Reviewing Your Performance.
So you've made it through your first year. When you quit your job, you probably thought you'd escaped performance reviews for good, but I've got some bad news for you. It's actually a really good idea to review your performance at your own company, to take a look back and see what you did wrong and what you did right.
Did You Make a Profit or a Loss?
The first, and most important, question to answer is this: what does your balance sheet look like? You need to honestly add up all the numbers -- don't be tempted to add on money that you think you're a few days from getting, or take away bad purchases that proved useful in your personal life, for example. Hopefully you kept electronic records, so this shouldn't be too much trouble.
Once you know how you did, you need to look at how to do better. If you made a loss (as almost everyone does in their first year), what can you do about it? Where did the money go? If you made a profit then, well, congratulations! But you still need to think about how much of your profit to re-invest in the business, and how you can increase your profits next year. Remember that money makes money: once you're making a profit, wise investment can make it grow exponentially.
How Many Customers Did You Get?
Now, take a look at your customer database. What's the total number of people who dealt with you this year? How many is that per day, and how much did each one spend? Once you have this information, you can work out how much customers were paying you overall weekly, daily or even hourly. If it seems like a lot more than you saw, you need to ask yourself if you spent too much of their money on expenses. If it seems like hardly anything, then you're in trouble. Sorry to be blunt, but either you need to consider raising your prices, or you're just not doing enough marketing or working hard enough.
How Many Came Back?
Of course, a more important metric than the total number of customers you had last year is how many of them came back more than once. Work out what percentage of your business that was repeat business -- note that this means you count someone twice if they bought from you three times overall, three times if they bought from you four, and so on.
An easy way to do this is to simply take your number that says how many times a customer has dealt with you, subtract one from all of them, and then add it up. Once you know the raw amount of repeat business, you need to divide it by your total number of customers and then multiply by 100. This gives you a percentage. If your repeat business is lower than 20% or so of your total business, this is cause for concern. Are you doing enough to stay in touch with your existing customers?
What Did Customer Complaints Say?
I hope you kept hold of every customer complaint you got, even if you fixed it at the time. You need to take a good look over what you did right, what you did wrong and what you messed up. I know you dealt with things as they came up, but looking back over everything can help you to see the big picture. It's all too easy to miss quite simple patterns when you're in the thick of it day-to-day, and looking at the complaints can reveal a trend that you weren't expecting.
What Have You Learned?
It can be useful to write yourself out a list of lessons at the end of the year, even if it's things like 'quarter-page magazine ads are just as effective as half-page ones' or 'make lunch later in the day so you eat it faster'. Your accumulated knowledge is valuable: you've paid for it in cash and in sweat, so make sure you don't forget it. See if you can come up with a list of positive things to do next year to make your business even better!