A New Year’s resolution that all business owners need to make

(Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on, whose parent company, American City Business Journals, is the largest publisher of metropolitan business newsweeklies in the United States, with 43 business publications across the country.)
I’m not sure anyone puts much stock in New Year’s resolutions any more.
We all proclaim them to friends and family at every opportunity, and apparently the more people we tell, the more obligated we feel to actually do what we said we would.
But our resolve, no matter how strong, seems to last until about the middle of January. That’s when the crowds at the gym start to thin, and when people return to smoking at their former frequency and to drinking a bit more than they should.
And that annual January diet? It’s history before almost anything else.
By now you’re probably saying to yourself, “I hope he doesn’t try to convince me that New Year’s resolutions can actually be good for my business — especially after he has laid waste to all of my best personal intentions for 2018.” To that, I’ll just have to admit that your suspicions are accurate. But I would like to quickly point out that I view New Year’s resolutions for business owners in a totally different light.
As a mergers and acquisitions banker for nearly 30 years, I think the new year is a great time to resolve to make some changes in your business and how you look at it. I think if we are looking and listening, the marketplace speaks to us. It shows us the way to continue to compete successfully, or it shows us the door.
Thinking back on my 50-year business career and the eight companies I have started, I can tell you that there are a lot of lessons out there for us business owners.
But perhaps my biggest lesson is this: As a business owner, you simply have to be keenly aware of what is going on around you. You have to observe, read and listen. You have to keep pace with this revolving sphere that we live on and all that is happening on it. Otherwise, you might be caught off guard as I was nearly 40 years ago.
A painful lesson
Here’s my tale of woe and one of the biggest and most painful lessons of my business career.
The year was 1980. Jimmy Carter was president.
By that time, I’d already started and sold six of the eight companies I would eventually own and operate. I had pooled my resources to develop my seventh company, a high-end leather furniture business that seemed like a great idea at the time.
I owned the showroom and the factory. Margins were high, and the business was performing well. I’d even been offered a good price for the company, but I turned it down.
And then it happened: Interest rates shot up to 21 percent, and my world changed.
There may be businesses that can survive in an economy like that, but not a leather furniture business that featured sofas priced as high as $12,000. I was caught flat-footed, and the price for my inattention was my business, which I would later sell for almost nothing.
Pay attention
While there’s no such thing as a crystal ball, I do believe that by closely monitoring news on the economy, business, government policy and world affairs you can get a pretty good idea of what’s ahead and how it might affect your business.
Today, the impact of online retailers, ride-sharing companies, streaming video services, electric car manufacturers, robotics, artificial intelligence and many other factors cannot be denied. For business owners, plans to grow the business can quickly shift to a need to sell in the blink of an eye.
These are some of the many reasons that I remind small- to mid-sized-business owners that they need to pay attention to what is going on around them. If I had back in 1980, I might have avoided the biggest business mistake I’ve ever made.
So if I can offer a New Year’s resolution to all business owners out there, it’s this: Commit to paying attention in the new year. Read voraciously about your community and innovation in every corner of our world. You will be better off, and so will your business.
And if you do manage to lose some weight in 2018, be sure to let me know how you did it.

About the Author

David J. Mahmood
Founder and Chairman
Phone: (214) 217-7750