The last quarter of 2023 is in full swing, meaning you’re likely ramping up to plan for the year ahead. But the first step in determining where your business is going is to understand where you’ve been, and a year-end business review is the perfect tool to do just that. 

A year-end business review not only gives you the chance to pinpoint previous issues and kickstart the new year with solutions, but also create solid strategies for growth in the future. Think of it as an annual summary presentation of your business, with goal evaluations, achievements, setbacks, and ideas for the future that will keep everyone on the same page and motivate your team to make the most of 2024. 

Let’s dive into how to make your year-end business review valuable and effective in just a few simple steps. 

Step 1: Carve out intentional time  

You won’t be able to build an effective year-end business review in a single afternoon — you need to prepare to set aside time where you can give your undivided attention to the project. The best way to ensure you’re dedicating the right amount of time to building your review is to schedule a time slot for every day over the course of a week. 

The size of your business and desired depth of your review will determine if you need more or less time, but it’s important to avoid underestimating the commitment requirement. Taking the time to do a deep dive into the state of your business will not only benefit you and your team, but will also equip you with the insights you need to plan for 2024. 

Step 2: Set an agenda

As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Before jumping into the actual review, lay out your intentions and expectations. What is your actual goal? What do you want to get out of the review? 

Once you establish your strategic goals, get into the tactical planning by assigning steps of the review process to a specific time slot so you can give each step the focus it deserves. This will ensure you’re accomplishing the goals you set for the year-end review.

Step 3: Create a questionnaire 

A nice way to add focus to your year-end review is to build a list of questions you aim to answer. Doing so will help you and your team come up with deeper insights and better solutions for the future. 

Your list can include questions like: 

  • What did we accomplish this year? 
  • What went well? What didn’t? 
  • What had the most impact, and why? 
  • Who are we trying to serve? 
  • Where can we improve?
  • What roles can we take on? 

Step 4: Evaluate goals before strategies 

The first step in determining how effective your strategies for the year were is to understand the level at which you achieved your goals. Compare the goals you set at the beginning of the year with your KPIs (key performance indicators). This will help you determine whether or not those goals were achieved. 

Once you’ve assessed your goals, you can evaluate your strategies. Dive into the data and ask yourself what’s working — and what isn’t. What led to the achievement of a goal? What do you need to change to achieve an unfulfilled goal next year? 

For example, let’s say you invested in a sales strategy that isn’t generating much new business. Is it an internal workflow issue? Do you have the right sales funnel in place? Determining the answers to these questions will help you pinpoint the necessary pivots to build solid strategies for the future. 

Step 5: Assess your financials

Your financial state is the driving force of your business, so this is an important step. Set aside enough focus time to analyze your cash flow, expenses, and budgets while conducting your year-end business review. 

With the data in front of you, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Did I stay within the budgets?
  • Is there enough money coming in? 
  • How can we improve our cash flow? 
  • Are there any areas that I need to cut expenses? 
  • Should I raise prices?

If the data shows that you experienced some financial struggle over the year, now is a good time to consider where you can cut expenses, restructure your marketing, or even change your offerings in 2024. 

Step 6: Review (and clean up) your books

Surprises are never appreciated when it comes to finances. Be sure to conduct a full-scale review of your accounting books so you can catch any mistakes you may have made during the year. This way you’ll ensure your numbers are accurate when it’s time to file taxes and conduct annual planning.

It might even be a good idea to outsource this step — having a fresh set of eyes on the numbers could make it easier to find mistakes. 

Step 7: Get proactive about planning 

Once you’ve completed all the steps of conducting your year-end review, the next step is to plan for 2024. Having the insights you collected in your findings will make it much easier to know what you need to continue moving forward with, craft strategic goals and plans, and implement exciting ideas for growth. 

The best way to ensure you’ve got all the information you need to conduct a great year-end business review is to have access to as many insights as possible. With Harvest, you gain key insights that help you plan for the future.

As you track time and projects, you can build a library of previous projects and use critical data to learn from your past experiences and make more accurate estimates for the future. Get started with a free trial today