My 2020 Business Year In Review (a Year Late)

It has taken me 14 months to finally take stock of what took place in my business. As with many owners, 2020 did not deliver the outcomes I was expecting.

The idea of re-living those disappointments felt so painful… that I decided to delay the Year In Review process until now.

As uncomfortable as it is, I have found that the discipline of doing a Year In Review— looking back at what happened, what went well and didn’t, and how to adjust— yields a lot of growth, even if the process happens months or years later. I want to share the ups and downs of my business with you for 3 reasons:

  • To demonstrate the power of the Year In Review and what it can do to create better outcomes.
  • To increase your awareness of the mechanisms that go into planning the next year.
  • To inspire you to use this tool for yourself.

If you’re not sure how to use this method, check out these resources:

My Past Year Wasn’t Great; Should I Still Do a Year In Review?
How to Do a Year In Review
5 Reasons to Share a “Year In Review” of Your Business
31 “Year In Review” Examples to Inspire You
What to Do If Your “Year In Review” is a Disappointment

You can also read these past reviews of my business from 2019, 2018, and 2017:

year in review, past year, analyze year, annual review, review of year, year-end review, end-of-year review, yearly review, yearly evaluation, year-end evaluation, annual review, annual evaluation, retrospective evaluation, 2019 review, 2019 year in reviewMy 2019 Business Year In Review

Year in review, review of year, year-end review, end-of-year review, yearly review, yearly evaluation, year-end evaluation, annual review, annual evaluation, retrospective evaluation, 2018 review, 2018 year in reviewMy 2018 Business Year In Review

Year in review, review of year, year-end review, end-of-year review, yearly review, yearly evaluation, year-end evaluation, annual review, annual evaluation, retrospective evaluation2017 My Business Year In Review

In the 4th installment of my business “Year In Review,” I’ll be sharing how things went for LaConte Consulting in 2020 and what I adjusted for 2021.

What Happened

The year started out with a lot of excitement. I was anticipating more client work and collaborations, making new connections in my community, and networking with several groups.

  • In Q1, I was volunteering in several associations, non-profit groups, and other opportunities. A number of consulting projects were also in the works.
  • In mid-March 2020, our world changed. We no longer had in-person interactions and switched to virtual meetings and phone calls. My children switched to remote learning for the next 2 years, which placed a lot more responsibilities on my shoulders. Both of these changes affected my business model, and I had trouble adjusting before the end of the year.
  • Several projects were placed on hold due to COVID lockdowns and clients’ changes due to their business needs fluctuating.

What Went Well (Wins)

Business

Despite the changes and disappointments in 2020, several great outcomes happened.

  • I connected with members of my community and learned to be more effective in supporting them through virtual meetings and on phone calls.
  • I launched lactationlaws.com (no longer visible) to educate the public about laws that protect employees with lactation needs, especially in Washington State. (Project was discontinued)
  • Also planned the pre-launch of a non-profit organization called Working Moms Today, which was designed to provide information, support, and advocacy for working parents and employers related to lactation and infant accommodation in the workplace. (Project was discontinued)
  • Involved with the Clark County Breastfeeding Coalition and helped with marketing strategy and on the planning team for a fall symposium.
  • In July, I began to feel like I was failing as a consultant. While searching for podcasts, I stumbled across the Everything Business Consulting podcast. The folks at ConsultX invited me to learn more about their system, and that conversation led to an amazing opportunity to collaborate with them and provide training and support to users here in the US.
    Here is an interview from October 2021 that explains how it has elevated my consulting method.
cover image for Everything Business Consulting Podcast episode 66
Everything Business Consulting Podcast episode 66: “I wanted to be in business for myself” with Grace LaConte

The ConsultX training really opened my eyes to the reason why consulting exists, what business owners really need, why partnering with clients is much better than working on individual projects, and how this approach allows business owners to achieve long-term success.

I combined these ideas from ConsultX with my own experiences in serving clients and realized that most consultants make a lot of mistakes serving clients, and as a result can create a lot of damage (even if it’s not intentional). I changed my approach to client work and now use a streamlined and sustainable model by partnering with my clients for the long-term—something that had never occurred to me before using the ConsultX system.

