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Posted: December 01, 2009

New Year’s resolutions for the workplace warrior

In this economy, business as usual just won't cut it

Esty Atlas

The end of the 2009 year brings great relief to some - those who still have their jobs and businesses afloat - and great angst to those who are getting word of budget cuts, layoffs and closings. But fear not!

Bad news and blessings are a matter of perspective. A good friend of mine, here in Denver, recently emailed me her "bad news." Multi-talented in the video, graphics and web design industry, she now faces the shock of downsizing (after being given a raise earlier this year). To add even more financial tumult, she is also expecting her first baby next spring. I say it's a blessing. She has an opportunity to create a more flexible environment and independent customer base that would work better for a new mom. It just would have been advantageous to be able to determine that timeline herself, which is what many people who work for themselves are discovering.

Our business environment, while showing credible signs of recovery, is still under great stress and unpredictability. No one is immune. Everyone is affected. So this year-end article is dedicated to the warriors, every one of us in today's workplace. Here are my New Year's Resolution "Rules of Engagement":

1) Your value (whether a company or employee) cannot be your hidden secret. How do you set yourself apart and develop your marketing brand? Ah, the key! Strategic marketing is for everyone. If you're looking for work, are you clearly branded on your resume, portfolio, website? What makes it distinctive and unforgettable among the hordes of me-too's? If you have a job, what are you doing to become more valuable? Really think about what you have done that's decidedly unique in your life. Former Chairman/CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands, Ann Fudge, says, "It's those folks who help their organization think creatively and also very broadly." The message here is: Bust out of your normal framework which may involve thinking differently.

2) Bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. Life is full of these examples. Who could've imagined a few years ago that we'd have cell phone technology at our fingertips providing so much information, access, and interconnectivity? Make a note: status quo out. Connect yourself to those who share your passion. Then take good ideas to the next level. If you are the boss, owner or manager, how can you better utilize your employees to improve your products and customer service? Investing in enhanced staff development should be an ongoing commitment because it broadens one's thinking and skills which is ultimately added-value to your customers - a measurable asset.

3) What drives your professional goals? Define your key goal in one sentence of ten words or less. For Bill Gates, founder and former CEO of Microsoft, his leadership was fueled by his long-held dream that "millions might realize their potential through great software." Whether you are a sous chef, artist, engineer, doctor, student, stay-at-home Mom, or (fill in the blank), you've probably used a Microsoft product. Leveraged versatility. That's smart for every business.

4) Dreams come in all sizes. Take a simple activity like shopping, but first turn back the clock pre-1994. Need something, go to the store and buy it. Enter: Jeff Bezos. He didn't just invent online shopping, he turned it into a multi-billion dollar (with a "B") enterprise. Amazon.com began as a bookstore in 1994. It quickly expanded into dozens of product categories, forcing the world's biggest retailers to rethink their business models and ultimately change the way people shop today.

What propelled Amazon to such success? They took customer service to the next ‘behavioral' level. By setting the bar so high for reliability and customer service, and introducing a wide range of online retail conventions - from user reviews and one-click shopping to the tab interface and shopping cart icon, we no longer think of them as once having been innovations.

The challenge for most people and businesses is in defining what can be done that will benefit a broad base of customers. Then, two key factors: figuring out the most effective way to make it happen and getting the word out through your marketing, PR and outreach efforts.

Make your mark by understanding where your company or business can be innovative. Being innovative does not have to mean discovering the Internet or being the next Microsoft. It just means providing a unique perspective that decision-makers and customers find interesting, helpful, fun, and fresh. How you do that is your own creative methodology designed for your specific situation. Experiment. Duke University Professor of Behavioral Economics, Dan Ariely, recently said businesses are often stagnant because they don't experiment. He's right. We see a lot of our clients debilitated by fear to try something new. Fear is to no one's advantage.

We are all living in an exciting and challenging time. Discover new platforms. Ask ‘what if.' It may seem that generation ‘millenniers' take technology for granted, but these young brains are making a huge impact on the world with so many new products and services that simply didn't exist five, ten, fifteen years ago. Properly implemented technology stimulates business and growth.

Marketing, networking and having an effective public identity are no longer a luxury and not everyone is a good marketer. Our new culture of instant gratification, quick time juggling and deleting, social opinion-sharing, and a barrage of too much information in a virtually flat world can best be infiltrated by those who attract attention in ways that exude trust. By building your value and your connectivity - you become your own best asset. That engagement transcends its power and capacity for employees as well as companies.

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Esty Atlas is a four-time Emmy award-winning writer, specializing in leadership communications, media and public relations. 303-919-2425; email: estycreative@yahoo.com or www.estycreative.com

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