Amongst the excitement of Christmas and New Year, it’s easy to get carried away with planning your moves for the coming year. The end of the year is also however a great time to take a look back at the year that was, and take stock of what worked and what didn’t.
Entrepreneurs are used to looking ahead and leveraging their energy, ideas and enthusiasm to grow their seedling business into a successful enterprise — but to know the right direction of travel, we first need to understand the position that we’ve come from.
And the more you can do this formally, in a structured way, and with hard data that underpins your assumptions, the better. It’s easy to go with a ‘gut feel’ on your business direction, but an analysis of the data may reveal surprising trends or insights that you might otherwise have missed.
How to analyse what worked in 2022
There are myriad ways to assess a business, but even a simple approach will yield results. For example, try asking these three questions:
1. What went well in 2022? Try writing down 3–5 key successes. These could be related to sales, brand awareness, product development, profit achievements and so forth.
2. What could be improved? Again, write down a handful of things, and evidence them so that you know you are being objective. Does your brand need to be developed? Are your sales strong enough? Do you need to systemise your business by investing in technology, for example?
3. What will I focus on in 2023? These could be 3–5 priority areas that will form your business and personal action plan. You might want to develop your e-commerce channel, bring another person on board or secure seed funding for example.
To support these questions, look at the data available in your business. You could, for example, look at the profit and loss account and balance sheet, analyse marketing data in your systems, review customer feedback and reviews and consider your market position using a tool such as PESTEL analysis.
Why you need to write this down
When we write down information, our brains store, recall and contextualise it more effectively — certainly more so than if we type it or simply hold it in our minds. So take a pad, sit somewhere quiet with a coffee and enjoy some time to review what you’ve done. You could also support this process by holding a review session with your team if you already have one, a business mentor or someone that has contributed to your organisation in some way. Enjoy some time to say thank you, celebrate successes, and get their views and perspectives on the priorities for 2023.
Take the time to sit, review and plan
Many managers work in a constant cycle of ‘plan, do, review’ and it’s no different for entrepreneurs. The challenge comes because entrepreneurs are always working at a million miles an hour, trying to get to the next thing. It’s hard to just sit down quietly and reflect on a year’s work.
It’s also hard to be honest about what has worked and what needs to be improved — objectively, and using data sources where they exist.
But this exercise will always reap dividends.
Firstly it will provide evidence for your business planning, secondly, it will force you to be structured, reflective and considered — even if your nature is more inclined to drive forwards at all costs. This will make it easier to set goals for the coming year, which are realistic and intelligent.