• January 11, 2016

8 Aspects of Your Business to Review Now

8 Aspects of Your Business to Review Now

It’s easy to get caught up in the inertia of day-to-day business. But it’s important to step back and take time to review various aspects of your business (hopefully more than once a year).

January is a great time to reflect on the year behind you and set goals for the year ahead. So let’s discuss some aspects of your business that should get some tough love in the form of a retrospective critique.

People:

Most employees expect some sort of yearly or bi-annual review and January presents a logical time for performance recaps and goal setting. However, the future of work suggests less process around reviews as the objective becomes more about having a successful review versus creating and executing against more aggressive goals that are good for the business. Many studies and experts advocate for ongoing performance management and coaching around goals. If you are looking for a good goal strategy for your startup, consider the practice Google put in place back in their startup days with OKRs (objectives and key results), which essentially is a defined objective and measurable results to meet that goal. If you are looking to increase signups by 30x in 2016, you would outline 3-4 key results that would work towards that goal without being vague and without being too easy to accomplish. This article by the founder at NerdWallet lays out what OKRs are and how to roll out successful examples. Need help setting up OKRs and reviews?

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Accounting/Bookkeeping:

January is a good time to make sure your books are in good shape for the year ahead and especially to help you prepare financial statements for your tax returns. Tying up loose ends from the year before will fix any incorrect recordings and help you classify and plan for new expenses. Once that’s taken care of you can review performance, reassess runway, and budget for what you need to grow in the next 12 months. Need help getting your books in shape?

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Performance and Revenue:

Once your books are in good shape, take a look at the key financial numbers that indicate business performance and growth – revenue, gross margin and profit should be sufficient – and break down and review those numbers by function and objective – sales, marketing, new product line, existing client success, etc. Understanding where success and expenses occurred with a high level of precision will help you as you budget and plan. Need help understanding your financial performance?

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Leadership:

All business leaders should have their own process for setting goals and holding themselves accountable throughout the year. Being honest with yourself about your performance can start by asking those around you. Request peer and management reviews to understand how those you lead perceive your approach, strategies and tactics. Hopefully you’ve created a culture of transparency with ongoing feedback sessions and opportunities for employees to voice their opinion on how the business is run and managed. If not, it’s never too late to start – and the ultimate goal is to make employees feel comfortable to share their opinions and concerns. Want to benchmark leadership review processes from other startups? 

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Partners:

Take a look at the vendors and partners you work with and make sure the relationship is worthwhile. Automatic billing can institute a set-it-and-forget-it mentality with a lot of vendors you might work with. Now is a good time to check in and see if that service or partnership is really moving the needle for your business or if you can save money on that expense every month moving forward. Want to save money and find a vendor alternative?

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Product or Service:

This is likely an ongoing focus for your business but take a look at how your product or service is performing in a few different ways. First, is your development team hitting deadlines and project milestones on time? Are features slipping from focus and need some love? It’s important to plan ahead with your project timelines and deliverables, even if it changes along the way. Secondly, product and service teams can get stuck in the weeds day in and day out – and outside perspective aside from daily interactions with customers can be helpful. Get your product or service leadership teams on the phone with customers to discuss their concerns with the product and their wishes for the product moving forward. Make critical feedback an ongoing part of your development process. Want feedback on your product roadmap? 

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Customers:

Customers are king, right? If you are a successful business, you have their best interests in mind throughout the year, but now is a good time to reassess and make them feel important by asking their feedback and exhibiting a high touch check-in to understand their happiness. Asking what you can do better goes a long way on the road to actually being better. Further, you might identify some strengths you didn’t know you had, and can focus on even more exclusively in the future. Need help designing your customer satisfaction programs? 

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Marketing:

Arguably one of the more important aspects of a startup’s growth trajectory is the marketing plan. This part of your business deserves a lot of love as it can sometimes be the first thing that gets overlooked when time and money is tight. A lot of the work you completed above goes into your assessment of the market, your place in the market and how to increase that stake in the future. As a startup, you might think you don’t need a full marketing plan, but it never hurts to write it all out and better understand without assumptions. This article details the components of a full marketing plan: market situation, threats and opportunities, objectives, goals, budget and more. Finally, make a goal to be as data-driven as possible in your objectives and goals – leverage analytics and data points that you can track and manage in a way that suits your preferences but know that it’s the only way to truly know what’s working. Knowing that is what will drive faster growth. Want to see where your marketing plan stacks up to other startups at your stage?

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A new year is both exciting and nerve wracking – but being organized and prepared will increase your confidence in all of your business decisions. Here’s to a great year of getting business done – and don’t forget, VENTUREAPP has your back.