moran Media Group, content companies in the SMB market.