A Year In Review is an evaluation of what has occurred in the past year, what you’ve learned, where things went wrong, and how you will make changes for the coming year.
To learn how to create your own, read How to Do a Year In Review.
This type of evaluation will stretch you. You may find information about your company that is embarrassing. And you might decide to keep it private—known only to you or your leadership team. Or you could share the results with staff or customers. There’s nothing wrong with editing the content to fit the audience (especially if you’re an introvert like me).
But if you’re willing to be totally transparent, sharing a Year In Review with the entire world is extremely effective.
In this post, you’ll get to see examples of 31 different people who used a Year In Review. I will share what I liked (and didn’t like) about each one.
Ready? Let’s get started!
It took me a while to find good examples of annual reviews done by business owners. After searching high and low, I can finally share some examples with you. These individuals come from around the world:
Four countries (the United States, Canada, Germany, and Liberia) including 14 states and DC.
A total of 18 men and 13 women are represented.
Each of the 31 examples are written by small business owners who serve a unique niche market.
Each has a compelling writing style and is committed to making a positive difference in the world (which aligns with my own Vision, Mission, and Values).
We’ll start with the Granddaddy of the “Year in Review” concept, Chris Guillebeau.
- Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
- Best-selling author of The $100 Startup and The Happiness of Pursuit, modern-day explorer, and host of the annual World Domination Summit
- 2017 Annual Review
Chris has been publishing an annual evaluation every year since 2005 (2017 will be the 17th).
In each post, he asks two simple questions:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go well this year?
Chris typically takes a full week in December to evaluate and measure his goals in 11 categories:
- Friends & Family
- Financial (Earning)
- Financial (Giving)
- Financial (Saving)
He then sets 3-5 measurable goals in each category for the following year. Here’s what he has to say about the adjustments he made to the process.
Entrepreneurs, authors, and other business owners are now following in Chris G.’s footsteps. Here are my favorites.
- Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
- Software designer, author, and owner of ConvertKit
- 2016 In Review — The Year I Became a CEO
Not only is Nathan’s 2016 post is easy to read and inspiring, it’s also incredibly down-to-earth. Nathan includes a lot of pictures and links to relevant posts elsewhere on his blog. I really like his use of revenue graphics and screenshots, as well as the simplicity of bulleted lists.
Nathan’s review sections include:
- Locations Visited
- The Best Decision I Made All Year
- What Went Well
- What Did Not Go Well
- Goals for 2017
- Location: Norfolk, Virginia, USA
- Freelance designer and prolific writer on doubleyourfreelancing.com
- 2016 Year In Review
Brennan has been sharing his Year In Review since 2012.
His review includes:
- Key Takeaways of the year
- A Brief History
- A detailed summary
- Key experiences with screenshots of the relevant data including
- Total Subscribers
- subscriber behavior
- A Vimeo video
The variety of media (screenshots, Tweets, graphics, photos, videos) is easy to understand.
Austin L. Church
- Location: Knoxville, TN, USA
- Entrepreneur, writer & expert travel hacker
- Co-founder of marketing consultancy Wunderbar
- Let It Go (2016 Year in Review)
I really like Austin’s quote to describe the importance of making your review public:
“There is something cathartic about admitting one’s fears and mistakes in front of a large group of people. No longer trapped in our minds or hidden in our hearts, they lose their power over us.”
Austin starts by saying he was inspired by Michael Hyatt’s mini-course Best Year Ever. His style is very conversational; each section is a statement that he’s learned. For example:
- “I get frustrated with myself.”
- “We need one another.”
- “We can change.”
He then provides a bullet list of “What went well this year,” and a shorter list of “What didn’t go well this year.”
That’s it. Short and sweet.
Heath and Alyssa Padgett
- Location: originally from Denton, Texas, USA
- Hosts of The RV Entrepreneur Podcast, a weekly podcast for nomadic entrepreneurs
- 2016 Year End Review (written by Heath)
- Reflecting on What Went (and What Didn’t) in 2017
Heath and Alyssa are a fascinating couple who decided to travel the United States in their recreational vehicle (RV). They share their adventures, mishaps, and discoveries on their blog, podcast, and Alyssa’s book A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV.
Alyssa is the primary author of the Year In Review. She includes Major Highlights, Personal Highlights, Things That Went Well, Things That Didn’t Go Well, and a final summary. I enjoyed the many pictures of their adventures, and a very easy-to-read style of writing.
- Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA
- Author, Speaker, Digital Nomad, and Host of The Art of Adventure Podcast
- 2016 Year In Review
Achievements and what went well in 2016 (Work, adventure, physical, spiritual, financial, relationships, emotional), Bucket List Items Achieved, What did not go well in 2016.
- Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
- Writer, speaker, productivity strategist, and Founder of Productivityist
- My 2015 Year in Review (and How a Journal Made It Easy to Do)
Mike used a month-by-month format, with a bullet-point list for each. While not my favorite format for a review, Mike is still able to convey the ups and downs of his year. Mike ends with Planning Ahead For Success and mentions his Three Words (read it here).
The “Three Words” concept was started in 2006 by Chris Brogan, who has been selecting 3 inspiring key words at the beginning of every year. The idea is that those words will be a subconscious reminder to focus on your goals for success.
Chris is the co-founder of Owner Media Group and is based in northern Massachusetts.
Read his #mythreewords post here). #3words
- Location: San Diego, California, USA
- Founder of DIY Video Guy and Caleb Wojcik Films
- Co-founder of Fizzle (see #11 below)
- 2015 Year in Review
Caleb shares very heartfelt and detailed recaps, spanning from 2011 to 2015. I really appreciated his transparency when discussing his wife’s cancer treatments, and how that affected him personally and professionally.
His sections include:
- A brief synopsis of the previous four years (with links to those annual reviews)
- What Went Well? (with eight sub-points)
- What Didn’t Go Well? (with eight sub-points)
- Stats & Metrics
- Revenue, Expenses, & Net Profit (with screenshots and graphs)
- What Am I Working Toward?
- Ending with a final farewell to a friend who passed away that year
Although Caleb’s last update was in 2015, I contacted him to find out if he will be publishing one for 2017—and he said that, yes, he does plan to share one this year. So I’ll be on the lookout for it.
- Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
- Father, teacher, entrepreneur
- Founder of Hustle & Heart: Honest Business Advice for Dads
- Founder of Photo MBA: Honest Business Advice for Photographers
- Host of Entrepreneurs and Coffee Podcast).
Brendan published an awesome 2-part review in 2015: Looking Back, and Looking Forward.
The first post is Looking Back (2015 Annual Review: Looking Forward to 2016 (The Calm Before the Storm).
The basic format includes a simple 2-question review:
- What Went Well This Year
- What Didn’t Go Well This Year
The other part he published is called Looking Forward (Annual Review 2015: Lessons in Hustle and Heart).
- A Few Goals for Next Year: “Hustle” Edition
- Writing Goals
- Business Goals
- Career Goals
- A Few Goals for Next Year: “Heart” Edition
- Family Goals
- Health Goals
The distribution between Hustle (business & career) and Heart (family and health) is really interesting. I really enjoyed the variety of pictures Brendan included of his family, important events, and business endeavors. He also dives deep into difficult decisions he’s had to make. And he mentions the books he’s read (which is always fun to read).
I also liked the Looking Back/Looking Forward dual format. A majority o f Year In Review authors don’t spend a lot of time discussing their plans for the next year.
Brendan published a Looking Back version in 2016, but I couldn’t find a Looking Forward version. Hopefully he shares an update this year!
- Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
- Director of Marketing at ConvertKit, author at Fizzle and at barrettbrooks.com
- 2015 in Review and Looking Ahead to 2016
Barrett shared a very raw and easy-to-read post about his year with a look back/look forward perspective (read it here).
The sections include:
- What Went Well (with a numbered list),
- What Didn’t Go So Well
- What do I want to change next year?
- A very brief look at the coming year.
I didn’t see a 2016 review for Barrett but hope he publishes one again soon.
(Hsu is pronounced “shoe”)
- Location: Jacksonville, Florida, USA
- App developer, author, serial entrepreneur, and Founder of the Get Busy Living website and podcast
- 2014 Year In Review
Benny published a Year In Review for 2014. The sections include What Went Well (Travel, business growth, podcast, interviews), What Didn’t Go So Well (writing, podcasting, health, distractions). He ends with “What’s next for [year]?”
At the end of 2016, Benny published a podcast called Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions.
He also shared a fantastic FREE Year In Review worksheet that I highly recommend.
- Location: Miami, Florida, USA
- Comedian extraordinaire
- Dave Barry’s Year in Review: 2016 — What the… ?
Dave is a well-known hilarious author. He publishes an annual Year In Review in the Miami Herald to bring some levity to the ridiculousness of modern culture. It’s not so much Dave’s own evaluation of HIS past year, more like that of the United States culture.
You’ll find his 2016 post here. He shares a hilarious conversational style, along with a monthly blow-by-blow of what has transpired in popular news.
I can’t wait to hear how Dave will describe 2017.
