2014 Aspirations

I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. This year though, I think that the change from 2013 to 2014 signifies more than just flipping the page on a calendar. The phrase “New Year’s resolutions” didn’t feel quite right so I’m going to go with “2014 aspirations” instead. I’m going to keep it simple here. I have only two aspirations for this coming year.

Aspiration #1 – Focus on Revenue and Profitability

Often times my partners and I have prioritized revenue growth or increased profitability below efficiencies or future-proofing. Examples:

For many years we’ve worked on our back-end Admin system that allows us and our employees to manage inventory, create promotions, send newsletters, view reports, and just about anything else an e-commerce company would need to thrive. These systems may have seemed like overkill at the time, and building them most definitely detracted from other revenue generating projects, but they’ve enabled us to grow relatively seamlessly from one part-time employee in mid-2009 to three full-time employees, two part-time warehouse employees, and a handful of contractors by mid-2013. In that time we’ve also roughly doubled in sales without any major hiccups in our operations. The back-end systems have enabled that smooth growth, so it was certainly a worthwhile investment of our time.

Similarly, we spent the beginning of last year revamping the Detailed Image website. The main “feature” was the mobile responsive design. While that sure helped revenue in 2013, it is likely that the same effort applied to other projects could have grown revenue more in 2013. The real payoff on the site comes in 2014, 2015, 2016, and beyond when we expect to see mobile and tablet sales surpass desktop sales. Again, almost definitely the right move at the time.

This year, because of all of those previous investments, we’re in a position where we can focus almost exclusively on revenue-generating and profit-increasing projects. It’s still a challenge though to actually execute that vision. We’re all perfectionists. We encounter all sorts of little problems in our day-to-day work. We all know how to come up with solutions to those problems. What we need is the foresight to say “spending two days automating this minor inconvenience isn’t as good for the business as spending those two days on a project that boosts sales.” It’s harder than you think, but I’m confident we’re up for the challenge.

Aspiration #2 – Slow the F$#@ Down

For a variety of reasons that I’ll get into in a moment, the past few years have felt like organized chaos. We’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve accomplished a lot. It’s been very memorable and mostly good. But I’m worn out. I’m not burnt out however, and I’d prefer to keep it that way. I’d also prefer not to make organized chaos the norm.

There’s a passage in The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss that I’ve thought a lot about these past few years:

Can you have a two-hour dinner with Spanish friends without getting anxious? Can you get accustomed to a small town where all businesses take a siesta for two hours in the afternoon and then close at 4 PM? If not, you need to ask, Why? Learn to slow down.

I’m not the type who is constantly checking their phone while at dinner. I tend to do a decent job of “living in the moment”, however I haven’t done a good enough job recently of creating enough relaxing, slow moments!

I’m still a firm believer in the principles I wrote about in my Productive Output post back in 2008. I was frankly better at executing those principles back then.

If I do a good job at Aspiration #1, I think Aspiration #2 will fall into place pretty naturally. The challenge is to then not fill the newly found time with additional unnecessary work. I want to spend more time outside. More time with friends and family. More time reading. More time writing. More time on hobbies I’ve let go, and more time exploring new ones.

Where is all this extra time going to come from? I have the good fortune of having quite a few very time consuming things off my plate. The new Detailed Image site last year required an inordinate amount of work over a six month stretch to complete. A few weeks later, my wife and I bought a house. In 2012, just before starting work on the site, we got married. Those were all great things, but things that took up a ton of time and energy that can be channeled elsewhere in 2014.

I’ve also been working hard to trim away unnecessary work. I’ve greatly reduced my email volume (subject of an upcoming post) and we’ve turned over the majority of the day-to-day warehouse operations to our employees (also the subject of a future post).

Hopefully 2014 puts a little more “balance” in the work-life balance equation!

And – thank you for reading. I am very grateful for all of the wonderful people I’ve met through blogging. A very happy and prosperous 2014 to you as well!

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