Are New Year's resolutions an entrepreneur's worst enemy?

The festivities are over and it’s time to get back to business. There are always plenty of tips to get you motivated at the start of a new year and shake off the post-Christmas blues (and they're usually published on January 1st, when you’re more likely to be nursing a hangover than reading self-help articles). So, how can you grow as an entrepreneur? How can you challenge yourself and how can you be better at managing a workforce... and is this all just hot air?

This piece was originally going to be filled with hope and optimism, as we took a look at entrepreneurs who had previously pivoted their business plan or goals as a result of a New Year’s resolution. Maybe they had reflected on spending time with their family and realised they needed to address their work/life balance. Or maybe an evening spent chatting with friends over a few beers inspired them to act on something they had been holding off from doing. Except a call-out for entrepreneurs to share stories and insight had a few, yet mixed, responses.

Ryan James, a mentor to creative agencies and founder of Bristol-based networking event Curious Conversations, said that he has had and heard of many reasons for pivoting "but not because of a meaningless resolution".

The argument is that you should be continuously setting short and long-term goals and striving to achieve them, so you shouldn’t have to allocate a specific day to challenge yourself. However, the New Year can be the ideal time to step back, take stock and recharge the batteries.

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Jessica, who asked that her surname wasn’t published, said that an eventful festive period a few years ago led to her and her co-founder parting ways. "The saddest part is we had been friends for a long time before setting up our [boutique] business after leaving university," she said.

"This time of year still feels raw and I do what I can to distract myself from thinking about work. I think this is possibly why I’m anti-New Year’s resolutions. They’re often just white noise."

Gordon Craig, owner and head chef of Taisteal, opening in Edinburgh later this month, said that his 2016 New Year resolution was to launch a restaurant that was more to his style and incorporated his Michelin-starred training. He previously ran a grill business but bought his partners out after realising it wasn’t the perfect environment for his business and culinary skills to flourish.

"I set both a personal and professional resolution every year. I feel having them set in stone can push you to achieve the goals and stop you from doubting yourself," he said.

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It’s clear resolutions aren’t for everyone, but If you’re planning to make one over the next week or so, sticking to it is easier said than done, as you probably already know. It doesn’t help that a lot of the advice out there is too woolly or just isn’t tangible. There is a whole army of experts ready to give their two cents’ worth every January about how business leaders should detox their life, declutter paperwork and fire the most disruptive employee in their organisation.

"Some resolutions are more likely to be kept than others. Above all, be realistic. A five to 10 per cent annual business growth in turnover should be achievable even in a competitive market. If you can also improve internal processes and keep costs in check you could add at least 20 per cent profit to the bottom line within 12 months. Resolving to achieve more than this, you might just be setting yourself up to fail," says Peter Fleming, a consultant with Business Doctors, which connects small and medium enterprises with established entrepreneurs and C-level executives and provides them with advice and support.

Fleming adds that pitfalls to avoid include not doing your research first, being too vague in what you want to achieve – "saying ‘I’m going to turn this business around’ doesn't really mean anything" – and not effectively communicating your plan with the people who can help you.

“Just make sure your resolution is a SMART goal - that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-framed. If it isn't, how are you going to know if you've achieved it?”

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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