Looking Forward by Looking Backward

Happy 2013!  Welcome to the new year.  It is the time, as everyone who has ever had a media outlet will tell you, to look forward to the new year and make resolutions about what you want 2013 to be like.   Look into the future to envision what you want to be and craft your goals and resolutions to become that vision.  See the ball. Be the ball.

Or, maybe not.

Forward looking may be good for personal development and is good for strategic ideas and plans.  However, this might not be good for your business.  May I suggest that you look back at the year that was 2012 and review what happened during those twelve months.  Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle from top to bottom.  On the left side write down all of the things that went right for your business– small and large victories, increases in sales or profits, reductions in costs or debt.

After basking in the glow of the positives think about what didn’t work in 2012 and write them down in the right hand column – inventory shrink, employee turnover, lost sales opportunities.  Think hard and be hard.  It doesn’t matter if a failure was an experience that you learned from and won’t repeat again – write it down.

Which list is longer?  If the left column is longer – congratulations!  You’ve had a year that could be defined as a success.  But did you take enough chances and try enough new ideas?

If the column on the right is longer – congratulations!  You’ve had a year that could be defined as a success.  No, this is not an “everyone is a winner” approach.   You have gained valuable information about what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t work for you and your business.

Continuing to do what is successful is easier than trying new things.  But doing the same things over and over leads to stasis that eventually can cause you to become obsolete as competitors who have tried new ideas pass you by.

Take a hard look at the right column.  What are the things that you could have done to make that item a success rather than a failure?  If you could now make it a success would it benefit your business?  You now know what doesn’t work – figure out how to make it work and build upon your experience rather than spending all of your time on new things in which you don’t have the background experience.

Take the hard earned knowledge that you gained in 2012 and use it to put that item into the left column at the end of 2013.  In many cases, it is only by looking backward that we can move forward.