I don’t want to say the word ‘unprecedented’, but you know what I mean. The last year and a half has been an absolute rollercoaster ride for everyone, and it’s had its own unique challenges for business owners too. It’s always important to review your business annually (if not bi-annually, or quarterly), but I really think that this Summer is the perfect time to stop and take stock of the last 18 months to really digest what has happened, and work out where your business is now.
I always recommend heading out of the office in order to carry out your business review. A local café or co-working space (with good quality beverages) is the perfect neutral setting away from the distractions of your day-to-day work, and I find that treating myself to a cake or lunch post-review is a good way of keeping the idea of a business review as positive as possible in my mind!
I usually set aside a minimum of 3 hours for a review, though it is possible to spend a full day carrying out a comprehensive business analysis if you haven’t had a review for a while! And if you aren’t sure what kind of things to consider, here are my top recommendations for a post-COVID business review:
What was your Income (compared to previous financial years)? Was it better or worse than previous financial years, and by how much? Did you make use of any COVID-related Grants? Did you make use of any COVID-related loans, and if so, when do these need to be repaid? This information is valuable when it comes to making income projections for the future and ensuring that your business remains economically viable, both now and in the future.
What are your expenses? Are all of these still relevant? Can you cancel any subscriptions for software, etc. that you aren’t using any more? Are your expenses proportionate to your income? If they are higher, why is this the case and when will things change? (If you are training, for example, your expenses could temporarily be higher than your income).
Customers – how many do you have? Do they have retained support or are they ad-hoc/project rate customers? This information also helps with forecasting, and allows you to see what is currently most successful/popular in your business. Do you only have project-based customers? If so, is there any way that you could introduce an ongoing monthly support package, or similar, so that you know you have regular income coming in?
What services are proving the most/least popular? Are any of the services that you offer particularly popular at the moment? Is there anything that you would a.) really love to do or b.) really love to stop doing, and can these desires be actioned in your business over the coming year?
Customer feedback/quality of service – are you happy with everything that you have done over the past 12-18 months? Was there anything you could have done better? Was there anything you were particularly proud of? Have you received any feedback from your customers?
Are your Contracts/Terms of Business up to date? Have you double-checked that all of your insurance and legals are up to date? Do they reflect your current circumstances? It’s time for a re-read to make sure that everything is correct so that you are covered appropriately in the event of unforeseen or unexpected circumstances.
Are there any opportunities for diversification/collaboration? Is there anything that you could add to your business in order to provide an additional revenue stream to fall back on, should the need arise? I.e. a small shop, an online course, a membership programme, a brand new product or service? In addition to this, would you consider taking on an associate or working in partnership with another business owner either to add additional services to your business or to provide cover/support so that you can spend more time out of the office?
These are just a few of the questions that I regularly revisit in order to ensure that I am working as effectively and efficiently as I can with my business venture. Every business is different, so there’s no one-size-fits all route to business success. However, by reviewing the questions above (as a starting point) you’ll get a feel for what is and isn’t working in your business, and be able to start taking relevant steps to realise your unique business goals.
And the final, all-important step when reviewing your business? A celebratory drink/cake. The last 18 months have been uniquely challenging, and it’s worth reminding yourself of your achievements as you tuck into a tasty treat (which is clearly classed as a legitimate business expense).