Each year’s end, at least 40% of us will make resolutions vowing to be better versions of ourselves. Naturally, that’ll include a particularly ambitious group: startup CEOs. For them, this is the prime time to set company goals for 2020. Because the way they see it, there’s always a little room for improvement.
Here’s how some of them plan to move their company’s needle in 2020:
Focus on People
“People are the most important component to building a successful business,” says Isabelle Steichen, cofounder and CEO of snack line Lupii. “One of our main goals for 2020 is to create a work environment that recognizes and supports our employees’ individuality, interests, and passions—inside and outside of the office.”
In that vein, Neta Meidav has pledged to give her employees more opportunities to grow on the job at Vault Platform, which allows workplace misconduct to be reported securely and confidentially. “Anyone in the company can choose to shadow a coworker and learn a completely different discipline,” she says. “The idea is to share observations and skills between people who might not typically work together.”
Jeff Calvins is empowering his staff by asking them to hit the road, literally. As CEO of Outdoorsy, an online RV rental marketplace, he wants employees to embrace the company’s mission of taking more road trips to explore the great outdoors.
“We invested in an employee trip program, so that our most important stakeholders—each of our employees—receive four Outdoorsy-paid road trips per year,” he says. “One of our big resolutions is to see 75% of our employees take at least three trips within the year. This way they can truly experience the magic of the outdoors and the mental health benefits of disconnecting and getting back to what matters most: connections with one another.”
“Fundraising was all about learning how to talk—but building has been an exercise in learning to listen,” says Jonathan Anderson, cofounder and CEO of Candu, a customer-onboarding software company.
This year, his company is committed to more active listening. “A huge benefit of working in B2B is that you’re constantly talking with your customers. But you only get that benefit if you stop talking and listen for how to translate smart customer ideas into your product roadmap,” he says.
Grow, which offers business intelligence for growing companies, wants to be “customer-obsessed in 2020. That’s according to founder and CEO Rob Nelson, who says “self-promoting ads, emails, and content have no place in the customer conversation.”
“We want to be overabundant and generous in how we add value—with current and future customers—because we are certain this will instill trust that lasts long after the ink is dry on the contract,” he explains.
Jen Derks, CEO of branding agency Four Fins Creative, will also be doubling down on client relations. Her company will be optimizing how services are delivered, and “look for ways to add value to the relationship without adding labor hours to the account.” That’ll likely include “evergreen education, resources created specifically for our clients, or a bolstered vetted partner network, so we can be confident that our clients are in good hands when they aren’t in ours.”
Show that schedule who’s boss
“My resolution is to take control of my schedule and prioritize what matters most,” says Heather Heartnett, CEO and founding partner of Human Ventures, a venture studio that backs and builds consumer technology companies. “It’s important to set aside that time or it will get filled up with someone else’s priorities,” she says. “We often let what is seemingly urgent replace what is truly important.”
“In my postmortems, I consistently find that there is a closely held assumption behind most wrong decisions,” says Ophir Gaathon, founder and CEO of DUST Identity, an unclonable security layer that can be placed on any object. “In 2020, I resolve to identify our customer’s implicit assumptions and reveal the blind spots that are generating hidden liabilities and risk factors,” he says.
Take a stand
“In 2020, we will stand on political issues, even if it may hurt our business,” says Xiao Wang, cofounder and CEO of Boundless, which helps immigrants navigate the complexities of applying for a visa.
For example, he says the U.S. government has recently made the visa process more difficult and costly for immigrants, which actually drives more business to Boundless. “The easy route is to not be involved,” he says. But instead, he says the company is leading a coalition of companies organizing against these barriers. It’s a matter of values, he says.
Wang calls on other CEOs to stand up for what they believe, too. “Companies increasingly have a responsibility to establish a point of view beyond ‘what maximizes shareholder value’ and an obligation to positively impact the communities they touch.”