It's tempting to dismiss the ritual of making new year's resolutions as an insidious marketing creation of the weight-loss industry. In fact, the practice has ancient roots. The Babylonians believed that what you did on the first day of the year influenced the next 12 months. For the Vedic sages of ancient India, the mere utterance of a pledge bound the speaker to the goal. So let us walk in those folkloric footsteps as I set forth Grist's new year's resolutions for 2005. While these are pledges to myself, I'm confident I'm not the only one who could stand some improvement in these areas.
Less BlackBerry, more ripening. The well-publicized shortcomings of the so-called Crack- Berry are particularly toxic for harried, what's-the-next-idea entrepreneurs. Just because you can respond immediately to a question doesn't mean you should and that it's not a better idea to take a moment, think things through, and craft a reply that's actually insightful. Just go back and read an old e-mail string, and see how empty some of your instantaneous missives actually are. I resolve: to exercise some restraint when an e-mail lands -- whether from employees or clients.
Judge myself. As the ubiquity of the BlackBerry suggests, entrepreneurs are famously splendid at making snap judgments -- about employees, competitors, opportunities, you name it. But not ourselves. Do we hold ourselves to the same standards we demand of others? Or do we excuse or rationalize our mistakes? I resolve: to perform a strategic analysis of myself in the first quarter of 2005.
Cultivate nimbleness. The agility of small companies has become such a matter of faith that it is rarely questioned. But small firms are just as prone to crushing routine and institutional resistance to change as any other organization. I often wonder if my business is aggressively seeking new opportunities as quickly (and broadly) as possible -- and whether we are structured with enough fluidity to do so in the first place. I resolve: to review how agile we really are, and take steps to become more lithe in 2005. Take my business less personally. This is a tough one because entrepreneurs inevit- ably become so emotionally wrapped up in their companies. Unfortunately, when business becomes so internalized it is difficult to see a wide range of situations -- say, when a valued employee quits or a competitor introduces a new product and misrepresents yours -- with any kind of objectivity. I resolve: to get out of the way of my business, which will make us more competitive and create a more open climate internally.
Develop my people. Big companies talk a lot about career development, and some of them are actually pretty good at it. But in my experience, entrepreneurial organizations are less adept at giving employees long-term visibility into their futures. It's not hard to see why. Big, stable companies have clear and distinct paths for advancement. High-growth, fast-changing outfits are often in such flux that it's difficult to provide a coherent path. Sure, there are those who don't anguish over the question of what they'll be doing years from now. But it's not ideal. I resolve: to focus as much on the growth of my employees as I do on the growth of my company.
This is some of my homework for next year. I'd be interested to hear about your resolutions. So please e-mail me, and let me know if it's okay to post some of your responses on my blog. And let's all agree to revisit our resolutions a couple of months from now -- and see if the Vedic sages really knew what they were talking about.
Adam Hanft is founder and CEO of Hanft Unlimited, a Manhattan-based consulting, advertising, and publishing firm.