- Location: Virtual company; staff in Portland, Oregon and Chicago, Illinois, USA
- What they do: Membership-based online business training for entrepreneurs
- The End of Year Review and Planning Process Every Small Business and Online Entrepreneur Should Follow
Their End of Year Review and Planning Process was written by Barrett Brooks (see #10 above). I like this post because it’s not only a fantastic evaluation of their own company, but also provides practical suggestions on using data points to extract even more value.
In this post, Barrett recommends breaking up your evaluation process into two steps.
Part 1: The Review
- What was my body of work this year?
- How did my body of work perform this year?
- What are the most popular things I made?
- Which pieces am I most proud of?
- What did I spend the most time making?
- How did they compare in net profit?
- Review the data with metrics
- number of customers
- total revenue
- monthly growth rate
- unique website visitors
- total e-mail subscribers
- conversion rate, etc.
- List your body of work. Write out all business activities including:
- blogs, podcasts, and articles published
- courses and training developed
- office hours
- customer support
Part 2: The Plan
- Review and update your Vision, Mission, and Values statements
- Identify the Ideal Customer you serve
- Visualize your body of work from the past 5 years.
- What do you hope to have created?
- Which new things have you produced? List these in order of importance.
- Ask 3 Questions for next year:
- What are my 3 strategic priorities, and how will I measure the success of each?
- Which ongoing work and projects will help me reach my target goals?
- List all work tasks and projects from the past 5 years; What needs to change or be discontinued?
- Select which tasks you will achieve in the first quarter of the year (January, February, and March).
Here are the highlights:
- Take inventory of everything you made this year.
- Make a list of what did/didn’t go well.
- Decide who you make things for.
Who benefits most from your services? Why do you want to help them? These are really soul-searching questions that need to be asked.
- Put together a vision statement for next year.
The year-end review is a great opportunity to check your company’s vision and adjust it if needed. Plus, you can choose a word or phrase (or 3 words) specific to this next year.
I’m really impressed by the depth of these two resources and highly recommend you check out Fizzle’s website.
- Location: their “Galactic HQ” is in New York City, New York, USA
- What they do: “Workspace, community, and services for a global network of creators”
- Mission: “To create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living”
- 2016 Year In Review
WeWork posted a review of their company’s accomplishments that included the list of new countries and new cities where they have a presence, number of new members, innovations, and what inspires them.
In my opinion, this review focused too much on the positives and not on any failures or lessons learned.
I’m hopeful their 2017 review is a bit more transparent and raw. Reading the accomplishments and successes is fine, but learning from the not-so-fun experiences is ten times more interesting.
- Location: New York City, New York, USA
- Guitar expert, performer, and workshop instructor at Study With Adam
- 2016 in Review: An Honest and Transparent Look at My Successes & Failures This Past Year
In his yearly review, Adam is very open about the goals he achieves and those he fails to achieve. He even vows to donate money to charity for all missed goals (with screenshots of the receipt!). Here are some other interesting aspects of his review:
- Overall summary
- What went well and where things could have been better
- Vitals, Numbers, and Statistics
- Videos relating to the year’s events
- Takeaways and solutions (what he learned)
- Commitmentsfor the next year
Thanksgiving Coffee Co.
- Location: Fort Bragg, California, USA
- What they do: Craftsman coffee roasting
- Mission: “Artisan roasted coffee since 1972, Thanksgiving strives for sustainability through Fair Trade, organic, shade grown farming.”
- Motto: “Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup.”
- 2016 Year In Review
I really enjoyed the depth of this review. Not only did it provide a significant amount of data, there was also an obvious sense of connection to their growers, suppliers, and the consumers who buy the final product.
Here are the sections in Thanksgiving Coffee Company’s year in review:
- New coffees
- Volunteer hours worked
- Pounds donated
- Past and upcoming Events
- Location: Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada
- Developer, Podcaster at Apply Filters, and designer
- 2014 Year In Review
Although Brad’s last update was back in 2014, the elements he includes are worth taking a look at.
Here is what he included in the yearly overview:
- Professionally (graphs with growth, website traffic, blog content; how I hope to do better)
- Conferences (how many attended, which ones, lessons learned)
- Personally (health, trips, sports, books read, podcasts listened to)
- Past Year Goal Checkup
- Professional Goals for Next Year (numbered)
- Personal Goalsfor Next Year (numbered)
- Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
- Founded by Brad Touesnard (see above)
- Developer of WP Migrate DB Pro
- 2016 Year In Review
This review is of the Delicious Brains company; it was written by Brad Touesnard (whose personal Year In Review is #17 above). I really like the simplicity and readability, as well as the refreshing use of actual numbers.
