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Before we start going crazy thinking about New Year’s resolutions, let’s take a beat and reflect on the past 12 months. I find that most entrepreneurs spend a lot of time looking forward to what they want to accomplish in the future, but less time looking back at what they’ve done… and what they could do better.
There’s value in both looking forward and looking back, as both views are necessary to grow. Looking back often requires a harsh level of reality-check, however, especially as a business owner.
With that said, here are some questions you should mull over as you consider your startup’s year-end review:
Did I achieve my goals for the year?
If you set resolutions at the start of the year (or goals, if you’re averse to the whole “resolutions” tradition), now’s the time to look back to see if you achieved them. In reality, you should monitor them throughout the year and tweak your efforts as you go to stay aligned with those goals. But if that didn’t happen, use this period to really assess them.
You may discover that some of the goals you had a year ago are no longer applicable. That often happens to me: when I set my January resolutions, I have one direction in mind for my marketing company, but by year’s end, that direction has changed slightly. That’s OK. You’re just looking to see what you have accomplished and what has changed. This will help you in creating your company goals for 2020.
Where did I miss the mark?
Sometimes in business, you try and you fail. That’s part of the risk. Without experimenting, you can’t have innovation. But it’s important to look at where you fumbled so that you can make smarter and more calculated attempts in the future.
Maybe you tried to reach a new customer segment this year but found that your marketing attempts really struggled to connect with that audience. Moving forward, you could eliminate that segment from your target audience or invest more research and money into marketing to them through more targeted, relevant channels.
Where could I use help?
I know from personal experience that being an entrepreneur means you pretty much do everything yourself, and you often patch together solutions before paying for them. But in a fantasy world, in what areas would you have liked help this year?
Perhaps you needed help in managing your workload. In that case, hiring a freelancer or employee might free you up to work on other aspects of running your company. Or, you might wrangle a task that would be easier with the right software. That’s a good indicator that you should designate some of next year’s budget to the right solutions to help you work smarter, not harder.
Did I struggle to work on my business?
Michael Gerber has been quoted again and again from his book, “E-Myth,” talking about how you can either work on your business or in it. For most entrepreneurs, it’s far easier to work in it, meaning you spend time on the daily minutiae rather than focusing on the bigger-picture strategy.
It takes effort to work on your business, and you need to eliminate as many obstacles as possible to doing so (see the previous question). If you don’t feel happy with how much time you spent working on the future of your business, make that a priority moving forward.
What do I wish I knew 12 months ago?
It wasn’t that long ago, but are there things you know right now that might have changed how you planned your business’ operations a year ago? For me, business slowed down this year, and I feel like knowing that would have caused me to plan differently for the year.
Maybe a new competitor entered your field this year, diminishing your piece of the pie. How would you have planned differently for that 12 months ago? Or maybe you didn’t realize you’d end up needing to take out financing, and once you started applying for loans, you realized that your business credit wasn’t up to snuff. Had you known, you could have taken measures to improve it.
These questions aren’t set in stone. You can answer the ones you want from the list above, or add your own into the mix. The point is to begin reflecting on how far you’ve come with your business, as well as how far you still have to go to get it where you want it to be. Assessing our past is the only way we can pave the way for a bright future.