• CEOs and founders set New Year’s resolutions just like the rest of us.
  • Four leaders talked about how they set them, from reflecting on last year to getting team input.
  • They also stick to them by setting benchmarks that are flexible but achievable.

It’s that time of year when everyone — including business leaders — dreams big and sets goals and resolutions for the months ahead. 

The tricky part with this is understanding how to set the right resolutions, and most importantly, how to set yourself and your business up for success to actually achieve those goals. 

With this in mind, we turned to the pros for advice. Four CEOs and founders shared the steps they take to set and achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

Reflect on the year before

Before diving into setting new resolutions, it’s essential to reflect on the year before to better assess where you are and where you want to go. 

“Our yearly goals-setting process always involves a retrospective of the year before, where we do deep dives on all the major initiatives and discuss what went well and what could be improved,” Afton Vechery, cofounder and CEO of reproductive health company Modern Fertility, told Insider. 

Afton Vechery

Afton Vechery.

Courtesy of Afton Vechery

For example, Vechery said what went well last year for Modern Fertility was hiring velocity. What didn’t go as planned, she said, was feeling reactive rather than proactive on certain planning processes.

The lessons Vechery’s team extracted from the retrospective included improved methods for forecasting, which were weaved into their Q1 goals around investing more in attribution within their growing portfolio of products. 

Stretch yourself a bit

Some CEOs like Suzy Batiz, founder of Poo-Pourri and Supernatural, adopt a go-big-or-go-home approach to resolutions by setting goals beyond the ones that feel doable. 

Suzy Batiz

Suzy Batiz.

Courtesy of Suzy Batiz

“One of our superpowers at Pourri is that we’re small, nimble, and extremely creative,” she told Insider. “When we create stretch goals, it stimulates the creative process. We’ll need to do something new and different to get there, and we typically come up with the most exciting and innovative plans in these instances.”

Batiz said 2020 was a perfect example of this: Right as the pandemic began, a major retailer canceled a big order they’d already produced, cutting a few million dollars out of the year. So, she said, the team got scrappy and started producing and stocking hand sanitizer with national retailers instead. They also changed their marketing plans, cutting out events and focusing on relevant digital campaigns.

“Those pivots and creative solutions made all the difference in helping us not only keep our original goal, despite a few million-dollar loss, but also inch toward our stretch sales goal,” she said. 

Set a theme for the year

If setting hard and fast resolutions doesn’t resonate or feels daunting or too rigid, Vechery suggested setting a theme for the year instead, which she said can be naturally embedded into day-to-day operations in small and big ways. To help pinpoint an area of focus, she said to ponder on this question: “What should all members of the business be doing more of?” 

For example, two themes Modern Fertility has embraced in past years include restlessness, which she said was about “finding the solution and seeing it through, regardless of roadblocks,” and breakout, which focused on leaving customers feeling better than they did before. 

Involve your team in the goal-setting process

One commonality in how some CEOs set New Year’s business resolutions is that they make it a team effort. “At Modern Fertility, goal-setting involves every employee showing up as a stakeholder and playing an important role,” Vechery said. “We know we’re not going to be successful if everyone doesn’t feel like a leader shaping goal creation.”

Similarly, Kyle Hjelmeseth, founder and CEO of the agency G&B Digital Management, said he asks his team to share their goals for growth and development and makes a conscious effort to incorporate those goals into the bigger goals of the business. “Knowing what we all want inside and outside is a powerful tool in defining your business roadmap,” he said. 

Kyle Hjelmeseth

Kyle Hjelmeseth.

Courtesy of Kyle Hjelmeseth

Hjelmeseth said one team member expressed that their goals were to move to New York City and achieve a better work-life balance. Instead of simply rooting her on from afar, as the CEO, he got curious and explored how changes in the business could help the team member achieve their goals by setting business resolutions such as increasing prospects in the new city and creating more efficiency in their workflow. 

Set measurable and flexible benchmarks and keep the big picture in mind

Steph Hon, founder and CEO of Cadence, a purveyor of refillable travel containers, said she views goals like making pottery. “You refine and refine week by week — it’s not something that happens overnight,” she said. “I’ve found that it’s more effective to aim for one goal per week.” 

Steph Hon

Steph Hon.

Courtesy of Steph Hon

To do this, Hon and her team follow a “balls in the air” approach inspired by a New York Times article, which takes inventory of what balls (tasks/projects) they’re juggling and which ones are glass (meaning they’re a priority) and which ones are plastic (and can be dropped or pushed to the following week). 

For Hon, product innovation is always at the top of the list, so those weekly goals come first. “From there, we get granular on the specific definition of what success looks like,” she said. “For example, instead of just ‘Push forward on X product development’ it would read, ‘Create prototypes that support making Y decision.'”

For Hjelmeseth, keeping the bigger picture goals in mind throughout the year helps to stay focused and motivated. “If you hit a roadblock, and you will, having the bigger picture in place makes overcoming those blocks much easier, as you can ideate solutions based on knowing the end game,” he said. He added that it’s also important to share and celebrate wins along the way with your team to remind them that you’re all in it together. 

Life will inevitably throw some curveballs at us (like a pandemic, for instance), which is why Batiz said establishing goal flexibility is vital. “Having trust within your team to have real, honest conversations about problems and solutions is perhaps more important than clear goals,” she said. “The overall health of your business should always be the number one priority, so if finding solutions to bigger problems means adjusting goals, then so be it.”

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