26th November, 2017

With 2018 looming, it’s likely that you are currently experiencing a plethora of emotions; you could be excited about the upcoming festive season, contemplative when considering the promise of a ‘new beginning’ come January 1st, or downright terrified that this year appears to have flown by at break-neck speed.  It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting down to set out my business plans for 2017, and now a brand new and shiny planner for 2018 is lying unopened on my desk, enticing me to start writing plans on its crisp, unused pages…

Before cracking open my new planner, I have set aside time in December to sit down and review 2017 – the good, the bad, and everything in between.  I’ve compiled a list of questions that I think will help me to finish 2017 on a positive note, and allow me to constructively and objectively review the progress that the business has made over the last 12 months, as well as how I have progressed professionally.  If you’re planning a business review this December, perhaps some of my questions could help your business too? I’ve included them in this blog – just in case!

1.) Financially, where is your business now compared with where it was in January 2017? Has your rate increased? Have you got more clients? Are you happy with the amount that you take home every month or do you need a little more? This question is designed to make you consider whether your prices are still appropriate, and whether you are meeting your financial needs with the clients that you have at the moment.  Early 2018 is the perfect time for a price increase if one is overdue.

2.) Are there enough hours in the day to complete the work you have? Or have you found that work is slowly creeping into every waking hour of your day (and night – dreaming of software and work tasks can be a disappointing way to spend your precious sleep!)? If so, it may be time to consider outsourcing some of your work so that you can work more efficiently during the hours you actually want to work! It may also be worth considering whether it is time to part ways with some of your clients if the financial reward of working for them doesn’t correspond with the effort and time you invest in carrying out the work.

3.) Are you happy with the work you are doing? We all have to do work we don’t enjoy sometimes, but have you found yourself saying ‘yes’ more often to jobs that you just can’t stand?  It’s time to evaluate whether it’s worth dedicating hours of your time to tasks when you’d rather be having teeth pulled, or whether you have enough of a financial buffer to be a little more selective over jobs and invest time into networking and reaching out to businesses that need the services you actually want to offer!

4.) Are you at the top of your game? This can refer to your personal and professional development, and may be a little uncomfortable to answer – but go for it! If you are tired, sluggish and stressed, the likelihood is that you’re not feeling at your most productive or effective.  Burn-out could be just around the corner, so it’s worth setting strict rules for the new year to work less (possibly by offloading work or outsourcing, or making sure that your mornings, evenings and weekends are work free), and get out more. A stand up desk could be a great option, or an obligatory lunch break walk scheduled into your daily task list. If you feel that you are being left behind in a competitive industry by technological advances, etc., why not invest in some professional development? Even if your budget can’t stretch to full day courses and professional qualifications, there are plenty of free courses out there (try https://www.futurelearn.com/ and http://www.open.edu/openlearn/free-courses - both of which offer fabulous quality free online courses) that could help you to upskill in areas relevant to your sector.

5.) What do your clients think? A slightly scary question to ask sometimes, but definitely worth asking! Why not contact a client who you have a good working relationship with and ask them how they have felt the last 12 months working with you has been? Perhaps you could ask them to make recommendations about what could be done differently in 2018 to make the relationship even more productive and successful? The likelihood is that this feedback will be far nicer than you imagine – hence why they have chosen to continue working with you – and is quite a nice confidence boost to lead you into 2018!

6.) What things this year didn’t go to plan? Another question that can be hard to ask is ‘what went wrong?’.  Unfortunately, life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine and cake.  Sometimes you get ill.  Sometimes work is late.  Sometimes a client isn’t happy.  The important thing is to identify what went wrong and what you have done to improve the situation to reduce the likelihood of it happening again.  If you were ill and work was delayed, have you now got some kind of sickness cover in place? Do your clients know what to do in the event that they can’t reach you in an emergency?  If work was late, are you now working more effectively to deadlines by ensuring that you don’t overstretch yourself by saying ‘yes’ to everything? If not, now is the time to address these issues.

These are just a handful of the questions that I will be considering as part of my review of 2017, but even if you only have 20 minutes to briefly consider the few questions above, I strongly recommend that you try to before 2018 is finally upon us.  It’s a great way of double checking that things are moving in the right direction and at a sustainable pace and in a positive manner – things that any business owner should want.

Happy reviewing everyone!

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