How To Guide: How to Review Your Year Effectively for a Better Future

This is the last How To Guide of 2020 and I wanted it share something that I feel is really important – reviewing your business. Even under normal circumstances, this activity can reveal so much that is useful to allow your business to really move forward.

I would go as far as to say that without a good review session, it’s difficult to propel yourself into your next chapter well. How will you know if it’s the right path? What will you base your decisions on? What if you simply don’t spot a great opportunity?

2020 has been an epic year that we won’t forget, but as it comes to a close, learning the lessons it has taught us will help us create the 2021 you want.

Reviewing or analysing in your business could take a hundred different forms, so I have gathered together a few key areas to focus on and to help you make the most out of what you’ve learned so far.

  1. Make some proper space. It’s really important not to do a review session when you’re short on time or feeling super stressed. You will simply miss stuff or become transfixed by what didn’t go well. Blot out an hour or so in your diary without distractions. You’ll all have your own ways, but I get out coloured pens, notebooks and have all my key figures ready – and a large brew!
  2. Operations – write down all the ways you deliver your product (I include services in this too – this is your ‘product’) including any ‘one offs’ that happened in 2020. Also include everything operation related that you can think of – sourcing, packing, preparation, deliveries, face to face, online, click & collect etc etc. Now analyse the benefits and negative aspects both for you and for your customers with questions like:
    • Which aspects of how you delivered your products were well received?
    • How much did each type of operation cost you as a business?
    • Which type of operation took the most time (& the least)?
    • Which operations produced the most positive feedback?
    • Is there part of your operations that you love or hate?
    • Which parts of your operations are easily repeated over again and which have to be re invented each time?
    • Have your operations in 2020 aligned with your brand values?
  3. Finances – money matters obviously but there is a caveat to 2020. If it’s been your best or your worst year financially, remember the pandemic effect in your calculations. If it was a busy year – can this be realistically repeated in a more ‘normal’ year? If it was a financially  rubbish year, remember this isn’t your new permanent trajectory. Here are some things to focus on (you can get this from your scibblings or  your online accounting package and any other system you have in place:
    • Know what your turnover (cash into the business) is for the year
    • Understand what activity got you that turnover and break it down e.g. which product or service was most/least successful
    • Understand how that money came into the business e.g. online, face to face, click & collect, social media or email promotions etc.
    • Know what it cost to deliver all your activity. Include the actual cost of supplies as well as the hours it took you/employees.
    • Look back and check out where the ‘pinch points’ were in your cashflow and why they happened. Was this just the 2020 effect or is it something else?
    • Remember to include any grants you received in 2020
    • Where does the profit lie in your business? Is it now obvious which activity stands out as successful? Is it different to your original business model? Is this a surprise?
  4. Marketing – take some time to look back over the year and analyse how your marketing & communications have influenced your business in 2020. This will include social media activity as well as the activity in and around your website. It may include any email marketing you have done too. Use social media stats, Google analytics & email reports.
    • Did your communications in 2020 align with your business values?
    • Was there a new kind of communication that ‘landed’ well with your audience?
    • Have you gained new audiences or different types of audience?
    • Has any additional activity created more customers or new types of customer for you?
    • Are there areas where you still feel unsure of or lacking in confidence or digital skills?
    • Have you told your story well in 2020?
  5. Customers – those amazing people we rely on! Let’s just think a moment about who they are, where they are and what’s the same and what’s changed.
    • Have your customers changed in 2020?
    • Have the needs of your customers changed? Do they shop or buy differently now? Will this continue?
    • How is your reputation? Are customers happy, more demanding, more daring or cautious?
  6. Decision making – in business terms, this is sometimes called ‘single loop’ or ‘double loop’ learning. Analyse where your decision making is. Is it all one or the other at the moment or a mix of the two. Where would both these types of thinking be useful as you review your year and move forward?
    • Single Loop is doing what you’ve always done because that’s how you do it. Not always a bad thing and can sometimes be useful.
    • Double Loop learning is when you stop and think WHY are we doing what we’re doing this way? Is this the right thing to do? Again very useful to introduce this type of thinking into your business.
  7. You – after all most of you are running this ship alone or with just a couple of other folks! Have a little moment to see how you’re doing too. Are you exhausted? Are you excited about a different future. Do you feel dread? Does some of this relate to how you delivered your business in 2020. What can change? Do you need to work clever and reduce the ‘busy fool’ activity? Do you still love what you do or has 2020 cast a light on something a little different or pulled you into a new but interesting direction? Have you leant into your communities and support networks to get the support you need?
  8. Bringing it all together. Now that you have all this key information in front of you – where does this take you? How can you apply your learnings to create a bright 2021? Here are some of the questions I would be asking. Not all will be relevant to you, but turning analysis into action is key:
    • Which parts of your turnover are easier or less expensive (time & money) to deliver?
    • Which parts of your business are difficult or expensive (time and money) to deliver?
    • Which parts of the business are sucking the energy out of you and your business?
    • Which parts of your business can you deliver in 2021 and which parts might you drop?
    • Did you notice a new type of customer coming through in 2020? Do you want more of them?
    • Did you notice new needs from your customers – can you meet those needs and how?
    • Have you moved towards or away from your core values in the business?
    • Are there social media channels that no longer serve you?
    • Did you give yourself enough planning/thinking time in your business to double or single loop learn?
    • Can you start to bring together a plan that feels right for 2021 – perhaps with new products/services, to different customers with a new or clearer message?