I love the New Year: a fresh slate, a blank page and an opportunity to spend time over the Twixmas break setting resolutions to do things differently during the year ahead. Business Consultant, Denyse Whillier

New Year is also the perfect time for reflection. The Spanish philosopher George Santayana said: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So it stands to reason that if we want 2018 to be different to 2017, it pays to review the past year, to understand what happened, why it happened and how it can be improved.

This year I decided to invest in Michael Hyatt’s course, 5 Days To Your Best Year Ever™ and his accompanying book, Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan For Achieving Your Most Important Goals. As a stationary lover, I also treated myself to a couple of kikki.K’s gorgeous inspirational journals.

In Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan For Achieving Your Most Important Goals, Michael shares the backward-thinking method used by the US Army to improve their performance and get better at what they do. It’s called the After-Action Review and is the way the US Army learns the lessons from events, projects and missions they’re involved in. You can read more about why After-Action Reviews have become a popular business tool in this article, written for the Harvard Business Review, Learning In The Thick Of It.

The After-Action Review process involves five key stages, which I worked through as I reflected on my own 2017. The 5 stages are:

  1. State what you wanted to happen.
  2. Acknowledge what actually happened.
  3. Identify recurring themes.
  4. Learn from the experience.
  5. Adjust your behaviour.

What I Wanted To Happen In 2017

In the article I wrote last year, 2016 – A Year In Reflection, I set out the following goals. To:

  • Expand my coaching and consulting services to help more business owners focus and succeed.
  • Evolve my own brand and building my platform.
  • Complete a journalism course created by Dan Rather.
  • Write a series of articles under the banner of ‘Lead With Integrity’.
  • Share with you how some of my favourite businesses have built iconic and successful brands.
  • Add to my team so that I can stop doing the tasks I don’t need to do, and focus on those of higher strategic value.
  • Work from my new home, a stone’s throw from the beach on the Sussex coast, and have my ‘London friends’ to stay.
  • Keep tabs on the local dog rescue centre to be ready to pounce when a super cute mutt turns up.
  • Dust off my passport to visit new places as well as old favourites.

What Actually Happened

While I haven’t yet got a dog, nor have I expanded my team, I did achieve my other goals for 2017 and wound up with a far larger business coaching and consulting practice than I either expected or intended. I’m excited to be working with a great diversity of businesses – from a street dance academy to a tour operator to an electrical contractor.

While I continued to write bi-weekly articles for my website and maintain regular contact with people who’ve subscribed to my newsletter list, I focused my marketing efforts primarily on building a strong business network on the West Sussex coast. Unexpectedly this opened up opportunities for exciting consulting projects in London. Go figure!

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you’ll recall that I wrote a lot about my re-branding process, including:

I knew this would be a HUGE project, but it was much bigger than I expected. Nevertheless it was well worth the investment of time and money.  I couldn’t be more delighted with the outcome and I believe it created the foundation for the second half of the year:

I loved sharing with you how some of my favourite (mainly female) business leaders have set about creating much loved brands. A personal highlight of 2017 was meeting Liz Earle in person.

Recurring Themes

In retrospect I’ve spent far too much time deciding which market I want to target. This is an aspect of my business I’ve worried about endlessly. Who exactly is my ideal client?

I’ve decided it’s time to knock this particular anxiety on the head! To concentrate on being me, to talk about how to go about scaling a business and to work with whoever comes along. Provided of course that their business is ethical, does a good job and I like the person.

A second theme was around stepping up as a leader. I didn’t think that I had a big enough platform to be taken seriously as a leader, even though I’ve substantial leadership experience as a former CEO. The moment I decided to ditch that limiting belief, the Liberal Democrats Head Office got in touch and asked me to deliver leadership training to their staff. They’d somehow discovered me through LinkedIn, checked out my website, decided I was a force of nature and one phone call later, I was booked!

Lessons I Learnt In 2017

The key lesson I learnt was that focused action really does deliver results. This is something I’ve always known; but it can be easy to forget, especially when we’re not seeing the results we would like.

One of the keys to building a thriving business is confidence. Confidence comes from achieving a run of successful results. And results come from taking consistent, focused action, especially during those times when we can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel and it all seems like a one long hard slog.

Adjusting My Behaviour

Sometimes all we need to do is to make a small tweak to our activities or behaviour. In my case, I decided to build my network through BNI (something I’d sworn off doing after a bad experience) rather than go to more generic networking meetings in my local area.

The decision to re-join a BNI group turned out to be easy. When I thought about where my best business had come from, it was through BNI. By a mile.

I then set about finding a group with a high proportion of female members, and which had at least 45 members. And when I did, this proved to be the catalyst to me doubling my business in 2017.

My Goals For 2018

  • My first goal is to take on more one-off consulting projects. I love working with a group of business owners on an ongoing basis, and seeing them and their businesses thrive. But it’s also fun to work on time limited projects which involve using my CEO skills to solve one particular problem.
  • My second goal is to build out a Knowledge Hub for my clients. I’m always thinking about how best I can meet their needs, and how I can uplevel my service offering. This is a significant project, but one I’m really excited about.
  • My third goal is to make far greater use of video – both for YouTube and Facebook Live. I have no shortage of content I can draw on. But it’s a question of being video ready. Hair and make up done. The right clothes. A quiet room with no background noise. Good lighting….
  • My fourth goal is ‘to write – and publish - that book.’ I’ve drafted the outline. The next step – because it’s good to chunk our goals down into small, easily achievable steps – is to create the chapters in Evernote. And then the following step is to write the easiest chapter. Then the next. And then the next.
  • Finally, I’ve long wanted to take an annual sabbatical, but I was worried this might have a detrimental impact on my business. Last year’s mini sabbatical in August was one of the most positive things I’ve done, and I intend to build an annual sabbatical into my business plan going forward.

Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan For Achieving Your Most Important Goals proved to be an invaluable companion as I went through my annual review process. I loved using the 5-step After-Action Review process to help me work through what had and hadn't worked for me, and why.

What are you celebrating from 2017 and what are your hopes for the year ahead? I’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you a year of health, happiness, holidays and realising your hopes and dreams.

Question: What are you celebrating from 2017 and what are your hopes for the year ahead? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to share let me know in the comments box below.

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