Are you a pack rat or a thrower outer? The two terms, though they are as undignified as they come, must certainly be indicative of two basic personality types. Willing to let go of the past? Not so much? During a recent slow summer day that demanded more mobility than creativity, I was moved to clean out my office bookcase. Now, even though I’ll admit I err more on the side of pack rat (who knows, we might need to know who purchased what in 2012!), I kept stopping the piling up of papers, categorizing, shredding, sorting to do some actual, well, thinking. And I have to say, the concept of stopping, even for a day, to look over past records might just be worth the time.
You don’t necessarily need to physically move notebooks, papers and 3-ring binders. In fact, most of you probably maintain your records electronically. But you still can accomplish the same stroll down memory lane. And it’s amazing what you can learn from the past! In fact, I guarantee, if you commit to an office “clean up” going back at least five years, that you will end the process with at least one great, new idea.
Look at the projects you did in the past. What worked and what didn’t? Which were heavy on margin, and which barely squeaked by? Was there a market sector that seemed to bring recurring business? Any customers who were so enthusiastic that they deserve a hey-how-are-you phone call? It’s never too late to look at what you have accomplished, in terms of what you can learn from it and affect the future. Open some files, if you physically don’t have the printed versions, and start analyzing. Here are some bullet points to help you take aim:
- What sector or customer category seems to pop up the most?
- Which jobs brought you the most satisfaction and/or revenue?
- Was there an advertising program that you tried? What worked and what didn’t?
- Is there any follow-up needed in order to insure the best results possible?
- Where might you find some repeat business?
- Did any customers present specific challenges that you couldn’t solve then, but are able to now?
Sure, the past is the past, and storage space, whether it is bookshelf or hard drive, is at a premium. But utilize the time spent cleaning to analyze, learn and increase or improve your business.