Four Lessons Learned in 2018: A success and failure retrospective

2018 was an incredible year. I know it’s not over yet, but I’m not going to send an email next week, so let’s get it out there before we’re swooped into 2019.

I took bigger risks with Trajectify this year and accomplished a lot, including some big ones:

  • Held our first CEO Dinner partnering with Business Development University and RCCB Law. 16 seasoned executives sharing a meal and discussing issues around growth.

  • Got certified to facilitate The Alternative Board. Moved our peer coaching program to TAB’s peer advisory board platform working closely with Arik Hertz of TAB NE.

  • Geographic expansion. Started hosting the NYC Bootstrappers Breakfast. Added Lauren Kaplan as our NY coach. In Philly, developed more business in the surrounding counties.

  • Held the first Trajectify Live  full-day business growth conference at The Science History Institute with ten speakers, lots of content and connections.

  • Hired Jamie Walsh to manage content and administration. Strengthened our content strategy. Added video content with very encouraging results.

  • Moved our Philly office from WeWork to ic3401 at the Science Center. The vibrancy of University City is more energizing than the hustle of Center City.

  • Our second Leadership Retreat was a big success. We even charged for it this time - that’s market validation.

  • Got coached on building a LinkedIn Sales engine and started executing it (to better than expected results).

Some of these met our goals or are beginning to perform. Others missed expectations because of invalid assumptions, or bad execution, or unforeseen externals influences.

I almost always practice what I preach. Almost. There’s a lot I learn about myself while coaching and working with other business owners and leaders. In all that I’ve accomplished this year, here are some lessons I’d like to share:

1. Put it in writing.

Of all these accomplishments, we have emails, Slack messages, and files in shared Dropbox folders - but the overall plan was never put in writing. I had to build this list from memory and am sure that I forgot a bunch. I, like other business owners, occasionally lost sight of the bigger picture, forgetting why we were doing what we were trying. I shouldn’t miss any valuable learning or an opportunity to better engage my team.

Write your goals down and post them everywhere so you will always remember what you’re working towards achieving. Create a document with your twelve month plan. Share it with your team and advisors. Have a dashboard with your most important metrics to track progress. Review the plan every quarter, note what was accomplished and learned, and revise the plan for the next twelve months - a rolling annual plan.

2. Don’t do too many experiments simultaneously.

There was a lot I wanted to test this year. One of my Critical Success Factors (CSF) for 2018 was to develop a reproducible customer acquisition model. (I suspect you can relate, maybe achieving that CSF is in your strategy, too.) I tried new sales and marketing techniques. I had assumptions that I wanted to validate. My plan and my mind was filled with things to try and measure. We did most of it, but in a way that ended up being chaotic. I didn’t leave enough time between experiments. In a less than scientific method, I had no controls. Measuring what worked or didn’t became complicated because initiatives ran into one another, blended results, making any sort of systemic analysis difficult.

BTW, I didn’t figure out my reproducible sales process. Yet. Some things are working, so I’ll plan to build on them in 2019. To make revenue goals (which we did) without having met that CSF, it’ll require I continue to hustle. Every leader and business owner needs to be able to hustle, though it’s my personal goal to work smarter, not harder.

3. Take care of yourself first.

Are there times that you feel like you’re running on empty? I was like that for a lot of 2018. Building Trajectify, meeting our goals and executing our strategy took precedence over home and health. If you’ve ever worked with me, you’ll know that I suggest that you put yourself first. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of others? Having good health lets you be more effective in everything else that you do. That means your body (physical), your mind (mental), and all your relationships (family and friends).

One thing that my TAB training reinforced was that as a business owner, my company vision must align with my personal vision. Did I start my business so that I could work 80 hours a week? Do I want to feel run down? Should my family, friends and home come second to my business? I am naturally a driven person, but I neglected to put first things first this year.

4. Be thankful.

Much has been written about the benefits of gratitude. It’s scientifically proven to make you more effective and more likely to meet your goals. A few years ago, when my coach gave me a gratitude journal, I re-gifted it to my wife thinking she’d appreciate it more. I now know better. In the busy-ness of building a business, it’s too easy to lose sight of all the good things that are happening. Through gratitude, we are better able to focus on the positive. It’s easy and fun to celebrate the big successes. Being able to recognize the small “wins” is even better. No matter how inconsequential each might seem, the cumulative effect of all that gratitude and the resulting positivity is tremendous.

To our clients, partners and friends, thank you for being there with us, helping achieve a great 2018, and setting the prospects for an amazing 2019. We wish you, your family and loved ones, and your businesses all the best for this holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.