One of my very favourite business activities is my annual business review, which I like to do in November, in good time for the New Year. This year I decided to do things a little differently. Denyse Whillier Business Review November 2017

The process I’ve been using since my days as a CEO didn’t vary. But this time, instead of working on my annual business review from home, I took myself away to the Kings Arms Hotel, a relaxed coastal retreat, perfect for exploring the stunning Dorset coastline. And holed up there for three days.

Why go to the expense of a three day retreat? There were several reasons.

Firstly I wanted enough time and space to switch off from my normal everyday activities and focus completely, without distraction, on my own business plan. I hoped there would be a significant qualitative increase in my strategic thinking and personal productivity. There was. I got so much work done.

Secondly, I wanted to immerse myself in one of my favourite brands, Harbour Hotels and soak up the experience. From the luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets to award winning food in the restaurant to the exemplary customer service to the beautiful views across the Quay. Harbour Hotels is one of my personal brand inspirations.

The Process For My Annual Business Review

Besides going out for bracing walks, enjoying lovely meals and drinking chai café, what do I actually do during my annual business review? There are five main components:

  • A PESTLE Analysis;
  • A SWOT Analysis;
  • An appraisal of my main competitors;
  • Review and update of my business plan;
  • Review and update of my marketing strategy.

1. PESTLE Analysis

A PESTLE Analysis is a key tool by companies to track the environment they’re operating in and is used when they are planning to launch a new project, product or service. PESTLE is a mnemonic: P for Political, E for Economic, S for Social, T for Technological, L for Legal and E for Environmental. It gives a bird’s eye view of the whole environment a business is operating in, and is used to inform your business plan.

Typical questions you would ask when completing a PESTLE analysis for your annual business review include:

  • What is the political situation of the country and how could this affect my business?
  • What are the prevailing economic factors and how might these affect my customers and suppliers?
  • What technological innovations are likely to affect my industry?
  • Is there any current future legislation that could affect my industry?
  • What are the environmental considerations for my industry?

My annual business review started on the day the UK government released its Industrial Strategy White Paper. This was of particular interest to me because it addresses the futures of two industries I know very well. It also addresses one of the key barriers to business growth – poor workplace skills. I spent my first morning reading the Industrial Strategy White Paper, and considering the opportunities this might offer to my business.

2. SWOT Analysis

A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis will help you understand how your business is positioned in relation to the market and your competitors.

By using a SWOT Analysis to carefully evaluate your business before finalising next year’s business plan, you can (start to) craft a strategy that enables you to distinguish your business from the competition. These are the types of questions you might ask:

Strengths Weaknesses
Internal Factors What advantages does my company have?

What do we do better than anyone else?

What do people in our market see as our strengths?

What could we improve?

What should we avoid?

What are people in our market likely to see as weaknesses? Are our competitors doing any better than us? If so, what are they doing that we aren’t?

Opportunities Threats
External Factors Where are the opportunities available to our business? And is this the right time to pursue them?

What trends are influencing customer decisions and purchasing?

Are societal and social patterns changing in our favour?

How could we make use of new technologies?

What obstacles do we face?

What is our competition doing?

Do we have bad debt or cash-flow problems?

Could any of our weaknesses put our business at risk?

What factors outside our control e.g. adverse weather could have a detrimental impact on our business?

One of the biggest weaknesses in my business is not having the time or capacity to do everything I want. I had to think outside the box, but I came up with an ingenious solution to fill my capacity gap in the short term. Watch this space…

3. Appraising My Competitors

I’m pretty familiar with my competitors, their business growth and marketing strategies. That’s why in 2018, I’m going analogue.

I’m not going to explain what I mean by ‘going analogue’ because I know some of my competitors read my articles and are likely to copy my strategy. Imitation they say is a form of flattery, but in this instance, I’m not going to cede my competitive advantages. And neither should you!

On a side note, one of the biggest traps we can fall into is comparing ourselves to our competitors, and finding ourselves wanting. Even if we’re at a completely different stage of business and the comparison is unwanted. In 2018, please make sure you kick ‘comparison-itis’ to the kerb.

4. My 2018 Business Plan

In many respects, my business plan for 2018 differs little from my plan for 2017. There are some changes, which I’m not going to discuss in this article for reasons of commercial sensitivity.

The key change will be my focus on those businesses that either are, or aspire to be, members of the 5% club; that group of businesses who want to scale their business to employ ten or more employees. My leadership and managerial skills and experience both as a CEO and previously position me uniquely, I believe, to work with this particular group, and I’m excited to work with ambitious business founders like this.

5. My 2018 Marketing Strategy

One of the things I’ve noticed, particularly in the online world, is that marketing strategy has been reduced to promotion. Promotion is just one of the marketing 7 P’s: Product, Place, Price Promotion, Physical Environment, Process and People. So when you’re working on your own annual business review, do bear this in mind.

I spent the second day of my annual business review thinking long and hard about the businesses I’ve worked with, and the challenges and problems they’ve encountered along the way, trying to join the 5% club. This thinking has informed decisions I made about how I want to develop my own business model.

Next year, I’ll be doubling down on the promotional strategy which, head and shoulders, works best for my business. That’s networking in a highly intentional way. This is where I build relationships with people who either become clients, or recommend me to people within their network.

I’ll also be focusing on a handful of strategies to raise my visibility so that when the time comes to expand my offering, I’ve built the profile to do so.

If you’d like my help with your annual business review, simply e-mail me to arrange an informal coffee chat, and let’s take it from there.

Meanwhile wishing you a very successful Christmas marketing campaign. And as always, thank you for reading my articles.

Question: What’s your top tip for a successful Christmas sales campaign? 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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