Tips for 2017

Resolutions for a successful year

Flipping open a new calendar is always a good time to embrace new ideas, opportunities and possibilities. One popular — if not universally successful — way to do this, of course, is to make New Year’s resolutions. In that spirit, here are some possible 2017 resolutions for independent business owners and entrepreneurs.

Fire at least one customer/client. Let’s face it: There is at least one person in your business life who is taking advantage of you. Whether it’s asking for more, or paying less (or not at all) or just not being pleasant to work with, bottom line is they are sucking up your valuable energy without compensating you fairly for it. This can even affect your relationships with better customers or clients. Be thoughtful about how you do it, but go ahead and cut those ties.

Reduce your high-tech risks. The internet is indispensable, and increasingly dangerous. From remote devices you control online to your wireless mouse, your vulnerability to hacking is on the rise. The risks can be compounded for small-business people, who are much more likely to mingle personal and business technologies.

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Solutions? Use multiple passwords and change them often. Use very different passwords for personal and business. For every single thing you connect, ask yourself how necessary it is (for example, do you really care deeply about starting the oven before you get home?).

In a similar vein, the evidence is mounting that cellphones are a health risk. Protect yourself by using speaker phones, keeping your phone off your person when you are not using it, and putting it in airplane mode whenever possible.

Manage your online time better. While it is vital to business success to stay on top of emails, they can also be a real productivity-eater. Plan specific times in your day when you will read and respond to emails. Similarly, try to set specific parameters for other online activities; this will help you stay focused on the task at hand and minimize wasted time. Few distractions on earth can match the internet!

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On a related note, allow yourself to disconnect completely as often as possible. We all need time away from our work — truly away. Whether you are listening to music, watching a game or hanging with friends, it’s not really downtime if you keep sneaking peaks at your phone, checking emails, etc.

Check your online business profile at least once a month. With so many different sites now available where people can comment on their experiences with you, the opportunities for negativity are seemingly endless. This goes way beyond the more customer-centric businesses like stores and restaurants to include all kinds of consultants, professionals, etc. Do a search for your company name, your name and any other words that might be associated with you; and if there are untrue and unfair things being posted, do as much as you can to counteract them (see the July 2015 Entrepreneurship column for some tips on this).

Hug yourself every day. Metaphorically, of course, but find a way to remind yourself daily to take a minute to reflect on what about you and your work makes you happy. It could be your creativity, the contribution you are making to society, the quality of life you are providing for your family or staff, or simply the fact that you have the not-so-common privilege of working for yourself. This sounds all airy-fairy, but so often the last thing we celebrate is ourselves. We deserve our own appreciation and respect.

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If you can find someone to share that hug with, even better!

Keith Twitchell  spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.

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