As we head into 2021, a great repeatable process is to take stock of the events of the last 12 months and come up with resolutions for the upcoming year. Businesses aren’t exempt from this exercise. Self-reflecting can be a humbling and powerful experience that helps us learn about ourselves, our company, and how we can improve going forward.
Looking back at the accomplishments, mishaps, shortfalls, and surprises over the last four quarters gives you a unique, large-scale snapshot of where your business is strong, has room for improvement and needs addressing. Taking the time to honestly reflect on how the year went gives you a sense of what direction your company is headed in, and if it’s the right direction.
Over the past few years, I’ve made it a priority to set measurable goals, track them, and then review and reflect and grade our performance. Even in 2019, I did a similar exercise here, just written differently.
What Went Well — Expanding Our Leadership Team
We were only about 10 weeks into the year before the biggest wrench was thrown in our plans: COVID-19. A global pandemic wasn’t something we (or anyone, really) expected or frankly, were prepared for. But thanks to our talented, dedicated group of hard workers and team players, not only did we overcome the challenges of the pandemic, but also we used it as a growth opportunity.
We did this through a creative campaign, building a “Resilience Series” highlighting clients and leads in our pipeline to share incredible stories aligned with our brand (Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3). It’s one thing to hold your ground as you navigate an unprecedented time, but it’s another to actually improve despite it and watch the company grow as a result.
Part of our growth and improvements were a direct result of bolstering our leadership team. For one, we brought on Carson as COO, which was one of the best decisions of the year. His experience and attitude were rocket-fuel in the journey to bring BW Mission’s vision to life. Carson’s help in recruiting, managing finances, and spearheading client operations was crucial to our growth and success this year. In addition, his 5 AM office visits, combined with his technical prowess on fundamental operational tasks accelerated the business forward, so I could focus on client strategy, operations, and everything required for clients to succeed.
We brought on many other leaders who have been integral to our scaling up. We hired Leah Walsh as Director of Marketing and PR and Ashley as VP of Client Strategy and Success, top-graded Marjie as Director of Content and Communications, and elevated Asmir to the Head of Client Operations. By creating more specialized roles for each department and filling those positions with the best of the best, we were able to divide and conquer the year.
Expanding the leadership team was a personal accomplishment for us. Entrepreneurs are typically reluctant to outsource roles and tasks they’ve been handling themselves, but I knew that for us to grow the way we planned, we’d need specialized roles for operational functions. Thankfully, the leadership team is made of some of the finest, most capable people I know.
In addition to structural changes like adding new leadership roles, we also made concrete operational changes to improve our long-term success. We created accountability for roles, broke our 15-year goals into smaller, attainable steps such a “3HAG”, and established forecasting for monthly targets and revenue goals. This forecasting helped us plan which new roles we needed to create and hire for, all of which were filled.
Qualitative assessments like the above are great for assessing what went well over the year. Quantitative data leaves no questions remaining. Overall, we increased revenue and grew the business by 211%
What Didn’t Go Well
Despite all the successes we had, there’s always room for improvement. Looking back on what could have gone better provides a framework for what our goals should be for the upcoming year.
This year solidified what we already knew: we need a better, more organized process to assign tasks to team members and communicate internally and externally. With our current process, we mostly used email and google to talk with clients and team members. This worked fine when the company was smaller, but as we continue to scale, take on more clients, and expand our team, we need a better, more organized process. Think of an organized operating system all under 1 roof, that is accessible by not only the team but also the clients. Having a set of standardized operating procedures (SOP’s) stored in one place will increase the efficiency and ability to scale internally with our team and externally with our clients.
Thankfully, we have almost finished integrating Notion to help with this effort.
We also held onto team members that negatively affected our healthy work culture for far too long. Learning to “fire fast” as they say is something we need to learn to do better and simply rip the bandaid off. Over the course of the year, this led to persisting problems that created ripple effects throughout the company. This issue has since been fixed with the operational and culture changes made.
What We Learned
Reflecting on the past year isn’t just to reminisce, but a way to learn how to improve. Taking what went well and what didn’t go as well, we’re able to draw conclusions and make projections for what needs to be done in order to have an even more successful year.
When we started out the year, we weren’t quite sure who our customer base actually was. Were they authors, CEOs, or companies? We solidified our core consumers and learned who they were: long-term focused individuals who want to have an impact but lack the time, resources, or know-how to do it themselves. Our main customers are tech-exited founders, YPO’ers, established Authors, and CEOs of big companies. Knowing who will be interested in working with us helps us appropriately allocate resources to getting those leads.
We fine-tuned our best practices, as well. For our clients who are building their brand platforms with full scope, we found that twice a month meetings are operationally and strategically optimal to make sure nothing is missed. Internally, weekly huddles and meetings help to ensure fluidity among the leadership team and their departmental team members.
One of the more crucial lessons we learned was about the operational procedure. As we began to grow, we quickly learned that in order for us to scale, we need standard operating procedures across the company. When the company was small, operational issues weren’t as harmful because the team was small, the client base was small, and it was easy to keep track of everything manually.
Once we began to grow, as we did in 2020, faulty operating procedures created larger ripples in a day-to-day company function. We learned that client operations, internal operations, and operating infrastructure needs a documentation system that’s clear and consistent. Over the last year, we began to make these changes to our internal processes, but we still need to create historical data of decisions we’ve made with customers and clients in the past so we can understand our learnings and create a fully formed foundation of information.
We also made changes in how we approach sales. To put it simply, we learned that we’re not in the “proposal” business. Instead, our sales process is broken into two parts. Our first call to customers is to understand their needs and send them documents. On our second call, we walk them through our recommendations for them and send over an agreement. If necessary, we’ll let them talk to another customer of ours.
Final Thoughts and 2021 Plans
Every year brings unique challenges and triumphs, but 2020 takes the cake. Despite all the horrors and hardships of the year, BW Missions was able to make leaps and bounds in scaling our business, growing our team, and surpassing our goals.
We still have plenty of things to improve upon in 2021, and I have full confidence we’ll make good use of all the things we learned this year. At the end of next year, I want our brand to be one step closer to becoming the best thought leadership platform in the world, helping incredible individuals find their path and belong. And, as always, a new cycle of learning, growing, and improving will begin.