Contributed by Brooke Lively, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in Fort Worth. Brooke is founder and president of Cathedral Capital, which provides strategic financial advice to drive profit by creating customized teams of financial professionals to analyze data trends and guide entrepreneurs through their numbers so they can predictably scale and grow their businesses. Brooke recently shared 4 Timely Business Lessons to Improve Your Company’s Future Profitability on EO on Inc.
I love what we at my company call the “quiet period”. That time between Christmas and New Year’s when we don’t schedule client calls or meetings with colleagues. The week that we use to catch up and think. And it’s the thinking that I find most valuable.
What worked this year? And the reverse of that same coin: What didn’t work? What will we continue to do, and what do we need to delegate, automate or simply eliminate?
Note what didn’t work
Let’s start with what didn’t work, because that is where everybody always focuses. Take a step back and look at this year’s initiatives. Which ones didn’t work and why? And don’t just settle on the first why—really dig. Was it the wrong time of year, or did it not have the full support of a really well-thought-out marketing campaign?
Where are the bottlenecks in your company? These are always great places to find efficiencies and therefore leaking profit. My caution to you here is, again, don’t settle for the surface problem. Keep asking what we call the AWE question, “And What Else?” And what else could be causing that? And what causes that? And what causes that? Keep asking until you actually get to the root cause of the bottleneck or problem. Stop treating the symptoms in your business and start treating the actual problems.
Don’t overlook goals achieved
But it’s the things that did work this year that I want you to think about the most. Dan Sullivan wrote a book called The Gap and the Gain after discovering that entrepreneurs suffered from a high level of depression and dissatisfaction. They felt like they were always reaching for, but never achieving their goals—even when they were really successful. Can you guess why? Because every time they got close to a goal, they moved the finish line.
I remember trying so hard and for so long to hit that elusive US$1 million mark in revenue. I scratched and clawed my way toward it with incremental progress. I felt like I would never get there.
And then one night I was at an EO event, and somebody asked me when I would graduate from EO Accelerator and join EO. “As soon as I hit US$1 million in revenue, of course,” was my response. They asked how close I was. Close, I thought.
So I pulled up QuickBooks on my phone, and it turns out I had annualized US$1 million in revenue a couple of months earlier. And I had missed it. Why? Because I had already recorded several months over $85K, so I had moved my monthly goal to $100K.
I moved my goal from US$1 million to US$1.2 million so fast that I never noticed I had hit my original goal. I didn’t stop and celebrate. When you do this, goals become like the horizon—no matter how fast you run, how much you sell, or how hard you grind, you will never reach it. And that is demoralizing.
Celebrate your successes
So take the quiet period this year and look back. What were the milestones you skipped over almost without noticing? What projects went well? What parts of your business are running like a well-oiled machine? Pick those out. Celebrate them! Then dissect them, because they hold the secret to your profitability.
If you can learn the lessons of your success, nothing can stop you in 2023.