  • Toward the end of 2020, I started to focus on accountants and bookkeepers who want to improve their business clients’ profit and growth, which provided a foundation for increased client work in 2021.
  • I also adjusted my expectations and decided to not be so hard on myself about the disappointments, loss of business opportunities, and lack of visible growth due to cancellations and delays.

Personal

In my personal life, 2020 was extremely challenging but also brought unexpected happiness.

  • My children transitioned to 100% remote learning, which I managed daily.
  • We slowed down. I learned to manage my expectations and not be so hard on myself with the lack of in-person interaction. I decided to connect with a small group of close friends, and we supported each other through several tragedies of business losses, illnesses, and death in our circles.
  • My family became a lot closer due to the lockdowns. We spent time playing board games, cooking meals together, and getting to know each other in a way that wasn’t possible before.
  • I also learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of accomplishing. I decided to be grateful for many blessings, even in a difficult season.

Statistics

Website

Podcast

Launched the What’s Wrong with Your Business? Podcast and published 14 episodes (April to July 2020)

"What's Wrong with Your Business" podcast with Grace LaConte navy background with red words and photo
“What’s Wrong with Your Business” Podcast

Interviews

Books

Finished reading 11 books (8 non-fiction, 3 fiction)

What Did Not Go Well (Failures)

Business

  • My company served fewer clients and had a steep decrease in business revenue compared to any previous year.
  • After March, I was not able to meet with any prospects or clients in person.
  • Several opportunities did not pan out, including:
    • Strategy consulting project with a major healthcare system
    • Marketing strategy consulting project with a long-term care facility
    • Business collaborations with 5 professionals
    • Non-profit organization (Working Moms Today) and informational website (LactationLaws.com) were both discontinued.

By summer, all of these projects were discarded since it became clear that lockdowns and social distancing would remain in place for the duration of the year.

  • Departed from 3 organizations (Clark County Breastfeeding Coalition, a school organization, and a business planning group)
  • Launched a LinkedIn networking group and connected with several dozen local business owners. Unfortunately, the group’s co-founder stopped being involved in the group shortly after it started, and the group disbanded several weeks later.

Personal

  • Spent too much time planning and not enough time taking action to reach my goals.
  • Felt personally responsible for not having a profitable year.
  • Didn’t relax and “smell the roses” as much as I’d liked.
  • Felt trapped while in lockdown.

Lessons Learned

  1. A pandemic really helps you prioritize what is most important: other people, experiences, and enjoying the simple things in life.
  2. This year humbled me. I learned to empathize deeply with business owners who don’t know what to do when a crisis happens. This year I realized that even if you try your best, sometimes the worst happens and it can be painful to pick yourself up and feel like you still have value. Not having the resources or opportunities to make money can feel very demoralizing.
  3. I also learned that networking is important, but developing relationships and showing genuine care about other people is much more effective. While it’s normal to want to build your business, that aggression can feel inauthentic, and often it leads prospects to resist the conversation. My prospecting approach has changed from a sales focus to a people focus.
  4. Even with the challenges, I hoped the year would end with success; and when it didn’t, I was not confident enough to “gut the fish” and get all the innards out to examine what happened before enjoying that fish steak on the grill. Going back to examine every major decision over the course of a year can take significant time. For me, the Year In Review process takes around 30-40 hours. The length of time depends on how thoroughly you want to examine the events and how much you want to learn from it.
    A year ago, I did not have the emotional capacity to go through this. I also didn’t have a long-term perspective to see that 2021 would bring a lot of growth after an unproductive year. Thankfully, 2021 provided the confidence to see that I truly am a effective business consultant.
  5. I do not judge myself for having delayed last year’s Year In Review, because the benefit of hindsight allowed me to enjoy the blooming flowers after a dry and unpleasant season.
  6. Most importantly, I now empathize deeply with my clients, because we share a deeper understanding of the pain and struggles of failure. I’m now able to approach client problems with more humility and gentleness than I did before.

Review of 2019 Goals

Where were my business outcomes based on last year’s goals?

