12 Things Suc­cess­ful En­trepreneurs Should Do In Jan­uary


What a year 2016 was. I hope the year was a thriv­ing one for your busi­ness. Re­gard­less of whether this was a growth year or a stag­nant year for you, I think it’s vi­tal to an en­tre­pre­neur’s long-term suc­cess to spend in­ten­tional time re­flect­ing on the past and plan­ning for the fu­ture.

Here are 12 steps I think ev­ery en­tre­pre­neur should take to start this year off strong.

1. Quit think­ing short-term.

One of the big­gest mis­takes I see en­trepreneurs make is to run so fast that they never stop to re­flect on their wins and losses from the pre­vi­ous year. They spend so much time do­ing what has to be done to­mor­row that they don’t think long-term.

This is some­thing I have to make my­self do ev­ery year, be­cause my na­ture is not to slow down. This year, I went away with my fam­ily to the moun­tains for a week be­fore Christ­mas to re­flect on this year and plan for next year. It was re­ally help­ful to get away from the of­fice and think cre­atively about how to solve new chal­lenges and how to in­spire my team in 2017.

Put at least one day on the cal­en­dar in the next two weeks to get away by your­self or with some­one you trust to re­flect on your year and make a long-term plan for the up­com­ing year.

2. Write down 90-day goals, ev­ery three months (and write down the re­sults).

En­trepreneurs are dream­ers. If you’re like me, you likely have more ideas float­ing around in your head than you could ever ex­e­cute. As you start your new year, write down 90-day goals in Jan­uary, and re­visit them ev­ery three months.

I’m a big fan of mak­ing a plan on a page. This is a great ex­er­cise for A.D.D. en­trepreneurs who like to chase shiny ob­jects (squir­rel!). A plan on a page is lit­er­ally one page, so the hope is that you will fo­cus in on the most im­por­tant goals you want to achieve and get ev­ery­thing else out of the way. On the top half of the page, draw three col­umns, one for one-month goals, one for three-month goals, and one for six-month goals. On the bot­tom half of the page, write ac­tion items that need to hap­pen in or­der to achieve each goal as well as who is go­ing to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that ac­tion item and by what date. I think you’ll find a sim­ple strat­egy that fits on a page will help you fo­cus and it­er­ate ev­ery few months as op­posed to mak­ing a few daunt­ing goals that never get fully shaped.

3. Drop the ex­cuses.

Are you liv­ing on the so­lu­tion side or the vic­tim side of life? So­lu­tion-ori­ented peo­ple don’t make ex­cuses; they solve

prob­lems. Peo­ple with vic­tim men­tal­i­ties tend to make ex­cuses and think ev­ery­thing is stacked against them.

In a re­cent Busi­ness In­sider ar­ti­cle, Tony Rob­bins said that in or­der to stop mak­ing ex­cuses for fail­ure, “Di­vorce your story of your past and marry the truth of what you do to­day is all that mat­ters. If you marry the truth and act on the truth, your life will change.”

I’ve never met a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur that was on the vic­tim side of life. So stop mak­ing ex­cuses and make things hap­pen in 2017.

4. Write out a bud­get.

Ef­fec­tive bud­get­ing is key to the long-term health of your busi­ness. Do you know how much you’re spend­ing on over­head? Do you know what your profit mar­gin is? If you don’t know how to bud­get ef­fec­tively, get help. In­vest early in a help­ful ac­count­ing soft­ware or a knowl­edge­able book­keeper that can al­low you to do what only you can do. You might even con­sider a vir­tual book­keeper like MAG Book­keep­ing that will free you up to fo­cus on grow­ing the busi­ness while an ex­pert keeps your books in or­der.

5. Write out a health bud­get.

Many en­trepreneurs spend so much time on the health of their busi­ness that they for­get about their own health. Are you al­low­ing mar­gin in your life to work­out reg­u­larly? Do you know what food you’re putting in your body? Are you run­ning on fumes, or are you healthy? Don’t for­get about your phys­i­cal, emo­tional, spir­i­tual health. It all works to­gether, and it’s all re­ally im­por­tant. Write out a health bud­get to keep you on track.

6. Keep mov­ing for­ward.

Don’t stop. No mat­ter how 2016 ended up for you, keep

mov­ing for­ward. If you’re feel­ing down about your busi­ness this year, lis­ten to the NPR pod­cast How I Built This and be in­spired by suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs like the founders of Airbnb, In­sta­gram, Clif Bar, Spanx and more. Each of them talks about the years of their busi­ness where they thought, “Is this ever go­ing to take off?” The one thing they all have in com­mon is that no one be­lieved in their busi­ness more than they did. They kept mov­ing for­ward, and so should you.

7. Find a few Yo­das for your life.

Who is your Yoda? Who is your guide through life’s curve­balls? Who do you go to when you don’t know what the right next move for your busi­ness is? Find a Yoda. Get a coach. The most ef­fec­tive en­trepreneurs I know have a coach who helps guide them through the good days and the bad.

8. Read in­ten­tion­ally.

I’ve in­ter­viewed thou­sands of peo­ple over the last eight years of do­ing ex­ec­u­tive search for faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tions. One of the char­ac­ter­is­tics that life-long learn­ers have in com­mon is that they are al­ways read­ing. They are read­ing the news each morn­ing. They are read­ing a novel to keep their imag­i­na­tion work­ing. They are read­ing a busi­ness book to help them be a bet­ter leader. Make an in­ten­tional read­ing list this year, and stick to it.

9. Spend more time ask­ing ques­tions than giv­ing an­swers.

The older I get, the more I re­al­ize I don’t know what I don’t know. Ask ques­tions this year. As James 1:19 re­minds us, be slow to speak and quick to lis­ten. You’ll be sur­prised how much you’ll learn if you ask ques­tions be­fore spew­ing an­swers.

10. De­velop some 2 a.m. friends.

It’s lonely at the top. The more suc­cess­ful you be­come, the less friends you will have. This is some­thing I hear con­sis­tently from my suc­cess­ful friends in busi­ness. They of­ten feel alone and iso­lated once they reach their ca­reer goals. Be in­ten­tional about fos­ter­ing 2 a.m. friend­ships. Th­ese are the folks you can call any­time, and they’ll be there for you. Trea­sure those friend­ships, and don’t take them for granted.

11. Con­sider how you want to be re­mem­bered.

I spend the ma­jor­ity of my days help­ing pas­tors plan for suc­ces­sion. One of the beau­ti­ful things about those con­ver­sa­tions is when I ask them how they want to be re­mem­bered. Legacy is some­thing we all think about but spend lit­tle time con­sid­er­ing how to cre­ate. How do you want to re­mem­bered? Live ev­ery day with the end in mind.

12. Leave things bet­ter than you found them.

When a Girl Scout is a Brownie, she learns that part of the Girl Scout Way is to leave a place bet­ter than when she found it, and I think this is a good les­son for ev­ery­one to learn. Whether it’s your of­fice, your home, your street, your com­mu­nity or the world, what are you do­ing to leave it bet­ter than when you found it? Are you ac­tively seek­ing to im­prove what’s come be­fore you or just slide by with the bare min­i­mum each day? One of my fa­vorite com­pany val­ues at Vanderbloemen Search Group is “con­stant im­prove­ment.” It’s one of my favorites be­cause it helps re­mind our team that we should al­ways be think­ing about how we can im­prove our­selves, our sys­tems and our pro­cesses so that we can bet­ter serve our clients.

Th­ese are 12 things I think ev­ery leader should do to have their best year yet. What would you add to the list?

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