Doing an annual business review can provide you with insights to accelerate your growth in the coming year.

As we come to the end of the calendar year the media and web are awash with Year in Review content, and while it’s usually fun and often a little sad or bittersweet to look back over the past 12 months if you’re running a business it is essential. A business review can highlight what worked and what didn’t and allow you to spend your energies more effectively and profiatable next year.

Whether you choose the end of the calendar year, the end of the financial year, your businesses tax year or any other random but important date in your calendar, using a business review to take a look back at what you’ve achieved in the past will help you plan for the future and reach your business goals that much more quickly.

Why do a business review of past performance?

Taking time to look at what worked and what didn’t work so well in your business gives you the opportunity to learn from your experience and tweak your work plan for the next year.

If you set goals at the beginning of the last year you’ve a head start on being able to work out if you hit them. Go back and look at what you wanted to do and ask yourself if you got there, or part way there or maybe you went off on a completely different tangent altogether?

If you didn’t set goals, there’s still plenty of information in your business that you can look at to see how you’re doing.

  • What was your best selling product?
  • Who were your most profitable clients?
  • Which relationships or events were most profitable?
  • Which advertising, event or social media brought you most new leads or clients?

Don’t just look for answers in what worked

Look for answers in what didn’t work too, sometimes the misses give us more insight than the hits!

  • Which products bombed?
  • Which work or client was least profitable – ie what took up most time for least reward?

Don’t forget to ask why

  • Once you’ve identified what did and didn’t work ask why.
  • Why did this product work better than another one?
  • Why was one client more profitable than another?

Outside influences can teach you a lot

Sometimes the answers are completely external – the difference between a product being picked up by a magazine and another one not –  but even when the WHY? seems random and out of your control, it can still give you insight into how to move forward.

If getting a product in a certain magazine gave that product a big sales boost you now have several pieces of useful information;

  • The type of product that the magazine likes to feature
  • The type of articles that the magazine features products in
  • The type of photography the magazine uses in its features 
  • Now you can use this information to work out which of your products to promote directly to the magazine in the coming year.

Be honest about the things you did that went wrong

Sometimes the WHY? Is internal to the business and in being honest with yourself about what did or didn’t work and why gives you the insight to move your business forward.

Perhaps a client relationship didn’t work out because you accepted work that wasn’t your strength – now you can decide to only accept work that you’re confident on or look to train to develop the areas that you’re less strong on.

What to do with the information you have from doing a business review

Succinctly – do more of what made you money and less of what didn’t.

That said – low cost, low-profit products and work have a place in gathering customers and clients to your business from where you can build a relationship to turn them into loyal customers who choose to stay and spend with your business.

Your business review should pull out the the highlights of the past 12 months – try to emulate what worked and do less of what didn’t.

Business goals don’t have to be all about the money

While I’ve focused on the financial, customer and client side of the business you may well have other goals you wanted to achieve.

  • To only work a certain number of hours a week
  • To get featured in local or national press
  • To have a certain number of hits on your website or reach a certain number of social media followers
  • To move to using a new piece of software or tool or to try new way of doing things

Taking some time to see how close you did or didn’t come to achieving these non-financial goals will give you useful insight to take into the coming months.

Business reviews don’t have to be yearly

Don’t wait 12 months to do a business review. Work and life move fast, quarterly reviews of sales or client relationships can help keep your business focused throughout the year.

Project reviews at the end of a piece of work can give you lots of detail and learning that can be applied directly to the next piece of work.


All of your business goals from the last year and your journey towards them can teach you something to take into the next 12 months. So, when the last mince pie crumb has been brushed away and before the onslaught of January arrives, try and find a little time to ask yourself;

“How did I do?”

And when you’ve answered that question – give yourself a pat on the back because you probably did a lot better than you thought! 

Ruth

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