We asked some of the brightest entrepreneurs we know what it's going to take to make money next year. Read on to find out what they said--and which advice you ought to steal.--Jeff Haden
"Whether you're just starting a business or taking yours to the next level, always remember that no doesn’t mean no. It just means 'not right now.' Regardless of naysayers and road blocks, constantly keep pushing through and remember how important it is to keep selling your concept and keep trying. And make sure to get your product or service out there and test it as soon as you possibly can. Watch customers interact with it and learn and adapt. No concept will be perfect until your customers help you perfect it."
"Try this: Early in the New Year, get your top few people together for 30 minutes. Pair them up. The first person asks the question, 'What business are we in?' The second person responds and then asks the same question, but the first person can't answer the same way.
"Do this five times and I promise you that you'll discover the core essence of your business. Then build your 2013 business plan around this differentiating essence. It's how, as a boutique hotelier, we learned we weren't hoteliers but we were in the "identity refreshment" business. Our key differentiator: creating a habitat that helps refresh our hotel guests' aspirational identity and [reflect] their best self."
"Succeeding in 2013 is the same as succeeding in 1913 or 2113. Just like we know there will be gravity, and water will still be wet, there are laws that don't depend on predicting the future. You know that people love a human connection--sincerely feeling valued, heard, and important. Your unique angle is how well you personalize that, and do it sincerely. You know that people love a "wow"--getting more than they expected. Your unique angle is finding which "wow" you can do that would mean the most to them. Chasing trends and fads is like buying a speedboat when your health is failing. Forget the shiny new distraction, and focus on the core stuff that you haven't mastered yet."
"Focus on fundamentals and don't get caught up drinking your own Kool-Aid.
"Next year will be all about focus for me. In 2012 we invested into every aspect of the business with varying levels of success. I think we've figured out what we're really good at and what we're less good at and it's time to really lean into our strengths. This means continuing to put more emphasis on data and key performance indicators to prove that our bets are paying off.
"In this context, I will personally focus on trusting my gut more than I might have this past year. This means hiring people based on a feeling rather than just a resume."
"Forget search engine optimization. Focus on user experience optimization.
"In 2013 search engines will tighten their algorithms. I expect many websites that have focused on 'tricking' search engines (unintentionally or intentionally through black hat practices) will find themselves losing rankings and traffic. The best way to thrive online in 2013 will be to focus on improving the user experience. That means high quality relevant content, a user-friendly interface, and an integrated search and social media effort. As competition for attention increases, shortcuts will continue to falter."
"There is a massive land grab in the tech world with very large players looking to control where we will 'live' on our phones and online (think Facebook, Google, Salesforce.com, Apple). Don’t be intimidated by them; leverage them. The big boys only have so much bandwidth. Build what they need, focus on it, and let them know.
"It will be better to have an expert to partner with (or to acquire your company), than to wait until bandwidth frees up and start from scratch. The tech world is wide open--there are plenty of opportunities."
"Two words: Fire yourself.
"I quickly learned that the best way to get your business off the ground is by rolling back your sleeves and doing the hard work yourself. What took me a lot longer to realize is that to grow beyond that point, the most important thing you can do is to fire yourself. If you don't, you'll cruise along with slow growth and have little impact. So go ahead and fire yourself from that initial skill role by finding someone else. Then use the free time to think about what will really move the needle in the next phase of your business."
"We'll be focusing heavily on the mobile experience. We're also excited about integrating video to enhance the shopping experience, in particular how YouTube fosters conversations among communities.
"We're thinking more about personal development for our employees, providing more opportunities for them to share their skills and a budget for them to buy books or take classes to expand their expertise. And as our business grows in complexity and size we're looking towards new productivity and communication tools. We've had great success with Asana and are planning to implement project-specific group chat for real-time interaction outside of the inbox and meeting room."
"In 2013 we’re keeping our focus on just a few things that any entrepreneur can use.
1. Make sure the experience is the focus. We serve great food, we have great design, and sincere hospitality, but above all Shake Shack is about the experience of people coming together in a community gathering place.
2. Filter your actions through the following belief: 'The bigger we get, the smaller we need to act.'
3. Focus on being more effective instead of just more efficient. Eliminate the noise and focus on the most important tasks at hand: serving your customers.
4. Take care of your team first so they can in turn take care of your guests, your community, your vendors and your investors."
It's my slideshow so I'm dipping in: In 2013, turn your ego loose.
Not in an outward, cocky, treat-people-poorly way, but inwardly. You need a strong ego. Otherwise you'll believe all the people who say you don't have the talent, or there's too much competition, or simply that you won't succeed.
Be humble on the outside and be the proverbial 800-pound gorilla on the inside. In 2013, believe in yourself.
Read more: 5 Trends to Ignore in 2013