We asked a handful of founders and CEOs what they’re planning to do differently in 2014 and rounded up the answers to get your thinking about what you might do differently at your company in the year to come. Read on for inspiration.
Take a more systematized approach to content. We are aiming to create a system for producing great articles for numerous third party blogs. In 2013, we were far more reactive than was ideal. We would learn about an opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in a media outlet or publication and react by scrambling to author a great piece at the last minute. In 2014, we are hoping to have the team and processes in place to produce great articles on our area of expertise (tutoring, test prep and college admissions) at a consistently fast pace well in advance of deadlines.
One of the changes that I am excited to implement in 2014 is dedicated “closed door” time for myself and for my management team. While our company has been growing in a wonderful way, one of the challenges I’ve faced is finding dedicated time to focus on bigger projects rather than just maintaining and responding to ongoing day-to-day activities. It’s a good problem to have, yet I realize how important it is to make it a priority to explore what the growth can mean in terms of significant opportunities. So I’ve been experimenting with a “closed door” policy for myself for a couple of months, where I have a set day every week that is meeting-free and when my team knows that I won’t be regularly checking emails. I have found that this uninterrupted time allows me to dig into the strategy, planning, and big picture projects much more effectively.
Communication and delegating are at the top of my priority list. When you first start a company, it's fast and furious. Organized chaos, if you will. In 2014, my co-founders and I need to adapt while managing a growing team, and we need to make sure everyone is on the same page. We’ll do this by ensuring everyone in the company feels motivated towards the same business goals, participates in setting goals, and takes accountability for their department.
Fly less, travel more. I hit my 1 millionth air mile in 2013. They don’t send you a T-shirt or anything. Truly it’s something to be pitied not envied-;especially since I still fly in coach. And yet, despite having come to hate the insides of planes, I still have passing moments when I actually experience a place for what it is. For instance, recently I was in Bruges for a conference. I’ve meant to visit for years, and I had only ten minutes to explore between meetings. But as the setting sun caught the amber stone of the Church of Our Lady, just for a moment, time stood still. That’s why we started onefinestay. It’s what makes it all worthwhile.
When building a team, founders can lose sight of the fact that new employees do not live, breathe and sleep the company values the way you do instinctively. This year, I want to make a regular effort to communicate and embody our company values. I also want to bring more balance to the team. We work hard, and play hard, but maybe don't play hard enough! More time as a team out of the office is the plan in 2014. A happy, healthy team is the core of a successful company!
For 2014, for us it's all about discipline. We want to be more disciplined to ensure we are working on what NEEDS to be worked on as opposed to what we may WANT or think that needs to be work on. To date, we've been pretty good at stepping back and looking at the grand vision of what it is that we are building, but in 2014 it is going to be the driving focus. This discipline will ensure that we are solving the problem we set out to solve!
Because it was our first year in business, 2013 was largely about me pushing things forward by brute strength. I've come to realize that this is neither a sustainable nor scalable business strategy, not to mention that it's just unhealthy. My goal for 2014 is to learn to relax into relying on my team and those around me. The legendary former-VC-turned-executive-coach Jerry Colonna said to me recently: "sometimes you just have to stop caring so damn hard". He was right, and that's what I'm doing differently in 2014.
In 2014 I want to focus more and more inward. Improving the product, making current customers happy, and getting better at what we do personally and as a team. It's not sexy and not as addictive as getting more customers and making a splash, but it's the foundational grind that we need to go through to make something significant. We've started doing a weekly internal written memo in which we solidify decisions that we've made, for instance. It's been a big help with the problem of indecision.
As early-stage entrepreneurs, our product pipeline is constantly evolving. In 2013, we successfully built a team of 15 people and saved shoppers over $15 million dollars online. As we look ahead to 2014, we are eager to expand this online experience to the in-store consumer so that shoppers can tag their favorite products anytime, anywhere and find out when those products go on sale. It is this long term vision that will inform every project along our pipeline in 2014.
You need two things for a business to grow: getting users and keeping users. We've been focusing a lot on getting new users, with press and blogs. But if you can't keep users around, you're only filling a leaky bucket. In 2014, we'll focus more on keeping users by creating a stellar product.
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel