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For many small business owners, the frenetic pace of working IN their business makes it impossible to work ON it.

That’s like a gardener who spends all her time sowing, tilling and harvesting without ever standing back to look at the garden and wonder.

Look at all this beauty!

A tiny seed became this cucumber!

I’ll never be able to eat all these tomatoes.

Why don’t my peppers look like the ones in the store?

Evil bugs ate all my zucchini!

[Sigh. That’s pretty much the actual monologue from my first home gardening experience.]

Not everyone is cut out to be a gardener, or a business owner. A key ingredient is the willingness to learn and change. To do so, it’s important to step back regularly and examine the business, to see where we can improve.

Otherwise, we never notice that the tomato harvest exceeds our expectations, while the peppers do not. We keep feeding our zuke to the bugs, without experimenting with ways to keep them away. In short, we stay “unconscious” about information that’s right there waiting to be gleaned and acted on. Maybe it’s safer that way.

Deepak Chopra says, “90% of the thoughts you have today are the ones you had yesterday.”

Ninety percent!

Consequently, are 90% of the actions we take the same? I don’t want my business to stay at status quo. I want it to blossom!

Habits, ruts, patterns and comfort zones: they keep us small. The questions below can help us discover the secrets our business is holding for us. The end of the year is the ideal time for this retrospective.

Let’s be clear on the intention for this exercise. It’s NOT to feel regret or guilt, or place blame.

It is to mine the gold nuggets that might otherwise be lost. It’s to save time reinventing the wheel by repeating things that work. Fortune 500 companies can afford to make the same mistakes over and over again. Small business owners have to learn quicker.

The intention for this exercise is to uncover the wonderful lessons, both positive and negative, theoretical and practical, sophisticated and banal. Then, we may thank this year, and those who played their parts in our learning experience, and turn our attention to creating a new and improved business next year.

Spend some time with these questions. If you’re a one-person business, hand this sheet to a friend and have them facilitate your reflection process.

Special invitation:

Sometimes the best way to uncover insights is with an objective, caring expert who can coach the observations right out of you.

Don’t let your business keep its lessons a secret from you. If you’d like to work collaboratively on this exercise with me, contact me to find out how.

  1. How did you deliver value to your intended audience last year?
  2. What worked? Why?
  3. What didn’t work? Why not?
  4. What actions or accidents led to a sale, or other positive experience?
  5. What specific incidents or experiences stand out as significant?
  6. On what occasion did you deliver great value?
  7. What was a really proud moment for you?
  8. What disaster do you wish you could go back, erase and do differently?
  9. When you look at your sales per month and profit per month, what patterns do you see? What additional questions does it raise? New insights?
  10. What mistakes (learning experiences) are you willing to leave behind? Which achievements would you like to repeat?

I know you’ll get a huge benefit from this exercise, so I strongly encourage you to go for it!

If you feel it’s a good time to reach out for some assistance, I guarantee you’ll find it valuable.

I get much better results in business than in my garden! ;-)