Refuse to Lose
Resolutions for a New You (and New Business) in 2017
STORY BY PETS+ STAFF
Every year, it’s the same. We wake January 1 with a laundry list of vows and sparkling dreams for personal and professional improvement. Unfortunately, even the best intentions aren’t typically enough to drive sustained human change. (Otherwise, we’d all be fit, rich and happy, wouldn’t we?) Successful change requires not only a strong heart, but a smart strategy. So this year, why don’t we start our Pets+ list of resolutions by resolving to be smarter about the process of making resolutions?
I will be smarter about choosing and implementing resolutions. According to Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, authors of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, the key to successful resolutions is picking one habit at a time to work on. No more. Keep at that habit until it becomes automatic. Only then should you move to the next habit. Remember that the best resolutions are those with “bright lines” — resolutions in which there is no doubt when you are crossing over the line. A resolution like “I will ask every new customer I see for an email address” has very bright lines. But bright lines aren’t always possible. For instance, if your goal is to be more social, saying you will “meet more people” is vague and unspecific. It might be better to create what Baumeister and Tierney call an “implementation resolution” — a statement in “if-then” format, such as “If I’m standing in line at a supermarket or store, I will always talk to the person behind me or in front of me.”
Also be sure to remember that little actions, repeated without fail over time, become immense. Nineteenth-century English novelist Anthony Trollope wrote only 2-1/2 hours per day, but he never missed a day. The result? One of the world’s most famously prolific literary careers. And forget artificial deadlines. The best time to launch any life change is always right now. Think of the words of Karen Lamb, who said: “A year from now, you may wish that you had started today.”
Got that? Think small. State your intent as clearly as you can. Make the action automatic. And start right away.
Here are 15 more possible behaviors, habits and rituals to consider launching this January, or any other time.
I will not let the urgent overwhelm the important. Before you go to bed every night, decide what key project you will work on the next day before anything else. Too many business owners wake up, check their email, encounter their first crisis before breakfast and bounce from emergency to emergency for the rest of the day. By picking one project to which you can devote your best, freshest period of work, you’ll ensure forward momentum on the projects most essential to growing your business.
I will remember my staff’s birthdays, anniversaries and other important days in their lives. Karen Leland and Keith Bailey, authors of Customer Service For Dummies, say, “By all means, have your privacy, and respect theirs, but don’t be so distant that you’re out of touch with major events such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and so on.” One thoughtful idea from Bob Nelson, author of 1,001 Ways To Reward Employees, is to buy a gift for an employee’s child (or an employee’s pet) on their birthday.
I will not settle for being ordinary, and will instead seek a “Purple Cow” that makes my business different from my competitors. Says Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow, “Sure, some people will say you are crazy. If the only way to cut through the clutter is to be remarkable, and the only way to avoid criticism is to be boring and safe, well, that’s not much of a choice, is it?” So think big. Offer super-late hours, a gourmet-level pet bakery, or spa-like levels of pet pampering.
I will let customers see my “human face” more often. Especially for a pet business owner in a time of ever-increasing chain and online competition, your biggest strength and the one thing no other competitor has is ... you. So give your customers something to connect with. Tell them about your world-class lasagna. Upload your juggling video on YouTube and link it to your store website. Celebrate and share the details that make you you.
I will give back to my community. Do something, anything, for your town. Sponsor a Little League team, donate to the community theater, get involved with local Lions Club projects, or roll up your sleeves and help clean a stretch of highway.
I will hold weekly sales meetings focusing on sales technique and product knowledge. Think you’re too busy? If you really are, then give your employees an opportunity to lead. Assign different staff members to run each meeting — whether you hold them weekly, monthly or even bi-monthly.
I will send each member of my team to at least one seminar or industry event this year. Too many bosses leave new employees to sink or swim, say Leland and Bailey. Invest in making them the best they can be. Believe us, the results will be double-barreled: more skilled employees, and more loyal ones.
I will give my staff 50 percent more freedom to make decisions. An educated staff is ready to be empowered. An empowered staff is a happier staff. And a happier, empowered staff gives you more time to spend on projects important to you. Maybe it is time to open that second location?
I will measure the things I want to change. Proven by millions of dieters: Weighing yourself regularly is good. Weighing yourself and recording progress is even better. The same basic concept applies to almost any measurement. Want to increase the number of customers coming in for monthly grooming appointments? How many appointment confirmation phone calls are you making? How many of your emails are being opened? Have you tested different messages to see which ones pet parents respond best to?
I will address performance issues — both positive and negative — with my employees the day they occur. It’s hard to act immediately, in the heat of the moment. But don’t let problems fester. Neither should you wait too long to give praise, and the more specific, the better. (Here’s a useful exercise for building the habit of giving praise: Put five pennies in your left pants pocket at the beginning of the day, and each time you compliment somebody, move one coin to your right pocket. By the end of the day, all the coins should be in the right pants pocket.)
I will test-launch at least one major new product or service for my business. Sample areas: pet boarding, grooming (or self-serve pet wash), fresh and healthy foods, animal agility training, or even high-end pet furnishings and “pet room” design. If your test works, go bigger with the aim of adding a major new revenue stream to your business. If it doesn’t, move to the next item on your list and test-launch that.
I will improve my time management by setting firm time limits for jobs I don’t feel like doing. Remember Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. A dull, dirty job like cleaning the stock room could take a whole day if you let it. Instead, set a limit of one or two hours (and make the work more fun by listening to music you love). Didn’t finish the job? Schedule another short block of time.
I will take one “business retreat” lasting at least three days where I brainstorm, by myself, about my business. Such retreats are your best opportunity to escape the day-to-day grind and come up with big thoughts that could permanently change your business trajectory.
I will hire outside experts to do the things I don’t have the time, knowledge or skill to do. There are a host of sales trainers, marketing advisers, computer systems engineers and pet store design specialists. Sure, their fees might make you gasp at first. But the performance improvements and increased efficiencies that result from bringing the knowledge of a skilled consultant into your business can pay the bill off quickly and revitalize your business with lasting improvements. Increase your chances of picking the right consultant by checking testimonials and asking for references.
And, last but not least, I will scrub my head of all stupid sports clichés, especially those from Vince Lombardi. “Winners never quit!” Really? If this were true, then every successful person would still be in the first job they ever took and married to the first girl (or boy) they ever dated. Winners do quit. They just quit the right things at the right time. Or, as Seth Godin puts it, “Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other.”