Here are the elements included in it:
- Revenue % growth (and graphic chart)
- Conferences attended
- Books Read
- Goal Checkup
- Last year’s 6 goals
- How we did
- Goals for Next Year (numbered 1 to 11)
Let’s take a break here and talk about something that may be quite obvious by now.
Year In Review Authors: Where are the Women?
As you may have noticed, so far this list is composed entirely of males (other than Alyssa Padgett).
Why is this?
Well, I had a really, really difficult time finding Year In Review posts written by females. After a lot of searching high and low, here are some gems I finally discovered.
- Location: Phoenix, Arizona, USA
- Freelance journalist, investigative reporter, and Founder of Yael Writes
- My 2016 Year In Review
Inspired by Chris Guillebeau, Yael has been publishing an annual review since 2010. I found her style to be very open and inviting, which is a welcome change from the more aggressive style of other writers.
Yael includes the basics:
- What went well. The format is interesting; Yael describes her “wins” under 3 categories. For this year, she picked Joyful, Organized, and Whole.
- What went badly. I really enjoyed hearing the “not-so-nice” details and felt very inspired by her story.
- Looking Forward to Next Year. Yael didn’t just keep her update self-focused; she also shares helpful tips and recommendations.
- Location: Austin, Texas, USA
- Certified Public Accountant at a Big Four firm
- Adventurer and writer at Everyday Accounts
- 2016 in Review
Emily shared a visually inspiring update about her personal and professional life. She included lots of pictures about her adventures in a month-by-month format, with links to the locations she’s visited.
- Location: Berlin, Germany
- Author of “A Curated Closet”
- Your Year In Review: 50 Questions to Help You Reflect, Appreciate and Get Excited for 2017
Anuschka published a very simple list of suggestions to evaluate your year and plan for the future. I really enjoyed the thought-provoking questions, as well as the fact that it’s easy to download and print.
- Location: Wilton, Connecticut, USA
- Personal growth coach, writer, TEDx speaker, and founder of Ellia Communications and The Amazing Career Project
- Your Year in Review: 21 Questions To Ask Yourself Before The New Year
Kathy wrote this excellent self-evaluation article that includes:
- What worked best
- What was hardest
- What to amplify
- What to remove
- Top priorities
- Vision of future self
Although this is not Kathy’s own Year In Review, the questions she shares are excellent.
Classy Career Girl
- Location: San Diego, California, USA
- An e-learning platform for women in career transition and one of Forbes’ top 35 most influential career sites
- Founded by Anna Runyan, entrepreneur, instructor, and international speaker
- 2017 Year in Review At Classy Career Girl (which is already published as of mid-December!)
Anna uses a month-by-month review in her annual company review. She details the events that happened, achievements, and big wins for the year.
I really like her in-depth perspective about how she runs a fast-growing service business.
- Location: Fort Worth, Texas, USA
- WordPress developer
- Founder of thefearlessfreelancer.com
- Podcaster at officehours.fm
- 2016: My Business Year in Review
Carrie has shared a Year In Review since 2011, and I am really inspired by the way she writes. Here are the sections in her review:
- Carrie starts with a review of last year’s goals, including some detail about how each one succeeded and/or failed.
- “Looking forward to next year” has two sub-sections: Consulting and Educating (the core aspects of her business).
- She ends with “Some final thoughts” as a summary of what she plans to focus on in the coming year.
Omoju Miller, PhD
- Location: San Francisco, California, USA
- Data scientist with Github, educator, and startup advisor.
- 2016 Year In Review
Omoju is a fascinating person. She is a data scientist, innovator, has a PhD in Computer Science and Education, and writes about culture and technology.
I really enjoy her writing style; it’s smooth and simple. Omoju’s Year In Review starts with a section called “Highlights of the Past Year,” which includes a single line:
- “I kicked the year off with hosting a Nigerian’s women in tech dinner at Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria.”
- “I wrote 11 blog articles on the omojumiller.com blog.”
- “I transitioned into a career in Data Science.”
Omoju also lists all of the 19 books she’d read, which I always enjoy.
Megan Minns King
- Location: Houston, Texas, USA
- Productivity and Systems Strategist
- Podcaster at The Femtrepreneur Show
- Year In Review 2016: 7 Life and Business Lessons Learned in 2016
Megan does an interesting twist on the typical format by including a video (Year In Review 2016: 7 Life and Business Lessons), as well as the transcript broken into seven separate Lessons. For example, Lesson #1: Practice Gratitude; Lesson #4: Mindset is the Foundation.
The only downside to this method is that it’s difficult to identify Megan’s “successes” and “failures,” because they get buried in the text. That could just be a style preference. But otherwise, I like her writing style and the way she weaves her business lessons into the post.
