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Top Tips for Conducting an End-of-Year Review for Small Businesses

Jared Atchison
Jared Atchison
Co-Founder at WPForms

Learn how you can create an annual review to gauge the health of your business.

The close of a year is a good time to take stock of how your business is doing. All over the world, people and businesses approach the new year with the intention to create change. There's a cultural belief that we can move forward and put the events of the past year to rest. And what a year it has been. 

As the name suggests, an end-of-year review is a summary of important events and changes that have taken place in your business. You can also note general updates and other information as a way to do a check-up of your business. 

For small businesses, doing an end-of-year review is important to understand the impact of the pandemic on their businesses. The review will help you come to terms with what's happening, and this can give you a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities you have to deal with in the future. 

So, what are the different things you need to review? Here's a breakdown of important developments in your business to be aware of and how to leverage them. 

What to include in your yearly review 

Not sure what to add when doing an annual review of your company? Here are some of my suggestions for what kind of information to gather and analyze to help you understand the path your business is on. 

List your business's accomplishments.

A good place to start is by looking at the positive achievements of your business for the year. And when you do this, make sure that you go into detail. 

At our business, we include the following details when creating a list of achievements:

  • Any increase in the number of customers

  • How many more products or plugins we sold compared to the previous year

  • The number of positive ratings and reviews we received online

  • How many new followers we have on social media

  • New employees who joined the company

  • New features and updates added to our products

  • Whether we won prizes or received recognition from external sources

  • The sales that took place during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other major holiday events

These are just some details you can include when listing your business's accomplishments. It's important to do this, because it gives a clear picture of how your business has grown and what to expect in the future. It's also a great morale booster for people in your organization. 

Doing a review of your past accomplishments helps you recognize your strengths and the work done by your team.

Tally the things that went wrong.

There's no year that goes by without challenges, and these are often chances to grow your business. It's important to make a list of setbacks and changes that you consider negative in your business. Here are some things you can include as challenges faced during the year:

  • Any increase in your customer churn rate

  • Negative responses to a new product launch or to changes made in your current offerings

  • Getting social media backlash because of an ad or some other type of communication 

  • If there's an increase in negative reviews and ratings for your products

Creating a list like this will help you be better prepared for the next year. You can plan for these issues and figure out ways to avoid repeating any mistakes. For your employees, a review of things that did not work out can swerve as a cautionary tale and firmly embed dos and don'ts in your business culture.  

Review your company's charitable works.

One of the important works that we include in our overall business review is the state of our charitable works or programs to do with corporate social responsibility.

Updating yourself, your stakeholders, employees, and customers about these projects and how they've affected other people's lives is powerful. It creates meaning in the work that you do and builds a shared sense of responsibility in the organization. 

If you haven't been active in this area, a review can give the wake-up call you need to prioritize social responsibility. And if you're not involved in any such works, this can be the starting point for you to seriously involve yourself in giving back to the community. 

Include anniversaries and other milestones.

When creating your end-of-year review, include anniversaries and significant milestones related to your business, the leaders in your brand, and your employees. This review can include the following:

  • Work anniversaries, i.e., celebrating the number of years an employee has been with your business

  • Hitting a major number in sales. For example, getting your 1,000th customer, getting 1 million views on your YouTube channel or getting 100 plugin installations

  • Other fun events in your organization like weddings, employees who became parents, etc.

Of course, this last idea works when you have a small business and people are in touch with each other. It's helpful to have a dedicated HR personnel or administrator to keep track of such information. But reckoning milestones and events like these add a much-needed positive note to your business activities. It reminds everyone that you celebrate your employees and care about them. 

Create a year-end financial review.

And of course, one of the most important elements you'll need to create is your financial review for the year. 

Even if you follow an accounting or financial year format that ends in March, doing an end of year review now is a good idea, since you'll start the first quarter of 2021 with a clear idea of what your business’s financial health is like.

Create reports including your balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement. These statements will contain all the information you need to do a basic review. You'll find areas that need improvement, expenses that need to be trimmed, and you'll have an idea of the kind of taxes you'll have to pay. Such information is critical for you to make the right decisions for your business.

What to do with an end-of-year review

Doing the hard work of creating a review is helpful in itself. You get clarity and arm yourself with information that leads to business growth. But you can further leverage your year-end review by sharing it. Let's look at who you should share an annual review with and how to do that. 

Share your year-end review with your audience.

Your end-of-year review contains a lot of information that's worth sharing with your audience. Of course, you don't have to share every single detail. Instead, focus on content related to your growth so that it builds confidence in your company. 

To create full transparency and to show your audience that you're listening, you can also include some of the challenges you faced during the year and how you intend to address them. 

Some of our brands have dedicated pages just to showcase the end-of-year review. These pages are available to the public and are made in an infographic style. Instead of long paragraphs of text, we used graphics, bullet points and simple visual elements to highlight our achievements for the year. Digital marketing studies show that users recall 65% of the visual content they've consumed even three days after viewing it. Presenting our review in a visual format makes it impactful and memorable to our audience. 

Featuring how many of our plugins have been installed, the positive reviews they've received and other details make customers feel comfortable that we're going to be around to help them grow their business.

Inform your employees.

It's also important to do an end-of-year review with your employees. And in this case, you can afford to discuss the challenges your business has faced in greater depth that you won't want to share with a wider audience. 

In our business, we conduct a quarterly town hall where we talk about the state of affairs in the business. Employees are able to ask questions about the company, and we look at both the highlights and difficulties of the year. 

An end-of-year review can help you connect with your team better and creates transparency. Your team will feel more confident about the business and will know how to perform better in the years to come.

Use these tips to make better decisions that will help you grow your business, especially when we're all dealing with a global crisis. 

Image Credit: DragonImages / Getty Images
Jared Atchison
Jared Atchison
business.com Member
Co-Founder of WPForms, one of the largest WordPress contact form plugins in the market. I have been programming for over a decade and enjoy creating plugins that help people create powerful web designs without touching code.