Published: November 30th, 2017; By: Judi Hughes

“Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark”, wrote Richard Cushing.

As we approach a new year it is traditionally the time to think about the future. To lay out plans for our business; to set targets and identify new initiatives that will result in a growing successful business.

Before you start to think about the future, study your past. You have a huge advantage over start-up businesses; they must leap into the future with only their dreams to guide them. You, on the other hand, have history and that tells you a great story. Knowing your history allows you to look into your future with knowledge and to make educated decisions based upon experience and trends.

To help you make sense of your past here is a checklist of things to look for.

Things to think about as you reflect back over the past year:

  • What worked; what didn’t work? In all areas – clients, team, product, market, financials, operations.
  • What have been the special accomplishments? What are you very proud of? Can you repeat this?
  • What were the distractions? What can be done to minimize them next year?
  • What gaps have you identified that need to be filled in the future? For yourself and your business.
  • What got you really excited last year? How did that play out?  How can you stay really excited this year?
  • What projects did not get done? Do they need to be done?  Are they still valid? What can be saved or repurposed into something else?
  • Did you meet your targets? If not why not?

 Marketing results:

  • Where did the business come from? New clients, existing clients?
  • How did the business come to you? Referrals, Pay per Click, advertising, newsletters, cold calling?
  • What products sold and WHY? What products didn’t sell and WHY?
  • What products could you have that you don’t have now?
  • What are people saying about your company? Did you conduct a survey? Are you going to?
  • Are your marketing tools working? What marketing tools are not working and why?
  • Revisit Ideal Client. Has it changed? Who is really buying from you?

The Numbers:

  • Financials for the past year(s) – revenue and expenses. What is the revenue for each product? What are the expense items that make up 80% of your expenses?
  • Sales by Client – Who is buying? What is the average sale? Who are the top 20% of clients by revenue? Are they profitable? Are there any clients not profitable? Are you too dependent on one client?
  • Sales by product/service. What are the popular ones?

Your Competition:

  • Who do you think your competition is?
    • One way to find out is Google words that you think people would use to find you.
    • Listen when you are at your association meetings.
    • Look at who you are losing business to; who else’s name keeps coming up?
  • When you are clear about your true competition:
    • Look at their strengths and weaknesses
    • Don’t compete with their strengths
    • Identify and embrace their weaknesses – address their weaknesses and YOUR strengths
    • Friendly competition is also good.  They can refer you work or collaborate with you – and you with them. Who do you consider friendly competition?

As you work through your planning preparation don’t spend too much time thrashing through the things that went wrong. Yes, you should be aware so you can avoid them in the future. Instead, focus on what went right and determine how to duplicate those things.

For more on how to plan the future of your business AND how to successfully execute the plans download our free handbook Planning for Success.