What business owners can learn from 2011
At this time of year it’s certainly a useful exercise for business owners to look back over the previous 12 months before looking ahead to their business prospects (or lack of them), and the opportunities or challenges they will be facing over the coming year.
Of course, for many small firms this is something that needs to be done anyway in terms of setting budgets and forecasts and using actual financial results from the last year as the basis for their projections, especially if they operate a January-December financial year.
But irrespective of your financial year end there are some other very good reasons for taking a close look at what has happened to your business during 2011.
In particular these include:
- looking at what went well
- reviewing what went badly
- learning some lessons from achievements and mistakes
- changing things for the better
Obviously every individual business situation is going to be different in terms of what may have occurred over the last 12 months, but in order to carry out a review of your year the following 10 useful questions can be asked by any owner manager no matter what line of business they are in.
1) What did you achieve during the year that you expected or planned to achieve at the beginning of 2011? What enabled you to do this, and can you continue to do it?
2) What was your most significant achievement, over and above what you had planned? What caused you to overachieve in this way and can you repeat it next year?
3) What are you personally most pleased about in relation to your last 12 months? What gave you the feelgood factor, and will that factor be there again next year?
4) What did you fail to achieve in 2011? Make a list of these failures or shortcomings and if possible explain the reasons (not excuses) why they happened.
5) What were your biggest disappointments in the last year? What did you set out to achieve at the beginning of the year but did not happen or fell short of your expectations? Can you explain the disappointments to help you avoid these happening again in 2012?
6) What made you feel really bad about your business during the year? Is there any reason why you will continue to feel this way in 2012?
7) What was the most unexpected thing that happened to your business, whether good or bad? How did it affect you and how did you deal with it?
8) From your achievements and successes what are the major lessons you have learned, and can you repeat them over the next year?
9) From your disappointments and failures what could you have done differently if you had the chance to do so? More importantly what will you do differently in 2012, so as to avoid those disappointments happening again.
10) What did you learn about yourself during the year in relation to your successes and failures? How much of what was bad would you say was down to your own personal shortcomings and limitations? And how much of the success was a result of your own talent, skill or effort?
OK, having gone through the exercise of answering most of the 10 questions above, let’s now think about what’s lying ahead in 2012, and look at any lessons you’ve learned in 2011 (from your successes and failures) which could help you become better at running your business over the next 12 months.
Of course it’s an easier exercise to look at your past mistakes and learn nothing from them than it is to learn from them and concentrate on putting things right. It’s also much easier to learn nothing from your accomplishments and then fail to repeat them.
To keep this as simple as possible can you identify three or four things that you genuinely believe can be changed for the better next year – this is not just the things you’d wish to change that deep down you know will probably never happen.
Those changes should typically concentrate on the following:
- being better at prioritising and getting things done on time
- spending more time on the things that you do well
- getting someone else to do things you hate or aren’t good at
- reducing or eliminating the things your business does badly
- working on improving your own limitations
- seeking more help and advice from outside of your business
What most of you will find is that some of what went wrong or right over the last year was as a result of your own limitations and abilities, and possibly even your mood and personal motivation. And some, of course, will have been due to factors beyond your control.
If you do nothing about addressing and making any changes then it’s almost certain that what happens to your business next year will be little different to the last. You may think that’s going to be acceptable in your situation, but it’s also very risky to be so complacent about your prospects.
However, if you do manage to learn some lessons from the last year, then making a few of the right changes and small improvements could make a big difference to your business performance and your personal enjoyment of running it.
Either way the EnterQuest team would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happier, more prosperous 2012.
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