Taking a Look at Your Year in Review

Consciously thinking about the good and the bad will help you move your business forward in the future.

December 22, 2021

Well, 2021 is finally about done for.  It may not have been quite as bad as 2020, but no small number of people are probably glad to see it go.  But even if you’re in the camp that would rather just forget about 2021 and move on, we’d still encourage you to take a look back at your business’s year in review.  Consciously thinking about the good and the bad will help you move your business forward in the future.

Oh, we’ve convinced you?  Great.  Then here are five things to make sure you think about when conducting your review.

1. Snapshot Today and Snapshot a Year Ago

If you could take a snapshot of your business today and compare it to a snapshot of your business a year ago, then how would they compare?  Is your revenue up or down over the previous year?  Are you feeling more or less pressure from customers on your pricing?  Are you feeling more or less pressure from your suppliers on their pricing?  Do you feel like you’re in a better or worse position to meet your near-term expenses than you were a year ago?  Do you have more or less debt than you had a year ago?  Is your team stronger or weaker than a year ago?

There really isn’t a whole lot of magic to these questions.  The point is to actually ask them and answer them.  When you force yourself to consciously think through these questions, you’ll start focusing yourself on your business, putting yourself in a realistic mindset for judging where your business goes from here, and identifying opportunities to play both defense and offense.

2. Highs and Lows

Over the last year, what were the absolute best things that happened to your business?  What were the absolute worst things?  Perhaps a high point was landing a new customer account that you’d been chasing or launching a new advertising campaign that seems to have borne fruit.  Perhaps a low point was laying off an employee.  Whatever those highs and lows were, try to identify them and keep them in mind.

At Haven, we think through our highs and lows for the week every single week.  You may not need to do it that frequently, but the reason why we do it is because it helps us continually improve.  Whatever your high point was, there was something about it that made it a high point.  Try to figure out what that something was.  Try to figure it out for your low points, too.  If you can figure out why something that worked worked, then you might be able to create it.  Similarly, if you can figure out why something that went wrong did so, then you might be able to correct a serious problem in the future.

3. Loose Ends

All right, now given where you business stands today and the highs and lows you went through in order to get here over the last year, what loose ends did you just not have time to accomplish over the last year?  Everyone has some because we usually plan to take on a little more than we can actually handle.  That’s okay because it keeps us acting with ambition, but it’s important to take stock of what’s falling through the cracks.

Here’s where you’ll have a choice to make.  Some of those loose ends might be very important things that you shouldn’t have let go for as long as you have.  If that’s the case, then make a firm commitment to yourself that you’ll get them done in the New Year.  But some of those loose ends might be loose ends for a reason:  they just really weren’t as important as other things that you wanted to accomplish.  As you think about what you want to accomplish in the coming year, don’t feel obligated to deal with those loose ends if they were in fact somewhat unimportant.  Make the firm decision to deprioritize them so that you have time and space to get on to bigger and better things.

4. Upcoming Challenges

Ever have that feeling that everything will be smooth sailing if you can just make it through the next big thing on your radar?  We all do, but sometimes that's just an illusion.  There will always be another challenge after you get past the one that’s right in front of you.  So cast a glance toward the horizon and see if you can anticipate some of the challenges that might be in store for you in the year ahead.  Is there anything that you can do now to help prepare for them?

Don’t get too bogged down in this one; yes, it’s true that failing to plan is planning to fail, but only up to a point.  If we spent the time we’d need to to fully plan for the downside, then we’d never get anything done, and then we’d still end up failing.  So take a look at the problems you might face in the future, identify them, do a little creative thinking about how you might overcome them, store those plans back in your mental filing cabinet, and then keep moving forward.

5. Opportunities

Sometimes thinking about upcoming challenges can be helpful because it can also help you spot upcoming opportunities.  If something’s going to be challenging for you, then it might be challenging for your competitors, too.  And if you can get out in front of it better than they can, then you might find yourself in a really attractive position as a result.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve spotted a trend in the market that could serve as a tailwind that pushes your business along even faster.  What exactly is that force and how can you harness it?  Thinking in those terms will leave you feeling more confident and motivated about your business, and that’s a great mindset to have when you walk back in the door on the morning of January 2nd.

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