It’s funny how the idea of New Year’s resolutions can be so polarizing. While some are inspired by the notion of kick-starting some part of their lives, others offer their own version of Liz Lemon’s masterpiece eye roll.
No matter how you feel about resolutions, here are four things smart entrepreneurs—and, really, any ambitious careerist—should tackle early in the year to make it your most successful year yet:
1. Tell your story in a new way
Imagine you’re speed dating and have 30 seconds to impress the total stranger across the table from you. Should you go with the basics (your name, where you were born, what you do for a living) or open by sharing that you were recently on an episode of Man vs Wild with Bear Grylls?
You see the difference, right? The second approach instantly lets the person across from you know that you are adventurous, curious and brave. It also makes you stand out from the other people, many of whom probably went with the first approach, leading to a boring conversation that didn’t really go anywhere new.
Now think about the style of that second approach and scrutinize your own brand. What kind of conversation does your website start? Does your brand personality shine through? Is it interesting or run-of-the-mill? Are you communicating your brand’s values?
Your goal in communicating your brand message? Being able to tell your story in a way that potential customers can relate to or get excited about. If you need inspiration, think about your favorite brands. Can you isolate a few ways their websites and marketing approaches appeal to you and apply that style to your own brand?
2. Create value in unexpected places
Once you’ve created that connection with your customers, sustain it by delivering value to them in unexpected ways. One of my favorite examples of this idea are the notes Shop Reverie, an online women’s fashion retailer, includes in their customers’ shipments. With each package is a simple card with a phrase like “attempt the absurd” or “to dream is to live.”
Shop Reverie knows its customers inside and out: young, professional women, probably living in a big city or aspiring to, with a penchant for those dreamy graphic quotes that have taken over Instagram and Pinterest. Those little quotes tucked inside an order make their customers smile—and make the company memorable.
Can you delight your customers in a similar manner? Analyze your customers’ experience with your company from beginning to middle to end. Where can you inject some added value?
3. Turn your slow days into your best asset
A weak spot in any business can be a growth opportunity if you apply your creativity. No, that’s not a cheesy motivational line.
Take, for example, Butter Lane bakery in New York City. In the cupcake shop’s early days, they suffered slow Monday nights. One of the owners had the idea to host classes where they taught customers how to bake and decorate their own cupcakes. Sounds cannibalistic, right?
Wrong. Only two short years later, more than 10,000 people have now been a part of “cupcake classroom.” The business owners created a significant new revenue stream, said goodbye to slow Mondays and even expanded their company to a second location.
4. Make a game out of failing
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, has said her father used to encourage her to fail when she was young. If she didn’t have failures to share at the dinner table, he would be disappointed.
Look back at your company’s 2012 and create a list of what didn’t work—you know, the exact opposite of those newsletters people send with holiday cards. How many failures are on your list? Would you make Blakely’s dad proud?
The point here is to embrace your failures and use them as jumping-off points for the next great idea. Failing doesn’t mean you’re a loser; it means you need to make a few more tweaks before your idea is at its best.
People who analyze their mistakes and learn from them become smarter and savvier. Isn’t that just the kind of entrepreneur you want to be in 2013?