8 Key Questions to Ask During a Year-End Company Review

8 Key Questions to Ask During a Year-End Company Review

As another year winds down, many companies are already working on their forecasting and business plans for next year. It’s a time when many of us sift through reports and big data, analyzing the preceding months and our year-over-year (YoY) results. We analyze our performance, set new goals, and figure out how we’re going to achieve them.

But one thing is often missing from the annual forecasting and business planning process: a year-end company review, also known as a year-end business review. 

Many of us don’t take the opportunity to step outside the numbers and truly put our business performance in context. We don’t always ask the bigger-picture and more conceptual questions to help us make a more qualitative assessment of what’s been happening and where we need to go.

And companies that don't do this are truly missing out on its benefits. A year-end company or business review is an important time for businesses to evaluate the efficacy of the business strategies enacted throughout the year. 

Taking the time to undergo this initiative can help you jumpstart the business next year, with a clearer focus on solving prior issues and developing solutions that drive continued growth.

To make it even more impactful, business leaders should pull their leadership team together to discuss those strategies — wins, and losses — to identify what's worked and what hasn't as a unit. 

Knowing how important this is, especially now as we round out the fourth quarter, we decided to equip you with eight questions you and other companies should ask. 

These questions are aimed at helping you look beyond the data points and get to the real heart of your business and how to make meaningful progress in the next year. Let’s take a look at the eight key questions.

8 Year-End Company/Business Review Question to Answer 

‍1. What did we accomplish this year?

‍Start your year-end review by taking some time to assess what you really accomplished this year. It’s more than just revenue and profits or measures of statistical output. Ask yourself: 

  • What major projects did you complete? 
  • What strategic initiatives did you successfully launch? 
  • What did you accomplish that would be a true cause for celebration?
  • Did you penetrate a new and profitable market? 
  • Did you introduce a new product? 
  • Did you strengthen your organization by hiring better talent?
  • On a higher level, did you advance your mission? 
  • Did you take meaningful steps to realize your company vision? 
  • Did you live up to your values as an organization?

The things you would truly celebrate now can help you determine what should be an important focus moving forward. Take the opportunity to document and acknowledge these accomplishments, and use them as a source of inspiration and guidance as you develop your plans for the following year.

But also make sure to dig deep to truly understand the factors and components that made your accomplishments possible. These can serve as benchmarks for future endeavors and something from which you can build on. 

‍2. What went well and what didn’t?

‍Along with accomplishments and successes, you may have had failures. These questions can help you get to the bottom of what didn’t work or what did so that you can use those learning to make iterative improvements to your business: 

  • If you set goals, which ones did you achieve? 
  • Which goals did you miss? 
  • Are there particular reasons why some things went well, and others suffered?
  • What were the keys to your success in specific areas and activities? 
  • Was it the right strategy, the right resources, a lucky break, or something else?
  • Why did other things not go as well? 
  • Were some of your goals unrealistic or overly aggressive? 
  • Did unexpected changes in the market upset your original plans? 
  • Were you short on resources? 
  • Did some goals require more budget, focus, or effort than you could provide?

Take some time to examine the good and the bad and apply the lessons learned from that examination to your future plans.

3. What really made a difference, and how did it happen?

‍As you conduct your year-end company review, you’ll inevitably discover that some of your business activities and initiatives made a real difference, while others didn’t move the needle.

Sometimes the biggest impact comes from unexpected places, and efforts with the most emphasis or perceived importance don’t generate anticipated results. To get to the bottom of this, ask yourself: 

  • Did a new product succeed beyond your expectations and drive unexpected revenue?
  • What enabled that success? 
  • Was there something different about how you developed and launched the product?
  • Was the market need or demand higher than your projections?
  • Did a particular marketing channel drive a large portion of your new opportunities and growth? 
  • Why was the channel so successful? 
  • How does it differ from the other channels you used, and what might this mean for next year?

Learning what made a difference and how it happened will help you make better decisions in the future. It can inform your planning for next year and help you adjust your budget, resources, and strategy accordingly. This way, you can build on your successes and focus more on the difference makers and less on lower-impact activities.

4. What are our mission, vision, and values?

‍When assessing your yearly performance, it’s also important to maintain a long-term, big-picture perspective. Toward that end, it’s helpful to revisit your organization’s mission, vision, and values. It’s an opportunity to evaluate your year against these three pillars.

Your vision is typically the core purpose of your business. It's the heart of what you do and why you're doing it. Your mission is usually a more strategic and time-oriented objective, which shapes your strategy and goals. You'll often aim to achieve that vision within a particular period.

