Preparing for 2018 – Thinking Back to Move Forward


How reflecting helps you to slow down in order to speed up your business

Reflecting upon your business is an often overlooked but critical step to planning. Many business owners jump into planning and implementing for the next year before thoroughly reviewing the previous year.

Taking time to strategically reflect gives you space to learn, discover and create a foundation for future success. It may feel like you’re slowing down to do this work but rest assured can accelerate your success. Researcher and professor, Giada Di Stefano, PhD has found that “learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection - that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.”

Below are a list of reflection questions that you can use to help guide your process. Try doing an initial high level round, then focus key questions on different areas of your business – leadership, finance, product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales, human resources, distribution, information technologies, and communications.

Reflection questions

What did we accomplish this year?
Did we meet our goals?
What other wins are we celebrating?
What worked well?
What didn’t work well?
What did we learn? How will this help next year?
Are we operating and delivering in line with our “why”, mission, values and brand? If not, what needs to change?
What are we good at that we’re not taking full advantage of?
What are we missing in our organization that would have helped?
What feedback did we get from customers this year? Good? Bad? Ugly? Silence? What did we learn from that feedback?
What partnerships, suppliers, stakeholders brought the most value? The least?
What’s keeping us awake at night? What do we need to do to change this?
What do we need to spend more time doing?
What do we need to spend less time doing?
What could be automated or outsourced?
What expenses are too high? Too low? Great value?
If we had an extra $100,000 (or another appropriate number) to grow the business, where would we invest it in the company?
What market or environmental changes happened that impacted us? What might we do differently going forward as a result?
What’s one tough conversation I need to have before the end of the year?
What’s one gratitude conversation I need to have before the end of the year?

Other tips for reflecting on your previous year:

Create a space and time where you aren’t distracted or can be interrupted. Make sure you are fresh and doing this thinking work at your peak thinking time in a space you

Do the reflection yourself, or with your business partner, initially. Then consider opening the
process up with staff, as appropriate.  After writing your answers, highlight the key learnings or insights you want to bring into your 2018 business plans.

What do you do to reflect upon your year? What are some of your favourite questions? Do you have any advice for other Alberta women entrepreneurs? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.