The great thing about entrepreneurs? We’re never short on ideas.
The hardest part about being an entrepreneur? Having to follow through on all those ideas.
One of the things I think most entrepreneurs and online business owners overlook in their drive to do more/be better/grow faster? Active reflection.
No, I’m not talking about lighting a candle and journaling about your feelings — though if that’s your jam, go for it.
What I mean when I say “active reflection” is systematically and intentionally reviewing past projects, launches, offers, and your business as a whole. It may seem like you’re looking back on things that won’t affect you moving forward, but I promise you they will.
For example, let’s say you want to create an all-new offer in the coming months. You might think you just have to plan the product and the launch and go from there, right? But if you don’t review your past offers and how they went, you might miss things like how much you need to budget for the launch, which platforms gave you marketing ROI, and which feedback directly impacts what you create.
This is why reflection is so important any time in your business, but especially as we end one year and step into another.
But how can you actively reflect on your business and use what you learn to guide your 2023 projects? I have a couple frameworks (four, to be exact) to help you with your end-of-year reflection.
A root cause analysis
Without reflecting on our past projects, launches, and products or offers, there’s no way we can accurately move forward with new ideas. You won’t have all the information you need to make a sound and well-thought-out decision.
But we can’t just put our rose-colored glasses on when we think about past projects — which is what we tend to do.
Instead, I want you to really dig into your past projects or goals and pinpoint how things actually went.
A Root Cause Analysis, for example, allows you to get to the bottom of what’s happening and identify what happened with a launch, project, or goal that didn’t go the way you wanted.
This analysis can also help you take the emotion out of the process. As an entrepreneur, your business successes (and fallbacks) can often become entwined with your perception of yourself. These tools can help you objectively pinpoint areas with specific and actionable steps for improvement.
This exercise is simple — just ask yourself “why” five times to help identify what’s really going on.
- Problem: Why didn’t we make any sales?
- Why: Because nobody knew about it!
- Why: There weren’t any ads for the new product.
- Why: The marketing team didn’t have details on the launch until 5 days before it started.
All of this information can really help guide your 2023 projects (and beyond), because you’re essentially pinpoint problems from past projects that can impact future ones. See how that’s valuable?
The rose, thorn, and bud method
My kid brought home this method one day, and I thought it was such a great exercise that I’m now using it with my clients! The kids do this exercise together called “Rose, thorn, bud” that helps them open up about their day and the various experiences that happened to them while at school. The rose represents something good that happened, the thorn represents something that may not be so good, and the bud represents something that we’re still working on.
How can you apply this to your business? By framing it like this:
- Rose (good things): This doesn’t have to be just as it concerns business practices. It can also be things that relate to you as a leader or person (and specifically how they impact your business) and, of course, your products, systems, marketing, or team.
- Thorn (challenges): What challenges have you had over the past year? Was there anything that caught you off guard? Anything surprising (in the not so good way)?
- Bud (areas for growth): Where do you see potential? If you need guiding questions, start by thinking through these.
- What have your customers been saying about you, your brand, and your products?
- What do you think your customers’ needs are right now? How can you solve them?
- What types of marketing are working for you? How will you find new customers?
- If you had $100 what would you spend it on?
No one is perfect, and no business is perfect. If you notice areas of weakness, try to reframe them as an opportunity to learn. We, as entrepreneurs, are always growing, so some hiccups are expected. It’s what you make of those hiccups that count.
Say you have an idea to create a whole new product or service in 2023. Well, there’s a whole lot of groundwork and brainstorming that needs to happen before you can put that product in front of your customers.
Adding a new offer should be a tactical move, not one that’s done on a whim. It’s great that you have a new idea you’re eager to see come to fruition, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea to jump right into creating without a plan.
I like to use the P.O.P. method to take an idea of mine or my clients and create a solid framework of how we’ll go about making it happen.
This is why you’re considering the idea or starting the project, including why it makes sense for you, your business, and your customers. It’s where you consider why now is the right time or if your idea truly relates to your business goals (i.e. introduce a new revenue stream or serve a subset of your clientele).
NOTE: “Because it’s a New Year” isn’t really the strongest reason to start something new.
You may think the outcome is the tangible item you’re actually creating, but it really goes beyond that and gets into what success looks like and how you know you’ve arrived there. For example, if you’re creating a new product, what will your customers actually walk away with after they’ve purchased it and completed your program?
This is all about the “how.” How are you going to implement your idea so that it achieves your desired outcomes and purpose? This is where you get into the nitty-gritty details of how you’ll actually structure the work.
This helps you avoid extra work, missing elements, and generally choosing goals or offers that don’t align with your business or audience in the long run.
Following DMAIC from Lean Six Sigma
Now, I know that you’re eager to plan your projects for 2023 — that’s really where your role as visionary comes in. But before you just decide to “create that new course” or “build that new membership,” I want to walk you through an exercise.
Lean Six Sigma has a really helpful framework for designing and launching new offers, and it’s incredibly valuable when used from the start or to review how a project went. It’s called DMAIC, and I’m only scratching the surface of it here to ground you in the process:
- First, we define the problem. If you want to create a new offer OR you have a new goal for your business (i.e. fill a team role or hit a specific revenue mark), you may think you know the problem. You want to create a new revenue stream, help people in a different way, or take more work off your plate. However, it’s really important to reflect on what the real problem/reason behind your goal is. You might just find that you’re chasing vanity metrics OR trying to create an offer that doesn’t really meet your audience where they are.
- Second, as you enter the launch phase, you measure the facts, variables, and key performance indicators (KPIs), or anything that can help create a complete picture of what’s happening. Not every metric matters, but it’s nice to have as many as possible to have the largest pool of resources when deciding how something is going.
- Finally, after a launch or a new goal is implemented, analyze your numbers. What does each one tell you? Is there something “hiding” that you may not have been looking at before? It’s important that you don’t focus too much on any one particular number, i.e. number of sales. You need to see the whole picture to understand which factors are influencing outcomes.
When you adopt this framework, you’ll be able to actively reflect on your launches, goals, offers, etc. as you’re doing them, rather than reviewing projects at the end of the year and having to scrounge for the data.
Need clarity on all this? A strategic partner can help
I get it — this sort of reflection, planning, and attention to detail can feel overwhelming, especially at the onset of the new year when there’s already so much going on. But that’s exactly where a strategic business partner (aka me!) can step in to help.
If you’re ready to get clarity on your priorities, evaluate the direction of your business, and align your projects to your real goals, then let’s talk!
In my business deep dive package, we’ll dig in and talk strategically about how your business is running, what challenges you may be facing, and how specific goals, projects, or new offers can help address your audience’s needs while also meeting your business goals.
Sometimes all it takes is someone to bounce ideas off of and help you identify gaps in your business you may not have noticed before. It’s hard to do that when you’re in the ins and outs of your business every single day. So, let a strategic partner help you work through it.