On the other hand, your values are typically the statements that capture how your organization engages the world and how you do business. In theory, your values should drive your critical decisions, help you hire the right resources, and guide the work you're doing every day.

Many companies establish a mission, vision, and values, but they don't really live by them. These aims often get lost in the daily grind of meeting goals, driving metrics, and getting work done. As you conduct your year-end company review, ask yourself: 

  • When was the last time your organization revisited your mission, vision, and values?
  • Are you regularly evaluating your activities and initiatives against these guideposts?

Use your year-end review to get started, and make this evaluation a regular part of your strategic planning and goal-setting for the following year. It's an excellent way to remind everyone in the organization what you're striving to achieve and ensure your overarching goals and principles aren't forgotten.

‍5. Who is the one person we are serving?

‍At the center of many organizational missions is the ideal customer we’re trying to serve. It’s also the focal point for what many companies do, from sales and marketing to product development and customer service.

When reviewing your results, consider what it means for that ideal customer. These questions can help you and your team get started. 

  • Did we help that person? 
  • Did we solve their problems and address their pain points?
  • Did we deliver what we promised?

Keeping your ideal customer in mind can help you get outside insular thinking and purely organizational concerns. You can evaluate your current and future performance against the real person you’re supposed to serve. This not only helps keep you grounded but is important in maintaining a customer-centric focus.

Likewise, taking the time to understand how you and your team have been serving the company's ideal customer can also highlight areas for improvement. For example, during this exercise, you might notice that people on your team have different views of the ideal customer. 

It’s also possible that your team needs more education around the pain points you're trying to solve. Use these moments to level set that everyone is working towards the same vision, mission, and goals. 

This, in turn, can help you make better decisions and plans, focusing on solving your ideal customer's problems and delivering better outcomes in the year ahead.

‍6. What should we do next year?

‍The preceding questions all feed into a qualitative analysis that will help you prioritize and choose the right strategies and actions for the coming year. You can combine the resulting insights with performance metrics and data analytics to develop both quantitative and qualitative guidance for the future.

This way, you're not just crunching data to get to predetermined projections or numerical goals for the following year. You're taking the time to reflect on the current year and really learn what happened, what mattered, what should matter, and how you can build on it.

Turning this reflection toward a forward-looking plan helps narrow things down to a few high-level strategic priorities for the year ahead. You should choose specific targets and goals for pursuing those priorities and start sketching out a list of projects and ongoing work that will help you get there.

Along the way, it's also important to evaluate your goals and objectives and assess whether you're being realistic or overly aggressive. Stretch goals are a popular way to encourage organizations to exceed their baseline goals, but too much of a stretch can be self-defeating and demoralizing. 

This is another area where a qualitative evaluation can help balance a data-driven approach.

‍7. What can we do to start strong in the first quarter?

‍Once you begin planning for the next year, one of the most important decisions is to decide what should come first. In particular, what can we do during the first three months of the year to achieve some accomplishments and make a strong start toward achieving our annual goals?

Small wins create momentum, so it’s often best to start with projects and goals you can complete and achieve early on. Save the bigger projects for later in the year, or build toward them during the first quarter by creating smaller, related projects and goals you can accomplish now.

‍8. Who is going to help us do it?

‍Of course, if you're developing a plan for the next year, you need the right team members, skills, and tools to execute it.

As you set goals and identify the work and projects that need to be done, evaluate your organization to identify any knowledge gaps, shortcomings, or areas where you might need to scale up and improve.

At the end of the day, even with the best strategy and tools in the world, it takes the right people and the right team to execute your plan. To help you get started, ask yourself: 

  • Do you have enough resources in place in the areas that matter most? 
  • Do you have the right people with the right skills to drive the key activities you’ll need to succeed? 
  • Are your current team members the right fit for your mission, vision, and values?

Evaluate your organization and figure out who will help you execute your plan. If you need more resources or help, you can always hire directly and grow your team from within or hire high-caliber business talent on demand.

With thousands of top-tier consultants and business professionals now working independently through on-demand talent acquisition platforms such as Graphite, it’s never been easier to add expertise and fill crucial roles in your organization. You can also do it without the high overhead costs of a direct employee.

If you're looking to learn more about how you can optimize your workforce in the upcoming year to reach the strategic goals outlined in your year-end company review, then we invite you to download our Ultimate Workforce Optimization Guide to explore the possibilities. 



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