Stop celebrating and get back to work!
No, that’s not #1. But, let’s start by recognizing that today’s economy requires that we constantly evolve; you can do that by working harder, or smarter. The way we work is changing, the way we go to market has changed, we’re constantly finding new ways to validate business, and if you tried to raise money in 2013, you know too well too that the way we raise capital may be shifting. Especially true as entrepreneurs, you’ll only find success through failure and the only way to fail is to take risks, experiment, and be ever curious and willing to explore new ideas.
With that in mind…
1. Read A New Blog
You know the adage that there is no new idea.
Have you realized that it applies to best practices too?
By and large, not only has your venture been tried before but someone has attempted to crack the customer acquisition model, the guy across the street knows how to build an effective website on the cheap, and the woman you met at the last networking event knows the developers who would round out your team.
Spend some time outside your norm and explore some incredible blogs that will change your point of view, broaden your perspective, and increase your chance of success. A few that I discovered this year? Leo Widrich, Co-founder of Buffer; Marco Arment, Founder of Instapaper; Ryan Carson, Founder of Treehouse; or Ethan Austin, Co-founder of GiveForward.
2. Really Consider What An Exit Means
I’ve talked to too many entrepreneurs who are in it to sell out. Worth some thought… most serious investors aren’t going to take a chance on you if you’re looking to get out as soon as you can get a check.
According to a report by the University of Florida, a record 156 U.S. based companies went public in 2013. That’s a 65% increase in the number of IPOs over 2012, and with over $38 billion raised, the highest public capital influx since 2000. I know it’s hard to believe, when you’re struggling to raise money, but according to David Rose and Gust, venture capital investors funded about 1500 startups last year while Angel’s supported 50,000 more.
3. Question Every Piece Of Software
It’s frequently considered whether or not the role of the CMO and CTO is one in the same; why?
The pace of innovation means that there is software to practically automate every aspect of your business and the line between your own innovation and marketing is blurring. Is your organization still enamored with Basecamp or Salesforce? Contactually, Orbtr, Cloze, Affintus, Geckoboard, Dachis Group, Intercom, Woopra.
4. Start A/B/C/D/E-Z Testing
The A,B, Cs of optimizing your business are as simple as A, B, T: Always Be Testing.
Don’t hesitate and don’t second guess what you’re testing; simply start.
Google Analytics Experiments make it stupidly simple, requiring only an A version of a page, and a B; if your Google Analytics tracking is already in place, you might say you need only press go. Need some ideas? Quicksprout is always a brilliant source, with 7 simple tests that will increase conversion rates 10% or more.
Follow the math on that? I’m astounded by how many business owners and startups fail to recognize that a simple 10% increase in your conversion rates results in an equivalent increase in all of your marketing activities; and more efficiency in marketing leads to even greater growth.
5. Learn To Code
Yes, I’m talking to all of you. Unless you’ve been asleep for the last twenty years, you know that the future is in software.
Even if you’re a Realtor, an accountant, or an author, your business will only excel when you understand how to keep up with the pace of innovation.
You need to collaborate with developers, hire coders, and manage engineers; you’re not still trying to do that without a clue what they’re doing for you are you?? MakerSquare, or a related program in your community, will get you coding in a class; otherwise, do it at your own pace with Codeacademy and Code.org.
Developers are going to cringe at my suggestion of this but with 60% or so of the internet run on WordPress, simply learn HTML and/or PHP and you’ll be able to build your own website (or know the true cost of doing so). If you’re like me and work in Marketing (and odds are good that you are since you’re here), consider that likely you’ll be out of a job in 10 years if you can’t build a website.
6. Go Global Now, Everyone Else Has
The most troubling habit I witnessed in the past year was the Lean Startup-inspired idea that you should validate within your local market alone.
Listen, unless your website IS location based, it’s global. If you’re focused on mobile, apps are downloaded throughout the world. I can’t count how many ventures have failed because they tried to focus locally, only to destroy future growth by alienating the millions of other users who want access.
The world is a single market. And while that’s not necessarily a good thing; it’s an exciting fact.
Who am I kidding, it is a good thing.
Learn a bit about the idea of glocalization this year and start building your venture for the global market, even if that means funding the additional cost of localization.
7. Try Out A New Device
Last week I explored the idea of diversification in life, and it goes without saying that success as an entrepreneur can’t be found with an imbalance between your work and your life.
But that doesn’t mean your passion for technology can’t work it’s way into your life. Get a Pebble smartwatch (avoid the Samsung setup for now), Sonos is nearly affordable, Google Glass (though it isn’t), a Nike+ FuelBand or Fitbit should get your working out while Chromecast and the Nest Thermostat with change the way you live.
8. Hire a Boomer
Since 1996, the percentage of entrepreneurs who are Baby Boomers has grown from 14.3 percent to 23.4 percent. In every one of the last 15 years, Boomers, and I’m not talking about the age at which entrepreneurs more likely to find success, those between the ages of 55 and 64, have had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than Gen-Y.
I’ve said it before and will say it again, the ONLY thing that determines your success is your team; you can’t put a value of experience.
9. Social Marketing Matters
This year Amazon owned Black Friday by announcing their future in drones, we all discovered WestJet Airlines, and Coca-Cola knocked it out of the park again and again. Business occurs in real-time and you have to resolve to be where that happens. Whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, your customers, your detractors, and your competition is on social media.
10. Make Sure You Have One Goal
And It’s Something You Care About
I love how Noah Kagan put it, “Your time is fixed and you won’t get it back. If you’re living your life “conditionally” aka you say “I’ll do this later when…” you should seriously re-evaluate what you’re doing.”
Passion creates culture and culture trumps your strategy, every time. Focus entirely on what you love. Set your goal not on a metric or an ROI but an accomplishment that reflects what matters to you most.
Every year for the past… well, while, pundits have called the year to come The Year of the Entrepreneur. This year, you can’t refute Richard Branson who reflected on a few things that reinforce the resolutions here.
- When visiting Africa, Australia, Europe, South America and the US this year, there was a real appetite for entrepreneurship wherever we went.
- Entrepreneurs who will succeed in 2014 will need to focus upon having a purpose beyond profit for their business.
- Technology is helping every business, large and small to move forward
- You need a great team of people around you and good delegation skills to utilise them.
Sound familiar? Happy Entrepreneur Year!