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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Owners aim to pay closer attention in '07

By Joyce M. Rosenberg
Associated Press

NEW YORK One of Julie Kampf's New Year's resolutions for her small business is to be sure the executive search firm is focused on what it does best.

Mary Shnack's resolution is a little more concrete: She plans to finish her company's business plan. And Kassie Rempel's is downright mundane she's going to eat lunch each day.

The Associated Press conducted a very informal e-mail survey of small business owners, and found that many have come up with things they want to change in the new year. Many owners' resolutions are specific to their own companies putting together a formal business plan, finally starting to work with a budget or monitoring cash flow. But there's a common thread, and that is to pay closer attention to how the business is doing.

To help her company stick with its resolution, Kampf is planning quarterly meetings that will allow her and her staff to take a step back and be sure they're on the right course.

Kampf's company, JBK Associates Inc. in Englewood, N.J., has had a niche in helping businesses in the life sciences and consumer products industries find senior-level management. But as time has gone by and her business has grown, clients would come with requests beyond her company's scope. She'd do the work, but ultimately, Kampf said, that was a bad idea.

"We satisfied our clients, but when you get too far away from what you started as and for what you're grounded in, it's a recipe for problems," she said.

Often, an owner's New Year's resolution is preceded by a realization that he just can't do everything. "Delegate" was a resolution of many owners who responded to the AP survey.

Curt Finch has resolved to get help in doing one of the hardest parts of his job: project management.

"I'm not particularly great at it. I'm getting someone to come help me," said Finch, CEO of Journyx, an Austin, Texas, company that makes tracking and project management software.

Finch had the same experience as many new entrepreneurs: "I was doing everything."

Shnack, meanwhile, says her company needs a business plan to grow. Her business, Asia Business Connect, helps U.S. companies do business in China, and vice versa.

"There's so much opportunity that we need to have a business plan to stay focused and to have a strategy to grow the business," said Shnack, who is based in Sedona, Ariz.

Some business owners are resolving to take better care of themselves personally. Rempel's resolution, to eat lunch, is interesting because she routinely skips the meal although she has a home-based business.

"It's the first thing that's always neglected and I'm realizing how important it is for your health and my company," said Rempel, owner of SimplySoles, a shoe retailer.

"It affects my demeanor, and being in the customer service industry, I need to keep my energy high and my gratitude for the customers showing in every call."