Looking Back to Move Ahead: 5 Questions Small Businesses Should Ask in January
The start of a new year is often celebrated as a time for introspection and resolutions. As a business owner, this concept can carry over to the professional realm as well.
Take this time to reflect back on the past 12 months of your business’s activities and performance. What can you learn from those wins and losses to make improvements in 2023? Here are five questions to ask yourself in order to be better positioned for success at the height of a new year.
“What’s Our Mission?”
Though your employees will likely be full of their own resolutions for the New Year, it doesn’t hurt to add clarity to what your company stands for and wants to accomplish in the upcoming year. Use this time to briefly detail the reason your company exists, what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. This helps all of your team members feel reinvigorated in their purpose at your organization and all be on the same page.
If you’ve revised or changed any aspects of your company’s mission, you’ll also want to draw special attention to those changes in context. Your employees should have a comprehensive idea of what you’re expecting and how the company’s function embodies your expectations.
“What Did We Do Well?”
This is your previous year’s highlight reel. Look at things like customer engagement, examples of company culture at work, and so on. Point out what goals your organization met and exceeded, and give concrete examples of how your employees helped facilitate that success.
You’ll also want to delve into the specifics of what made the last year successful. Focus on your employees and their achievements as well as how those achievements embodied your company’s mission and the details behind those interactions. It’s good practice to explain to your employees both why what they did was exemplary and how they can continue doing it.
Briefly mentioning any benchmarks your company set and met last year will also help inspire your employees here. Nothing communicates progress better than showing tangible growth.
“What Could We Have Done Better?”
Self-critique—when performed constructively—can serve as a powerful incentive to improve one’s performance. This is a time for you to reflect on instances where the company didn’t quite meet expectations. During this time, you’ll want to review the following things:
- Times your company’s ethos failed customers (and why). This is crucial, because employees should be aware that following protocol doesn’t always equate to satisfying customers.
- Instances wherein employees were unable to perform something asked of them (and why). It’s important to refrain from singling out the employees in question here.
- Bad habits. Some of these examples will also need covering while you discuss changes to policy.
- General items that hindered your company’s progress. These can include things like technological setbacks (focus on adaptability) and flaws in employee or administrative practices.
Whatever the shortcomings of the previous year were, you need to make it clear that the issues you present have reasonable solutions or you may risk a drop in morale drop.
You can also answer the “what are we changing?” question if need be. From the software you use to your payroll processing methods, your business is always evolving to meet the changing customer needs. Mentioning this change and the related policies or actions will help cement the modifications in your employees’ routines.
“What Are Our Goals?”
Every team needs purpose to thrive. Whether you’re outlining your financial benchmarks for the following quarters or you’re just looking to increase the number of smiling customers this year, communicating your plans for the following year will focus your workforce and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
This is also a good time to incorporate employee feedback. If you noticed a series of similar comments, questions, or concerns during your end-of-the-year sit-downs, address them here; if no such sit-downs occurred, consider holding a suggestion forum (e.g., a Google Docs form) to inform this section of your conversation. Your employees will most likely offer up additional criteria or solutions that you haven’t yet considered.
Don’t forget to touch on how you’ll meet these goals as well. To encourage growth and maintain or improve morale, your employees will need a concrete representation of both what they’re working toward and the manner in which they will achieve it.
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
In a word? “Forward.” Of course, something a tad less ambiguous will better suit your purposes.
This is a good time to wrap up the conversation and deliver some actionable feedback. It’s also not a bad idea to bring the conversation back around to your employees to address their concerns, their successes, and your appreciation for what they do.
The main point you’ll want to drive home here is your intention to facilitate improvement—both for your company and on behalf of your employees—and how both you and your employees will go about translating that expectation into reality. Since you’ve already elaborated on your goals for this year, you shouldn’t need to spend a huge amount of time here; instead, inspire your employees to match your enthusiasm going forward.
At Abacus Payroll, we’re committed to helping you achieve your business goals this year and see what success 2023 can bring. For more information on how our payroll services apply to you, give us a call at (856) 667-6225 today!
This content was updated from a previous version published in January 2017.