The years end is a traditional time to reflect on the last year and make resolutions for change in the new.
Longtime readers of this column know I believe this is the time to analyze past results and set goals and plans for 2011. I encourage analysis of financial results, trends, comparisons with industry standards and setting of specific and measurable goals.
My writings sometimes lead readers to think business is all about the numbers. To some extent, that is true. However, there is more to a business than just the numbers. Numbers give us a way to quantify, measure and express results. By themselves, numbers do not tell us what a business is all about, what it stands for, its mission, its goals and its values. Only a narrative in the owners words can do that.
Here are some questions I pose to help think, and rethink, my business plans for the coming year.
How did I do? Initially, this may appear to be a financial question, and to some extent it is. It is also a question to be applied against intangible goals those things that lie behind the numbers. Did I treat every customer fairly? Did I treat my employees, contractors and suppliers fairly? Have I accurately communicated the state of my business to my creditors, investors, family and other stakeholders? Did I make personal progress by delegating responsibilities? Did I help employees to grow through training and education? Did I work smarter? Did I work less and accomplish more?
What do I want to accomplish in the coming year? Any shortcomings in the answers to the above questions may be a good place to start. In addition, this may be a good time to expand the narrative. Do I have personal or business goals that I want to achieve? Is my current business the tool to allow me to accomplish them? Should I commit more, or less, time to my business? Do I feel good about the recap of last year? Or are there things left unaccomplished or even unaddressed? Is this the time to reinvent my business, to reinvent myself?
What do I want my 2011 recap to say? What do I want the recap of three or five years into the future to say? We cannot change history, but we can affect the history that is ultimately written. What must I do to make my goals become reality?
Think about this. Think about preparing a narrative recap of your life for the last year. Do you have goals or concerns separate from your business? If not, should you have? How do you feel about your accomplishments to date? Are there things you would like to change this coming year?
None of these questions is meant to imply failure if they are not addressed. They need not be asked or answered. They are meant to stimulate your thinking. Stimulate your thinking and your business is almost certain to benefit, as is your personal life.
Socrates tells us that he believes the unexamined life is not worth living. I dont go that far, but I do think we benefit from questioning ourselves from time to time to see if we are still on the right track ... the right track for us personally, not a track that someone else might try to foist on us.
How did you do last year?
Dan Bowser is president of Value Insights Inc. of Durango and Chandler, Ariz. Reach him at Bowser@BusinessValueInsights.com.