Starting a business is a crazy, chaotic process. At some point things start to settle down and you might say to yourself, “I got this; I know what I am doing.” You still have day to day issues, but things are running pretty smoothly. You might think you can operate on cruise control until there is a speed bump, possible detour or a fork in the road that derails your well thought out plan.
In order to grow, you need to learn from what you have already done. You need to stop, re-asses, and come up with your new course of action. Reflection is good if it is done with the right frame of mind. If you think of a reflection as looking in the rear view mirror, you will look at things a bit differently. Remember that looking in the rear view mirror is a quick look back, once, maybe twice. Do not dwell heavily on the past.
Why do you look in the rear view mirror? You do it to see what is behind you to avoid hitting something. If you think of your periodic business reflecting in this way, you can use what you have done in order to avoid making a mistake going forward. Looking at things with a critical eye on how to avoid them in the future is similar to avoiding something when driving.
Keep in mind, there will always be things in your way or line of vision. Being alert and paying attention to details helps eliminate the likelihood of an accident or misstep, both while driving and in running your business.
Reflect on how your business performed by making a list of the top 3 things that you and your team did to improve the business in the areas of operations, finance team, and brand. These are top line items, not the day to day results. The reason to focus from the top down is that without a clear message and proper alignment to move forward as an organization, you will have a much harder time meeting your goals.
Assess and learn. Look at what you have done right as well as what you could have done better. Make minor adjustment for the next phase. Having said that, you need to make sure the foundation is solid. This assessment will allow you to “fix” the cracks and make things stronger. A strong foundation is necessary to withstand any possible issues going forward.
One last look at the overall picture. Ask yourself:
- What were the surprised/unknown factors that had an impact (good or bad) on your business; should you have known/anticipated these things?
- What factors that impacted your business were within your control or not in your control?
- What steps could have been taken/should have been taken earlier to change the outcomes?
- How did these factors have an impact on your business results?
- How will what you have learned impact the company moving forward?
Now that you have done a little reflecting, look ahead and use your answers to make changes going forward. You will still need to go back and take a look in your rear view mirror as you go along, but looking forward through the windshield, staying on course, and sticking to your plan will create a clear path forward. You must stay in your lane and stay the course until you reach your destination. Changing lanes when driving may seem like you are getting ahead, but do you really end up in front of others? Do you get there faster? You may be moving, but rarely are you getting ahead. You must commit enough time to put all the pieces in place and to put the plan in motion before you decide it is not the path you want to follow.