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As we wrap-up 2017 and head into a new year, I found myself thinking about what I’d learned these past 12 months.

Our Design Firm has grown by adding a new Design Associate to the ranks, as well as winning new clients. All things which sound good ... on the surface.

But, I did something at year’s end that I’ve not done in recent years: I did a no-BS retrospective of my business.

This post was a little painful for me to write, because I was embarrassed by what I discovered.

Here are three tips for doing your own retrospective.

Put a spreadsheet together

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Put a spreadsheet together that shows your client history, including: sales, invoicing, time-to-pay and engagement period.

For our business, revenue is all service based, so it’s client billable dollars (split between hourly and fixed-bid projects). Your accounting system works well for this - I use Freshbooks, but all of them provide reports that help you see the numbers.

What I learned: revenue follows a pattern that in hind-sight was predictable. More on this at the end.

Analyze what you accomplished


Using your client spreadsheet, analyze what you accomplished with each client. Most importantly, identify what helped or hindered your business.

For example: what you learned, what worked well, what didn’t; basically, what demonstrated the value of your business to your clients.

What I learned: we do something unique at KRUTSCH and clients that recognized that value (gee, surprise!) provided the most revenue.

Choose one or two concrete, actionable changes

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Finally, what should you change to do better?

Are you achieving your objectives? Do you even have strategic, measureable objectives?

How do you differentiate yourself from the field?

Are you seeing repeat business from clients (i.e. lapping)? Do you need to change your client sales targets? 

What I learned: we are not growing at an acceptable rate, which contradicted my gut feeling about the state of our business.

All of the above may seem like, well, duh? But when we are in the thick of creating beautiful things for clients, we are not thinking about hunting.

Which leads me to our actionable changes for 2018:

1.     Be careful when working with 3rd parties. It’s great when someone else brings you a project, but you are at the mercy of their client management acumen. Plus, 3rd parties tend to see you as a competitor, somewhat; so, you never see the road ahead, with respect to future projects.

Hire a dedicated sales / account executive. This was the biggest take-away from seeing the pattern of revenue over recent years. Our new one starts working with us in the first week of January 2018 :-)

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Ken Krutsch is Managing Principal of KRUTSCH Associates, a digital product design firm, specializing in product vision and realization, including customer research, roadmap development and full-stack user experience design.

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