What’s not working in your business?

Published: December 19, 2019

We spend a lot of time reviewing what is working in our businesses at this time of year as we create business goals for 2020 and celebrate our 2019 successes – both of which are important things to do – but, as well as looking at the things that have gone well, it’s really important to address and acknowledge the things that didn’t quite go to plan so that we can take steps to avoid them in the future (well, as much as possible!). 

So how do you carry out a review of all the terrible things/apparent failures/depressing business memories without being sucked into a black hole of despair and making a spur-of-the-moment decision to move to Siberia to become a nomadic reindeer herder? Here are my top tips:

1.)   Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and grab a snack that makes you feel positive.  Cake is totally acceptable for this job.

2.)   Identify 10 things that didn’t go to plan in 2019.  This can be anything from a new software that you trialled, a customer (or two) who didn’t work out as expected, or a new working style designed to improve productivity that fell by the wayside (5am starts, anyone?). Remember, these ‘failures’ don’t define your business! If you’re still in business now, you’ve managed to overcome these obstacles and still find business success, we’re simply re-addressing these issues in a safe and comfortable environment to see if we can learn anything from them.

3.)   Try and establish why each of your 10 ‘failures’ occurred.  Was it a lack of knowledge/understanding of the software or task? Perhaps it was that you lacked the time necessary to dedicate to learning new skills? There might not be a tangible reason why, so don’t get caught up on it if you can’t find a reason.

4.)   In an ideal world, do you actually need to learn the particular software/skill that you struggled with this year? Do you need to work with customers like the ones you have found challenging this year? Do you need to work more productively? These questions are important as it should help you to establish whether or not you need to re-address the things you found challenging in 2019 again in the new year.  If you don’t need these things, feel free to chalk them up on a ‘Never, ever try this again’ board – there is something quite cathartic about recognising an issue, realising that you couldn’t realistically have done anything to change it and letting it go.  And whilst we’re on the subject, it’s worth noting that if your issue was with a particular customer and that the problem was out of your control, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a mental list of customers to NEVER WORK WITH AGAIN! It’s not necessarily their fault, and it’s not yours, it’s just human nature that some people aren’t compatible when it comes to working together. Find peace with that and you’ll find it easier to leave some of the frustrations from 2019 behind as we move into a new and shiny year full of hope and promise and definitely lacking in terrible customers (fingers crossed!)

5.)   If you do need to look at something again in 2020, it’s important to be realistic about the time and resources you will need to try it again – successfully this time! New software or a brand-new skillset might seem like a nightmare at the moment, but with time and the right people around you to support you, it will get easier! Don’t be put off by something just because it didn’t go right the first time – but then again, you probably know that already if you are self-employed or a small business owner. If running your own business was easy, everyone would be doing it; everyone faces challenges in business, and it’s how we address these issues and perceived ‘failures’ and come back stronger, with greater experience and more knowledge, that helps to make each new year in business more successful than the last.

Happy New Year everyone!