Think Positive: Positive Reflection as Effective Strategic Planning


We’re all thinking it—or at least, we all should be thinking it: “How did my business fare in 2018?”

Self-reflection is almost inherent to this time of year. We all feel the symbolic shift of the calendar so poignantly when that final number ticks upward. That’s why we ring it in with balls and bells: it’s the most literal marker of the passing of time, a moment, minute, or month that forces us to consider the year that’s passed and how we’ve spent it. 

For business owners, reflecting back on your year isn’t just a nostalgic rite, it’s an important part of an effective business strategy. As Winston Churchill paraphrased, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” Business owners should regularly evaluate the workings and decisions of their business, and the cusp of the new year is the perfect time to do so.

If you’re saying, “Yeah, duh,” then read on. There’s a second very important piece to this end-of-year puzzle, and it’s one many retailers are guilty of mishandling.

Just as important as the act of reflection itself is your attitude in how you approach it. So many of us make the repeated mistake of wallowing in our negative reflections rather than basking in our positive ones. We get wrapped up in the “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s” of our business, obsess over the wrong turns and oversights, and fail to appreciate the strides we’ve made or to consider our mistakes as learning experiences. When we do so, we cast our experience in its entirety in a negative light, which can in turn sour the very future of our business. 

This negative mindset is in direct correlation to the scarcity mindset so many retailers seem to be racked with these days. “Woe is me,” we think, “I don’t have enough money or enough permanent staff, and look at the mistakes we’ve made because of it.” But if you simply shift your perspective to consider instead the wealth of resources you do have and the positive changes and growth you’ve accomplished, you’re already miles ahead of the competition and creating a solid foundation for your future. So how do you begin to shift your mindset? 

Mama told us to learn from our mistakes, and that’s exactly what all business owners should do when it comes to their end-of-year reflections. So you overstocked the wrong product or failed to predict a new trend—what can you do in the future that’s a direct, positive response to those flops? When you feel yourself getting bogged down in the “mistakes” you made throughout the year, take the time to intentionally shift your thinking. Pause, and ask yourself, “What did I learn from that?” Oftentimes, you’ll find that you’ve already taken the lesson to heart and made changes to your business because of it. And hey, that’s a huge positive change you’ve made for your business! Give yourself credit where credit is due. And if you haven’t made those changes yet, then you’ve just created a strategic initiative for the new year!  

Another exercise in shifting your perspective might seem cheesy, but it works: for every negative thing you say about your business, you have to say three positive things. It’s ok—in fact, integral—for you to acknowledge where things went wrong and why. But it’s just as important to recognize where things went well and why. It helps you to continue to do those things well, of course, but it’s also a matter of mindset: when you consider your past positively, you have a positive outlook, and that can have a huge impact on your future successes. Seriously, the power of positive thinking is real. So harness that power by focusing on the successful, growing aspects of your business and launching forward from them.

And our final tip for shifting your mindset? Bring in outside opinions. You’re so buried in the day-to-day operations of your business, your perspective is naturally skewed. Of course you’re going to be bitter about those mistakes and focus on them because you’re the one who made them, but someone without your allegiance can perceive the scenario as it truly is, without the pang of regret. The scope of someone outside your organization is fundamentally broader: they see all the pieces of the puzzle and how they fit together, and can help you recognize the fruitful aspects of the year in review. The Mann Group’s Strategic Planning packages are a great way to get an outsider’s expert opinion, but even asking your business-savvy brother-in-law or aunt for a little insight will help, too. 

Carry this intentionally perspective forward into the new year, and you’ll be surprised how it shifts not just your own mindset about your business, but your business itself. Every obstacle is an opportunity—you just have to see it as such. 

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