December 2011 Year-End Business Reviews
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Year-end business reviews

By Steve Strauss. ARCHIVE:

I recently saw a survey that said that, while many small business owners are busy with increased sales and demands during the holidays, what they would prefer to spend their time on right now is year-end administrative tasks like getting final bills out and planning for next year.

It’s not hard to understand why. Planning makes sense. I find that thinking about and discussing the year in review is actually a good first step in planning for next year. It helps you see whether you got to where you wanted to go, and if so, why, and if not, why not. It enables you to step back and look at what seems to be working and not working and thus to make adjustments as necessary.

A good year-end review will also allow you to

  • Review last year’s plan for this year (if you have one) and see how closely it was followed. Why was it followed, or why wasn’t it followed? Was that smart?
  • Decide whether you put your time, energy, and resources towards the right goals. How successful were you in reaching those goals? Why or why not?
  • Look at where you have been to see where you are going.

We find the review process always useful because it allows us to take a step back from the business and look at the big picture. Many small business people get so caught up in running their business on a day-to-day basis that they fail to see the forest from the trees. But it is precisely this sort of big-think that can make all the difference. An annual year in review can become your time to do just that.

But don’t just take it from me. Here’s another pretty successful entrepreneur who famously engaged in a similar activity:

Twice a year, when he was CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates engaged in what he called his “Think Week.” These seven-day events found him holed-up alone in a secluded cottage in the Pacific Northwest, contemplating the future of technology, his business, its work, and so on.

His employees were encouraged ahead of time to draft white papers for Gates to review and peruse. Reading as much as 18 hours a day, Gates’ record for one week is 112 such papers. And it worked. For instance, inspired during Think Week 1995, Gates ended up drafting a paper called “The Internet Tidal Wave,” directly leading to the creation of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and eventually, Microsoft’s .NET framework.

So business review and preview can take any form you want it to take. Maybe it’s a group meeting for a half a day in the conference room, maybe it’s a weekend at the shore with your partner, and maybe it’s a week alone in the rainy Northwest. The important thing is to think big, think about what works best, and noodle a bit on how you could make more money and have more fun in the process next year.

That sounds like a process that could create some resolutions worth keeping.