Amid the flurry of the holidays and the charge-ahead energy of early January, it can be hard to find time to reflect on the past 12 months. Although it’s more important to look forward than back, understanding the past year can be crucial in positioning your business for the next one.
Here’s a simple but effective way to approach it.
At the end of each year, take some time – maybe a day, preferably with a group and a whiteboard – to look back at the past 12 months and identify key moments, actions and decisions. Divide them into four categories – celebrations, frustrations, eliminations and deviations – and then drill down to understand the impact, if any, they’ve had on your business.
The exercise will help you see the past year more clearly and prepare you to maximize the year ahead. Here’s a quick overview of each category for your 2022 planning.
These are the things that went well. For an agent, it could be things like memorable sales, risks that paid off, new tools or systems that worked well, a career-changing event or even a change of scenery. Broker possibilities are endless, too – a star recruit, the development of your agents, a smart staff hire, or key decisions that helped you build your business.
Any victory that helped define the year is worth noting and dissecting a bit. The exercise helps you understand how the win happened, which in turn can lead to ideas on making it repeatable or scalable in the year ahead.
This is the bucket for everything inefficient, painful and/or counterproductive. It’s for the ones that got away, the opportunities you missed, the ideas that didn’t work out and, unfortunately, the losses you sustained.
Frustrations are discouraging, but they generally have an upside, too. Analyzing your frustrations and taking lessons from them is essential for a healthy business. It’s often a catalyst for impactful changes or strategic shifts.
As odd as it seems, you want a few items in this category. A year without at least some frustration probably means you’re not taking enough risks and trying new things. Don’t play it safe to avoid frustration. Go after the tough client or recruit. Lean into big ideas. Take chances when you know you should. And be comfortable with knowing that not everything will go your way.
You need the confidence to approach each day as an opportunity for a win. But when losing happens – and it happens to the best of them – it’s not the end of the world. It’s a chance to take stock and learn something.
Many frustrations can be tweaked or addressed easily enough to get things back on track, but sometimes you need a full course correction. You need something eliminated entirely.
This category contains items that have wasted enough of your time, money and/or attention to be discarded all together. The strategy that fell flat. The product that didn’t work. The marketing that failed to connect. Sometimes, things are so off target they can’t be adjusted or fixed – they simply need to go.
Even though it’s uncomfortable, go deep when you analyze the eliminations. Why did things go so badly? Could you have done anything differently? Has the damage been mitigated? What can we do to avoid a similar problem in the future? These are critical questions to ask – and the answers are even more important.
A final thought about eliminations: They take courage. It can be brutally difficult to pull the plug on something – especially when the decision rests with the same person or group that started the ball rolling in the first place. But if eliminating something is the right thing to do, you need to get it done – because ignoring the problem will only make it worse.
Lastly, take time to consider the paths not taken – the deviations that could have made a difference. This might involve something major, like an entire strategy you didn’t deploy. Or it could be small adjustments that would have taken an initiative from good to great.
Think about what other options you could have used, including those you considered and any you overlooked. For example, did you make the most of your advertising budget? Could you or should you have adjusted your media mix? Would a different approach have helped you reach more prospects than you did? Did the message need to be freshened?
The answers might simply reaffirm the route you took. And that’s fine. But in most cases, looking at deviations will spark insights on how you could have done things better. And that’s crucial, because in a competitive industry like real estate, even the slightest, most incremental improvements can make a huge difference – especially when compounded over time.
This process, based on celebrations, frustrations, eliminations and deviations, is a simple but worthwhile way to take a quick look back before you charge forward. The exercise will help you realize that where you’ve been and what you’ve done (your past) has brought your business to this exact moment in time (your present). And then, with learnings and new insights in hand, you’ll be ready for all that’s to come in your future.