Here’s Your Guide to a Smart Annual Small Business Review

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Successful entrepreneurs do frequent reviews of their metrics, culture, wins, and shortcomings. This guide will make it easy for you.

Entrepreneurs are more likely to plan the future than evaluate the past. But how can you fix something when you don't know it's broken? How will you celebrate achievements when you don't realize how significant they are to the big picture? If you do not conduct an annual review of your business, it's likely that you’ll go year-to-year with the same troubled systems, processes, and problems. Even if you had a great year, you want to grow. By establishing what is and is not working for you, you'll create a more powerful plan to support your future growth. 

If you have a written plan for your business, use it as a guideline to ascertain your achievements, delivery of goals, and where you missed the mark. Here's a guideline for your business review. Customize it to meet your needs to make planning for the future years a snap.

Set your intentions.

Understand exactly what you want as a result of performing this exercise. A review includes separating yourself from the business to access a bird's-eye view. It's wise to disconnect yourself emotionally by approaching the process with curiosity, rather than fear and criticism. Set an intention to celebrate the wins and identify opportunities to pivot where necessary. Go into this process with a positive mindset and look forward to your results–because no matter which way it goes, you're about to make it better.

Make a list of questions.

Being intentional about your process sparks creativity and prevents you and your team from overlooking important pieces of information. Examples include:

  • What are my (our) achievements?
  • How did they impact our growth?
  • What did we learn in the past year and how did it support our growth?
  • What were our biggest disappointments?
  • Did we implement a strategy to pivot or constructively address the disappointments?
  • Did we have unexpected expenditures and how can we plan better for next year?

Schedule proper time for your review.

A proper annual business review is not done in one afternoon. This is a deep dive into your business, values, and goals. Keeping the pace is important, so schedule time slots in each day during one particular week. Your needs may dictate more or less time. Don't shortchange yourself; everyone from your team to your customers deserve this time and attention.

Identify your metrics.

What do/will you use to measure your company's performance? Certainly, your financial statements. Other metrics may include: email list growth, your website's Google analytics, conversions, customer retention, new customer growth, and podcast downloads and new subscribers.

Carefully review your metrics and ascertain what contributed to your growth, as well as best practices for further growth. Are there any other tools and resources you can add to your metrics dashboard?

Recognize and celebrate the good stuff.

I am constantly helping entrepreneurs interpret the significance of their achievements. Many tend to focus on the letdowns, which only serves to keep them from success. When you focus on the negative you are subconsciously inviting more of it into your life.

Review all of your achievements and then list the top three. Note any tools and processes you used to achieve them–don't forget pure talent and your magnetic personality.

Review last year’s goals and identify future goals.

Identify which goals are worth keeping, which will be eliminated, and how you will redirect your energies to realize your desired outcome. Don't be hasty in eliminating worthwhile goals that did not pan out. Instead, look at other avenues you might take to achieve them. Your new list of goals should include the long term (3, 5, and sometimes 10 years) and short term (immediate through 12 months).

Review company values and culture.

I always remind entrepreneurs that if you don't intentionally build a company culture, it will build itself–and you won't like the results. Even if you're flying solo, having well-defined values offers you a roadmap to your success.

What did you do this past year to cultivate a positive culture? What opportunities were missed? How will you be even more intentional about it in the upcoming year?

Follow up.

Once you've completed your review and planning process, schedule a monthly, or quarterly meeting to perform mini-reviews. This is a living document, fluid like water. Make changes, note your wins, and continue to celebrate them.

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