- Location: Monrovia, Liberia (Africa), with pop-up shops in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
- What they do: “African fashion wonderland that produces ethically made, high quality, medium cost garments for global export.”
- Mission: Support and provide self-sufficiency tools to Liberians who have had a difficult time finding their professional footing.
- A Year In Review
This company’s back story is incredible. It was founded by Archel Bernard, who moved to Liberia after graduating from Georgia Tech in Atlanta. She started the boutique Mango Rags in 2013 and transitioned it into a clothing design and production company through a super successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016. Archel “specializes in dreaming up contemporary African clothing, training disadvantaged women to sew her designs, and empowering the women to become self-sufficient” (About page).
The Bombchel Factory Year In Review is brief, but it packs a punch. It includes
- What worked (“Kickstarter!” “Telling our stories!”)
- What didn’t
- What’s up for next year?
As you can see from Bombchel Factory’s example, one big benefit of publishing a Year In Review is the ability to give a heads-up about what is coming in the next year.
- Location: Shaw area, Washington, D.C., USA
- Women’s specialty boutique focusing on emerging designers, eco fashions, and prints
- 2016: A Year In Review
This boutique, called Lettie Gooch, was founded by Theresa Watts in 2006. Their annual review is really interesting, because it combines events with celebrations and accomplishments. The format is a “top 5 favorite moments of the past year,” which includes:
- Events they hosted like Girls Can Do and Small Business Saturday
- News features (Fox 5 News and the New York Times travel section!)
- Their 10-year anniversary
Although brief, Lettie Gooch’s focus on looking to the future and including a lot of fun photos made it very enjoyable to read.
- Location: West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA
- Holistic Logo and Brand Designer
- What she does: “I help creative small businesses bring their brands to life.”
- 2016: Year in Review
Melissa’s post provides a variety of categories and graphs to encapsulate her past year. I really enjoyed the visual references sprinkled throughout.
Here are the sections she included:
- Looking Back at Last Year (My Big Leaps)
- The Numbers
- articles, subscribers, design inquiries, new branding clients, total clients, total projects, cups of coffee, yoga, sessions, new puppy
- The Work (images of her logo and design work)
- Last Year’s Clients
Here, she uses pie chart images for these categories:
- Client types (new, existing, collaboration)
- How they found me (Referrals, Pinterest, Know me personally)
- Goals and Plans for Next Year
New Beginnings Chiropractic
- Location: Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, USA
- Prenatal and pediatric chiropractic services
- 2016 Wrap Up & 2017 Changes & Events
- Year In Review: Top 5 In 2016
This chiropractic office is owned by Brenda Trudell, DC. They share a unique 2-part review with a Wrap Up of the past year, and a Top 5 List.
The “Wrap Up, Changes, & Events” post is basically a reminder of useful services they offer, packages & discounts to take advantage of, and a reminder about insurance changes.
I do like how many of these points is linked to a corresponding article or page. This makes it easy to find more information and take the next step.
The second part is called Top 5 in the past year. This includes:
- Ways their organization gave back to the community
- Passions and commitments
- Record Number of patients seen
- New workshops planned
- 9th anniversary announcement
In addition, the bottom of the document includes an extra section in which they share:
- A thank-you message to patients and supporters
- Their company vision
- The annual theme of the past year
- Changes to expect in the coming year
- A special gift offer
The focus of these two posts is definitely on current and potential patients, which is a refreshing change from a more egocentric perspective typical of most Years In Review.
Lastly, I am featuring another chiropractor who happens to be in Wisconsin (which happened totally by chance, honest!).
Miller’s Sports & Wellness Chiropractic
- Location: Greenfield, Wisconsin, USA
- Chiropractic services
- What they do: “MSWC partners with you to achieve your health goals; whether its reducing pain, preventing injury or striving for optimal health, let us help you in ‘Getting to the Root of the Problem.’”
- Year in Review
Therese Miller, DC is the Owner of this chiropractic center. Their annual review serves a few purposes:
- Announce changes (adding new staff and launching new programs)
- Discuss the challenges they faced in the past year
- Summarize the main events that occurred
What I like most about this month-by-month post is that they selected just four months (out of twelve). For each month, they provided a short explanation and a list of “Key Points.”
Now that you’ve read about these fantastic examples of a Year In Review, I hope you’ll feel more prepared to complete one for your business (or even personally).
Have you authored (or discovered) a great Year In Review (YIR)? Leave a comment with the link, or let me know so I can feature it in an upcoming post!
If you are a business owner who feels frustrated about planning for the future, let’s talk. Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.