Um, hello--it's Q4, time to pull your head out of 2012 and start thinking about upping your business game in the coming year. The first tool for the job? My foot planted firmly (and repeatedly) on your backside. I'm going to help push your business forward by making you face up to some tough issues.
Swift Kick No. 1: How can you grow with crappy cash flow?
The main complaint I hear from new entrepreneurs is having to deal with erratic cash flow. What are you going to do to wrangle this growth-sucking beast? You don't have to be a financial wiz to know that cash flow isn't a client problem--it's a you problem. Start by completing a real profit and loss statement for the first three quarters of 2012. Next, meet with a CPA to discuss your business structure, goals, taxes and liabilities for the coming year. Don't wait until January; that's too late. Do it now. In the meantime, start socking away six months of living and operating expenses. That should take the sting out of any cash flow irregularities as you prepare to turn your financial dragon into a workhorse.
Swift Kick No. 2: What have you learned -- and how long did it take to learn it?
Tom Chi, experience lead at Google X, is a proponent of the rapid learning curve."Sometimes I look at startups and the progress they've made and the time in which they made it and think, four months? That could have been four minutes!" he says."Your learning cycle is limited by the speed of your feedback cycle."
If you can't easily list what you've learned this year, you're in the slow lane. You're not experimenting. Time to speed up: Make a list of five areas you want to improve in your business. Spend three minutes with three colleagues brainstorming ideas for each area. Choose the keepers and start trying them. Now.
Swift Kick No. 3: Are you running your business in the dark?
Some people prefer to build behind the curtain, shutting out the light until their ideas are just right. But you can't build anything brilliant in the dark."If you design your solution in artificial conditions, then it's not designed for reality," says Teju Ravilochan, co-founder and CEO of Unreasonable Institute."You've got to street-test your idea, explore various possibilities with your real customers. The more willing you are to try things in real conditions, the faster you get to viable solutions."
Ravilochan's co-founder and vice president of finance and operations, Tyler Hartung, adds:"Success is the result of a million tiny experiments. You can't be attached to things and assumptions. You have to find the people who can bring your ideas to life--and beyond what you originally envisioned."
How will you bring your business into the light? Will it be through new networks, mentors or brainstorming groups? When you spend your days in that dark room you find so comfy, fearful that nothing will ever be good enough, nothing ever will be good enough.
There you have it. Three kicks designed to get your keister moving.
You won't rise to the top through analysis paralysis. Get out of the dark and let those ideas shine. Oh, and one more thing: Remember to start asking yourself some hard questions. I've got other cans to kick.