5 CEO Resolutions for the New Year

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I believe in working smarter, not harder. This year, I’m making less work for myself, so that I can get more done. Here are five resolutions I’ve made that other leaders and CEOs might want to consider copying.

Build trust within my team

Empowering your people and giving away power, leadership and ownership over the work within your business doesn’t just lead to a happier, more creative and productive team—it can make you happier, more creative and productive as well. Every time I move into a more advisory role on a project, or even an entire function within the company, I free up valuable time that I can spend building the business, and my team feels trusted and valued in the process.

Grow smartly

Many seasoned entrepreneurs are re-evaluating the growth goals they’re setting for their startups. Growth for the sake of growth—sometimes known in Startupland as ‘hypergrowth’—sometimes comes at the expense of strategy and sustainability.

At Merchant Advance Capital, we once had the opportunity to take over another organization for nothing, as long as we covered operational costs. Had we been focused on hypergrowth, we would have jumped at the deal and figured out the details later, and would likely have failed explosively in a market we knew nothing about. But we stuck to what we knew, and still had huge success, taking the #23 spot on the 2016 PROFIT 500 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies.

Study the books

As a small business lender, I’ve spent the past few years obsessed with cashflow, not just in my own company, but also in thousands of others we’ve worked with. It’s astounding what people will overlook when it comes to the financial health of their businesses . You should always know how much cash you have on hand, and how long it will last before it goes into salaries, expenses and vendor payments. This is especially important if your business gets paid through invoices.

Businesses that have taken out a loan or are considering one should look at their debt service coverage ratio—net operating income needs to at least match your total debt service to be in good shape for the coming months. This year, I’ll continue to focus on my company’s finances.

Find my voice

Your authentic voice as a CEO is a strong asset to your company’s growth. The insights and knowledge you’ve gained building your business are already in your head, and it doesn’t take much to write them down and share them with the public, whether on a blog or through social media. If you’re a restaurateur, for example, you could share your tips for braising pork belly confit just right. My thoughts are a little less tasty— I tend to focus on the implications of financial technology for Canadian businesses, or how to pressure the local government into green lighting Uber.

Whatever your topic, you’ll be setting the tone for your industry peers and potential employees, and laying the foundation to attract fans. I have seen this work for me over the past year. That’s why this year, I resolve to continue honing my voice, to write my thoughts down on a regular basis and to find the person on my team who can help amplify my message and share it with the world.

Take a vacation

There never seems to be ‘good’ time to take a break. But if you do go on vacation, you’ll find that miraculously, nothing falls apart—especially if you’ve empowered your team to do what’s necessary whether or not you’re around. There goes your excuse for never taking any time off.

Beware though: One long break has limited recharge value. Studies show the rejuvenating effects of a vacation last about a month, after which people return to their usual levels of happiness. So this year, I’m also taking care to maintain mental and physical balance every day, so I can be there for my team when they really do need me.

David Gens is the founder and CEO of Merchant Advance Capital.


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