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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

Resolutions for 2010
By Paul Tomori
Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 14:51:47 (EST)

If one resolves to NOT join the masses in making new year's resolutions, one has failed by virtue of having such a sense of resolve. So, why not use the turning of the calendar to refine one's outlook and priorities? Technically, the new year always arrives after a period of natural downtime and holiday festivities. Is there a better time to set an agenda? Speaking for myself, I get clarity best when I step back from daily pursuits... taking some family time is good... going on vacation is good.... working from a completely different locations regularly is good. I have done all of these lately and as a rule, I work infrequently at my actual office anyway - I have a long list of remote locations I like to work from and needing only a live wireless internet signal is a small requirement to calling many places my "office".

So, here is my current clarity and resolve for 2010.

First, I am resolved to disengage from all conflicts in my personal and business life. Not that I suffer from many, but a busy person like me, with hundreds of customers and a vast circle of friends and acquaintances naturally finds himself in situations where opinions will differ and where people might take offense to one's position, not to mention I have strong opinions about things! Ninety-nine percent of my relationships are good and mutually rewarding (I hope!), so when I think back to the relatively small handful of conflicts that I have endured and/or perpetuated in the last 5 to 10 years, I realize, in retrospect, just how trivial they really were. Wouldn't it be nice to eliminate them altogether? We all saw how ordinary workers in the information economy could suffer through a perverse terrorist act in NYC. We all saw how natural catastrophes can ravage places like New Orleans, Sri Lanka and now Haiti. We observe that the world has major issues to deal with relating to the environment and a fragile economic structure. These big issues make all the small conflicts in our day-to-day lives very very trivial. My goal will be to unplug when baited into debate. Conversely, I shall do my best to not spur any conflicts myself. As my mom used to remind me, "it takes two to tango".

Next, I am resolved to balance my work and personal time with greater attention paid to my overall health. If something weakens my immunity or some project or goal keeps me up at night or if my dedication to completing a task compels me to be any more sedentary than is healthy, I shall be trying to remedy the root causes of my imbalance. My business goals and personal aspirations are all long-term with a 25 - 30 year horizon. Thus, it is imperative to not get caught up in any kind of self-defeating notions or pursuits that cause me to spin my wheels or to even send me backwards. If this means placing higher priority on some areas of life like health and family than on business, so be it. Truth be told that when I am in good balance of personal to work pursuits, my work efforts bring higher returns anyway. Which leads me to my third resolution...

Anyone who has watched or participated in my business pursuits over the last few years knows that my company has risen from being virtually non-existent to being dominant in our regional service area. The funny thing is that except for a few momentary lapses, my goal has never been to be the "largest" supplier or to have the most customers or highest revenue. My goal has really been about creating a great set of services. The customers make this possible. Having more customers can give more freedom to pursue even better programming achievements. We have always created tools and solutions that WE want to use or would want to use if we were in a particular industry. As a relatively young guy, sometimes I get the urge to compete and win too. But that juvenile instinct is fading as i realize that the best success comes not from beating some real or imagined competitor - it comes from beating one's own internal scorecard. Here's the indifference I am pursuing with my third 2010 resolution... Let's ask my imagined business hero how he stacks up against the competition:

Question: Are you beating the pants off your competitors?
Answer: Hell yes!
Question: Really?
Answer: Well... maybe not so much.
Question: Well, which is it?
Answer: Hmmm... I don't really know.
Question: You don't know?!?!
Answer: Well, who really cares?! We have enough clients who pay us well enough to run our business and enjoy a very very good life.

My imagined business hero is very wise. To him, the whole point of business is not to earn more money than average, but to earn enough money to meet the business and personal goals. The point is to "have customers in order to be in business, not to be in business in order to have customers".

To achieve this, customers must be viewed as relationships, not as revenue streams. This is obvious to me and has always been my mantra, but it's funny to see how others looking for market-share get blinded by revenue and entrapped by the need to constantly build a bigger slice of the pie.

Thus, my resolution is to not measure my business success by whether we are beating the competition, who are mostly unknown strangers in far away places anyway - rather, the goal is to be sure we have the requisite sound financial plan and an overall discipline in place to get us to where we want to go. To paraphrase from The Intelligent Investor, the overall goal in the end isn't crossing the finish line before anybody else, but just making sure the finish line gets crossed.

How will this translate for us? Simple. We are going to hedge any sectorial weakness we have, like our over-exposure to certain business segments, by pursuing a diversity of customers in other business sectors. And, in situations where client relationships are not as productive and enjoyable as they once were, we shall either fix or terminate those relationships. Life is too short to be doing anything we don't really want to do and it is certainly too short for easily avoidable conflict.

Through it all, we shall continue to develop and evolve amazingly useful, inexpensive programs and services. Growth shall be our byproduct, innovation our goal.

In your own pursuits for 2010, here's to a healthy, happy, well-balanced and self-rewarding stream of successes!

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