10 Ways To Maximize Your Professional Impact In 2013

The New Year is a propitious time for businesses to re-prioritize their objectives and start afresh with renewed vigor and a clear mission. Setting – and following through on – thoughtful and apposite resolutions is an effective way to maximize results and impact for your company.

In my estimation 2013 will be a year marked by continued economic volatility (through headline risk, inflationary monetary policy, and an ambivalent unemployment rate), the emergence of the micropreneur, increased attention on ROI (return on investment) in social media, and philanthropy as a potent form of marketing.

The businesses that win in the New Year will be those that iterate incessantly to define their own innovation curve, that establish strong and unambiguous company cultures, and those that use their data points effectively to minimize wasteful spending and increase their ROIC (return on invested capital.) As you set your resolutions for the New Year, consider implementing these resolutions – along with others that are important to your business – to create optimal results in 2013 and beyond.

1) Iterate – This will be the buzz word of the year. The fact is the pace of change in technology has in many ways never been faster, and the expectation for change among consumers is equally rapid. It will be crucial for companies to find ways to develop fresh products and services as cost effectively as possible, to deliver them to the marketplace swiftly and deliberately, while focusing on which changes produce the greatest ROI. Iterating is all about making tweaks and changes to a product, a culture, a marketing plan, etc. to continue optimizing its performance based on the protean nature of the marketplace. Facebook’s motto of creating internal disruption before another company creates it for them is apt advice here. Iterate or be forgotten.

2) Generate more sales and fewer ideas – Talk is cheap. Results are what count most. Nothing frustrates me more than people that always have new ideas, but never put them into action. If you want to create value for your business, generate fewer ideas and find ways to make each one count more. If you’re an idea person, then get in the habit of choosing one idea that you want to implement, and don’t come up with any more until you have proven that particular idea’s concept – through some measurable result.

3) Define your culture – Every company has a culture, regardless of whether it’s something you consciously choose to create or not. The companies that will generate the greatest results for themselves will be those whose cultures are clear to their employees and customers. Nothing creates more dissonance within a firm than a company that doesn’t know what it stands for. Understand the values that are most important to you and make sure that everyone within the company understands what they are. The more collaborative the process is of creating culture, the more enduring that culture will be.

4) Diversify your social media – There has been a disproportionate reliance on Facebook and Twitter for social media outreach, and while I expect these platforms to continue to be relevant in the New Year, there will undoubtedly be others that will gain traction. The very fact that these communities are nearing certain thresholds means that marginalized users and lost voices will spill into different channels such as Pinterest, the new MySpace, Tumblr and others that are most likely in their very nascent stages. Pay attention to what those new social media programs are and use them to gain the upper hand before they become overcrowded and lose their marketing potency.

5) Re-evaluate your investments – Investments such as stocks and bonds, just like a box of opened Wheat Thins, can become stale quickly. Each year brings new policies, trends, and investment theses. Make sure you understand the industry and ideological developments that affect the investments you hold and determine whether you should keep them or sell and re-invest your capital.

6) Narrow your focus – A principle of life that I’ve witnessed is as things get more complicated it becomes more necessary to simplify. Rather than focus on 10 projects, focus on completing one really well. Clearly, if you’re in a large organization with many resources, you can handle more projects, but it’s important to focus on the mission critical items and complete them to maximum effect. Pareto’s law of 80/20 – meaning that 80% of results come from 20% of causes – is an important principle to be mindful of. Focus on the 20% of work that is going to yield 80% of the results, and view all else as a gratuitous distraction left for the undisciplined and unproductive.

7) Get to know your colleagues – Business is the business of people. The better you get to know others and find out ways to relate to and communicate with them, chances are your productivity in the workplace will equally benefit. Take time each week to go out to lunch with one new person or grab a drink after work. The relationships you develop make your work increasingly rewarding.

8) Let Your Soul Sing – I’m a big fan of music; I listen to it most of the day. One of my favorite guitarists is John Mayer, and I recently came across a 2007 interview he did for Austin City Limits in which he talked about how his work (very fortunately) allows him to get out his expression on the job – in effect, it allows his soul to sing. Many of us feel we have to separate expression from personal and business life – this need not be the case. Try to find ways to incorporate your expression on the job. Don’t wait to get home to unleash your creativity. Your creative energies – so long as they are consistent with the company culture – will inspire your employees, and a more inspired workplace produces greater happiness and productivity.

9) Write one hand-written note each month – With email as the prevailing form of communication, receiving a hand-written note is like watching an episode of The Jersey Shore and finding a meaningful takeaway – it happens rarely, but when it does, it’s satisfying. Take time each month to write a hand-written note to a client, customer, or colleague expressing some form of gratitude you have for your interaction with them. This simple act will go a long way in building relationships and in improving your level of communication.

10) Meet less, do more – There’s very little I find more wasteful than meetings. Most meetings are an excuse for management to hear themselves talk and work out half-baked ideas that they hadn’t had time yet to fully explore. While meetings are certainly an important part of business, keep them to a manageable 30 minutes long, and always end them on time. Focus on communicating important mission critical items and make sure that attendees leave with a clear agenda of what tasks they need to complete and by when.

Bonus: Commit to your resolutions – Do you really want another year of setting intentions for a more productive business life, but not following through on them? Hold yourself accountable to your goals by evaluating your progress weekly, and at a minimum monthly, and make sure you break up your goals into reasonable action items that you can make progress on every day. Big achievements are not completed overnight. They are the result of small (yet deliberate) repeated actions every day over a sustained period of time. Follow these pointers for a successful 2013, and be amazed at just how much you can accomplish in a year.