Stokes: Look Back to Move Forward

Jan. 4, 2022

The key to a better new year.

Welcome to 2022! How’s the year going so far for you? Are things off to the races or are you still ramping up? If you’re anything like me, I tend to start the year in a state of euphoria. The holidays just happened; you were with all your family, you had a lot of fun, ate some good food, the business is quiet and hopefully you’re in a good mood.

Before we get too far into the New Year, now is a great opportunity for you as an owner to go into your office, shut the door, shut off the cell phone, turn on some music, and just chill with your spreadsheets. Look at what you did and how you did and give yourself a pat on the back. Tell yourself, “You know, you did OK. You’re not that bad.:

I think for a lot of us, we've beat ourselves up for a while now, especially after the past two years. Here we are on the other side of 2021, though, and it might be the first time in a while that you have time to reflect and go, “Wow, I’m happy with where we planned to be.”

Then once that kind of happens, you're able to look at your year, look at your spreadsheets and really gauge a lot of the different decisions you made back in March or January. It might be a good time to open up QuickBooks and look into the various decisions you made. Remember when you decided to fire somebody or they quit, how much did it cost you? When you tried this new thing or that new thing, how much did it make you? Really look at the numbers and analyze them.

And as you're studying the numbers, I would even encourage you, if you don't have them in a spreadsheet, take five hours to punch it all in from QuickBooks into a spreadsheet. Don’t do autofill; literally do it yourself. It is crazy what it does to you when you do the work. You think on it so deeply.

You might be asking yourself, “Aaron, why is this necessary?” You need this because we're always looking at the future and at an ideal scenario. We see the sunset is way out there and we're going, “man. I want that.” But as hard as we reach and as fast as we move, we never can catch the sunset.

That’s why this quiet time of year is so special. We have the time to think. When you can sit down and just think, and just marinate in the joy of the new year, you have time to actually review this last year. 

If you can go in with a humble heart and maybe a little skepticism and ask lots of questions, what ends up happening is you discover all sorts of things. You might notice things you missed and need to add. You can review your choices and your decisions. If you moved into a new location, how did it go? Was it the right move? Would I do it again? What did I learn from this? Those are the kinds of decisions you want to make. 

Sit back and stare at it. And then after you’ve marinated in it for a bit, let your imagination wander and just dream. Ask yourself this question: “Wouldn’t it be cool if I did XYZ?” A lot of us don’t allow ourselves to do that and your imagination is going to be set on fire. For a moment, you can sit back and give yourself permission to imagine what it would like to look like to be a more successful version of you. I think that a lot of us can't shut out the noise long enough to do that. That's a powerful, powerful tool.

So, I love to use the end of the year as a way to look back at my past and go, well, is that wise? Was that a good choice? Was it a poor choice? Was I seeing around the corner here or was I making it up and talking myself into it, telling myself a story? 

I really value this time of year as a way to make yourself wiser and bring some constructive criticism to yourself to increase your self-awareness, your intelligence and your business’ potential.

About the Author

Aaron Stokes

A nearly 20-year veteran of the automotive repair industry, Aaron Stokes grew his business, AutoFix, from a one-car garage to a six-shop operation that is widely regarded as one of the top repair businesses in the country. Stokes, the founder of Shop Fix Academy, is an operational guru with a unique business and leadership philosophy that has led his business to great heights.

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