GOAL 1: NEW SALES TECHNIQUES

This actually did happen, since I developed a cold calling script and approached over 100 new prospective clients with initial conversations, messages, and emails.

GOAL 2: PUBLISH FIRST E-BOOK

This goal did not happen, although I did write more about

GOAL 3: REFRESH SPEAKER PAGE

This was also not a priority goal. When speaking engagements completely dried up, I decided to spend more time reengineering my positioning and processes so I could serve new clients in the next year.

GOAL 4: publish more content

My original goal was to write 50 blog posts (1 post a week). The outcome was 20 posts, as well as 2 videos.

I also worked on a project called the “Violence in Language” list, which is a collection of every term in the English language that uses violence or gore (such as “bite the bullet,” “take a whack at it,” and “that was murder”).

Strategic Growth Sphere Evaluation

I believe that successful business owners need to adjust the growth in 4 directions simultaneously:

  • Profit (Financial)
  • Proficiency (Learning & Development)
  • Processes (Workflow)
  • People (Customers)
strategic planning, strategic growth, strategic growth sphere, growth diagram, organizational growth, balanced ball, balanced scorecard, organizational planning, internal workflow, effective growth
Grace LaConte’s Strategic Growth Sphere

Here is how LaConte Consulting accomplished this in 2020.

PROFIT

Sales and profit were abysmally low, so there was no growth in this area.

Score: Negative

PROFICIENCY

Learning and development did get a boost. I read several great books including SPIN Selling by Neil Rackam and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.

I also listened to nearly every episode of the Everything Business Consulting podcast and completed the ConsultX “Business Success Partner” and “Client Accelerator” training.

Score: Positive

PROCESSES

Workflow definitely improved, and I developed several processes that will roll out next year.

Score: Positive

PEOPLE

My interactions with clients improved after the middle of the year, when I began connecting and reaching out to prospects over the phone.

Score: Positive

Overall Strategic Imbalance: Broken Growth (low profit margins)

Things I’ll Do Differently in 2021

What to Continue

I will schedule meetings with prospective clients, using the ConsultX 3-step model (Discovery call, Diagnostic meeting, and Proposal).

I will also develop sustainable processes to serve client needs and will connect with prospects through a variety of marketing methods.

What to Do Differently (Goals for 2021)

In 2021, I will focus on these things:

Sales

My goal is to increase revenue above pre-COVID levels.

Connect

I want to serve business owners with an annual revenue of $1M to $20M.

Rather than trying to sell aggressively, I will connect with prospects genuinely and respectfully and seek to discuss how their business is going using a conversational approach.

Writing

I will write and share content that connects with my target audience, especially about profitability and marketing techniques that I’ve used myself.

Favorite Quote of 2020

It is always darkest just before the dawn.

Adapted from Thomas Fuller, English theologian and historian (1650)

Word of the Year for 2020

The word that best describes this year is:

Elevate

With challenges at every side and a continuous sense of failure, in 2020 I really questioned whether I was in the right profession. The biggest lesson this year was that we really don’t have as much control as we think. Sometimes the best approach is to sit quietly without trying to force anything to happen. I’ve realized that it’s not important to chase after sales; if a client is the right fit, it will make sense without having to force the conversation.

This year, I also developed a deep respect and appreciation for my clients. I can commiserate with the sacrifice and dedication they pour into their company.

My goal is to elevate what my clients built by identifying potential areas of profit leakage and new ways to generate profit—so they can enjoy the business rather than having it control them.

Final Thoughts

You’ve reached the end of this post; thank you for taking the time to read my Year In Review of 2020 (a year late).

I hope this inspires you to look back at how things have gone in your own company, in your career, or in your personal life. It is not a fun process; but like fishing, you can’t enjoy that delicious pan-fried fish steak unless you scrape all the innards out first. It’s a messy job, but once that part is done you get to really enjoy what comes next.


If you’d like to discuss how your company is doing and how to improve the profit, let’s set up a time to talk. Find out more about our services here.

Grace LaConte is a business strategist, writer, and speaker. She is the founder of LaConte Consulting, which offers guidance for business owners who want to improve their profit, growth, and value. Grace also helps accounting and finance professionals to become top-tier business consultants.

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