Sunday, December 30, 2007

5 New Year’s Resolutions for this Small Business Owner

Determined to be successful as a business owner in 2008? Me, too. Here are my New Year's resolutions. Have some of your own to share? Let us know!

1. Check out assumptions.

When I launched Maternitique last month, I had a promotional plan in place. I executed it. I held my breath and watched as the results fell short of what I expected.

I did the right steps of researching, planning, budgeting. What I didn’t do was ask those more experienced—or even anyone at all—what to expect. My steps were correct, but the expectations were too high.

In 2008, I resolve to more frequently ask fellow business owners for feedback and to consult with my team of advisors.

2. Enlist help.

Friends and family have been offering for months to help me check in inventory, spread the word about my store and take some of the grunt work off my shoulders. In 2008, I resolve to accept help.

3. Set SMART goals, not just goals.

I’m notorious for ingenious ideas, creative suggestions and out-of-the-box thinking. But my goals are often lofty, complicated and ambitious. There are often so many players to involve, so many elements to coordinate and so much labor entailed that they don’t come to fruition in the timeline needed or as flawlessly as imagined.

In 2008, I resolve to narrow down my big ideas into specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART) goals. At least I resolve to try.

4. Make better use of my time.

The most SMART goals in the world won’t go anywhere without investing time and effort into them. To select the best of my ideas, involve other people in testing them for appeal, and really sink my teeth into executing them, I need to focus, create detailed plans with objectives and show up to work each day to make it happen.

In 2008, I resolve to be more respectful of my time.

5. Be a better boss.

Being my own boss is a joy. I love having freedom and no higher authority to report to. The downside is that when I’m not performing at my best, I become an irritating, frustrating boss.

Lately, I have lost my focus, thrown up my hands in frustration more times than I care to count, avoided working on problem areas and could probably have earned some kind of award for procrastination. Have you ever had to work with someone like that? It’s demoralizing. In 2008, I resolve to be a better boss to myself. I resolve to treat myself as if I were one of my employees.

Other suggested New Year’s resolutions for 2008:
Chicago Daily Herald

Small Business: Canada at

Small Business Trends

San Francisco Chronicle

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Contemplating Existence

This morning my father gave me a 1983 article from Harvard Business Review called, “The five stages of small business growth.” In it, author and accounting professor Neil C. Churchill labels Stage 1 as “Existence.”

In this stage, businesses struggle to stay open. The business owner *is* the business. Existence depends on the owner’s investment of considerable personal energy, direction, capital and time.

The professor continues to explain that at this stage, there are three critical issues for businesses. They are:
  1. attracting enough customers and performing the tasks of the business well enough to be viable

  2. expanding from initial customers to a broader sales base

  3. having enough money to meet the cash demands of the start-up phase

    Both of my businesses—the copywriting one and my new maternity retail store that opened last month—are in Stage 1. With both efforts, I’m attracting customers and succeeding in delivering the services. The question of viability, however, is still up in the air for both entities, as is the consideration of expansion.

    As I distill all of the questions and worries I have about my two fledgling businesses into those three, small-but-significant ingredients, I find some relief from the start-up stress.

    I am confident that I can meet the first two challenges. I believe that both businesses have the capacity for success in their quality, concept, service delivery and in meeting genuine consumer needs. The remaining challenge, according to Professor Churchill, is money. From where I sit, though, there is one more: time. I need time to gain traction and critical mass, as well as enough money to buy the time and the means to gain traction.

    What a relief, then, to know I can access more money (I haven’t yet maxed out credit cards, sought a business loan or tapped my friends and family for cash).

I guess now I must learn to be patient with myself as I learn how to use my time and money to their greatest impact.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dusty Widget Blogger MIA?

Since the beginning of November, I've been quite busy gearing up for the opening of my new store store, Maternitique.

Many things went according to plan, but some didn't. Some of the results were expected, but some -- not so much.

I could blog about how to plan a grand opening (and how not to!), lessons learned with publicity and online PR, the people and resources that helped me along the way, the stress, the veering off the business plan, the value of the business plan, the unexpected discoveries...and I will.

But not right now.

It's really, just all too fresh. I'm going to try to take a step back from it all, smile through the holidays and...breathe.