Profit Minded

Forget New Year’s resolutions; set intentions for your small business

“New Year’s resolutions are child’s play,” says entrepreneur coach Linda Tomb. “Resolutions are ‘shoulds,’ like ‘I should go to the gym every day.’” And if you set New Year’s resolutions for your business, you’ll be as likely to keep them as you would be to keep that doomed “lose weight” resolution, Tomb predicts.

Instead, she suggests, do some New Year’s visioning and set some intentions for your business. Too New Age for you? Hear her out.

Yahoo! Small Business Advisor contacted Tomb for ideas on how to keep your business resolutions. “If you want to keep a promise,” she says, “it has to be lined up with what you really want—not with what you think you should be doing.” To figure that out, Tomb says, “You have to look inside and see what you’re yearning for.” And that’s what visioning is all about. “Resolutions are about tweaks. But what people are really seeking is transformation, and that comes from visioning,” she says.

Say, for instance, your business resolution for 2013 is to win more big customers for your small construction business. “I’d ask, ‘Why do you want more clients?’” Tomb says. You might say you see that as the path to more income, but, in fact, you don’t want a heavier workload. If, in your heart of hearts, you don’t want to be busier, you’re going to have a hard time keeping that resolution, Tomb says.

It's important not just to want the intentions you set, but to believe that you can accomplish them. In a boot camp she runs for would-be women entrepreneurs, Tomb says she spends the first two classes helping participants “unearth their own value” so they can believe the intentions they set are achievable. “If they never really made good money before, they have to realize how valuable they are,” Tomb says.

Tomb points to a popular 2009 TEDx talk by Simon Sinek that explains how some leaders inspire their businesses to perform so much better than others. Sinek says successful people and businesses know why they do what they do and why their operation exists. “Inspired leaders and organizations, regardless of size, regardless of their industry, think, act, and communicate from the inside out,” he says.

“People spin their wheels,” says Tomb, “but once they tune into why and what they really want, it is so much easier.” She recommends starting the process by asking yourself some fundamental questions: Where do you want to see your business 6 months or a year from now? What do you want to be doing everyday? Who would you like to be working with? What kinds of partners, vendors, and customers are you going to be engaging with? How will you be making money? How much money will you be making? “So many entrepreneurs are so in love with their idea that they ignore the business engine underneath it, Tomb says. "If you don’t have a roadmap, you’re going to end up somewhere you don’t want to be.”

That map, or vision, Tomb says, will become a daily beacon, even informing hour-to-hour decisions about how to spend your time. “If my roadmap reminds me, ‘I want to bring in X amount of work by June,’ then do I really want to spend Tuesday out for lunch?”

One of Tomb’s coaching clients, Carey Albertine, the founder of In This Together, a publisher of “great books about real girls,” has had enormous success following Tomb’s advice for visioning and intention setting. “Before we release a book, we do a pow-wow with the author where we create a vision for the book,” Albertine says.

For example, she says, “We just published a young adult novel, Playing Nice by Rebekah Crane. As a team, we created the vision that Playing Nice would become a best-selling novel beloved by teenagers. Then we set the intention for the specific objectives we wanted to accomplish: 20 Amazon reviews in three weeks, 500,000 copies sold by 2014, and so on.” Albertine says the book got 20 Amazon reviews within 5 days as well as a flood of gushing emails from teenagers.

“When you create a vision and state your intention, the actions you need to take to manifest the vision become clear,” she says. Acknowledging the spiritual aspect to the practice, Albertine quotes the 13th century Sufi mystic poet Rumi: "Take a step and a stair appears."

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