As the end of the year fast approaches, it’s a good time to think about how you want your business to grow next year and what you need to do to make that happen.
Do you need to create a new strategy or adapt a current one?
You can’t do either if you don’t look back over your shoulder and review what has happened in the last 12 months.
You need to know what worked and what didn’t so that you can exploit the former and adapt or avoid the latter.
So, here are 3 questions to ask that will help you review what happened and use your findings to help you decide what you’re going to do in the 12 months ahead.
Question 1 – What didn’t work?
What did you try that didn’t work out as you intended?
- What milestones did you miss or arrive at later than planned?
- What measurable goals or targets did you put in place that you didn’t hit?
- Did you unexpectedly lose business?
- Did you win less new business than you hoped?
- Was too much of your time taken up reacting to the demands in your business instead of driving it forward proactively?
- What happened unexpectedly that had an impact on your business?
Write down what didn’t work – make a list of the things that didn’t go according to plan.
For each item on your list recall what happened, think it through and identify why it happened.
Use the benefit of hindsight to figure out if you could have done something differently.
Could you have eliminated or avoided that problem?
Should you have mitigated for that risk that set your business back?
Are there lessons to be learned that you could take forward into next year?
2 – What did work?
Of course, you also want to identify what did work. (Don’t want to get too depressed focusing on negatives.)
- Did you reach milestones and targets sooner than expected? Did you exceed them?
- Did a new contract or client win go particularly well? What happened differently that makes it stand it out as a particularly good experience?
- Did you attract more prospects than you expected? With which products or services? How did you attract them? What key marketing messages worked?
- Did some relationships worked particularly well?
- Where did you succeed over your competitors?
- Did you manage to work less hours and with less stress? What changed for that to happen?
Again, write down those things that worked. Why did they work? What was the positive impact on your business? Can you repeat the experience?
What can you learn, take forward and exploit further?
3 – What were your top 3 challenges?
A key purpose of a strategy is to overcome those big challenges that have or could have a negative impact on your business.
Did any challenges hit you that you weren’t expecting? What happened?
How did you resolve a challenge?
Did you eliminate that challenge from your business?
If you didn’t eliminate the challenge then it could happen again. Is there something you can do that will allow you to eliminate or avoid that challenge? If not, can you at least be better prepared for it so that you can overcome it and reduce its impact?
Were your key challenges internal or external? Are they down to weaknesses in your business or because of risks and changes in the markets you play in?
What can you do to strengthen those weaknesses and to mitigate for the key risks in your industry?
You Have a Very Limited Time and Resource
Identifying what didn’t work and your key challenges – whether internal weaknesses or external risks – is just the start.
You obviously want to avoid repeating the things that set you back and be able to exploit those things that worked for you.
But you have a very limited amount of time and resource.
So, you need to pick your fights so to speak.
List all the negative things that impacted and challenged your business. Prioritise that list according to the impact it had on you and your business and the probability of it happening again.
If the impact on your business was significant and if it’s fairly likely to happen again if you don’t do something about it, then clearly you should set aside some time and effort to mitigate for it happening again.
You should ideally aim to eliminate the weakness, risk or challenge.
If that’s not possible then is it possible to avoid the situation where it will arise? If not, can you strengthen your business so that you’re better prepared for it and its impact becomes negligible?
If a weakness, risk or a challenge and its likelihood of impacting you again is great enough, then you need to include mitigating for it in your strategy going forward.
Don’t ignore them and hope they’ll go away because they won’t.
Asking these 3 questions and finding solutions to their answers can have a hugely positive impact on your business.
Take the time to strengthen your business so that:
- The top things that didn’t work do work;
- Your key strengths are exploited;
- Weaknesses are addressed;
- Top risks and challenges are mitigated for.
The purpose of a strategy is to find the best route to getting your business to your strategic destination.
Reviewing how your year went in this way can have a huge positive impact on your business and hence increase its chances of reaching that destination.
Hence, identifying and addressing your findings from this review should become a key component of your business growth strategy.
Assessing where your business is strong and where it is potentially weak and vulnerable is vital. This assessment can be a long-winded, painful exercise if you aren’t sure what to look for.
Photo credit: John Liu on Flickr