With the arrival of a new year, we often become very reflective.

We spend time thinking about what we’re grateful for, what we’ve been inspired by, and how we can improve ourselves in the upcoming year, both in body and mind.

With this period of reflection, it’s a good idea to take a look at what worked—and what didn’t—for your business in 2015. Where did you spend too much energy, and where did you not spend enough?

I asked the entrepreneurs of the YEC to share with me their biggest takeaways for their businesses from 2015, and what lessons they learned.

What lesson did you learn about starting or running your business in 2015? Leave me a comment below, or let us know @Bplans on Twitter!

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9 lessons learned from 2015:

Lesson #1: Use customer feedback as an engagement metric

You probably have at least one way of measuring how engaged your customers are—but do you seek out their feedback as a way of increasing engagement?

“It’s only been a few months since introducing email marketing workflows aimed at increasing consumer feedback, so many changes are still in development,” says Manpreet Singh of TalkLocal. “Yet, by increasing that basic engagement metric, we’ve seen engagement increase overall.”

“Who knew that consumers are more likely to engage again if a company takes a genuine interest in what they have to say?” he jokes.

Lesson #2: Vet vendors extensively

“Our biggest pain point this year has been allying with several vendors who failed to live up to their promises,” says Afif Khoury of SOCi, Inc. “Even though vendors and third parties are easy to terminate, we ended up wasting a significant amount of money—and more importantly, time—working with the wrong vendors.”  

Afif’s lesson learned? Spend more time vetting vendors beforehand, as it can save you time and money down the road.

Lesson #3: Focus on delivery

Having the best strategy or the most enjoyable company culture only goes so far—ultimately, it’s important that your business can deliver. In fact, Andy Karuza of Spot Survey would argue that it’s “the only thing that matters.”

“If there is one thing that matters in business, it’s that you’re reliable,” he says. “You need to be relentless with your drive to deliver on your promises.”

If your business is falling short, it might be a good time to reevaluate what you hope to deliver to your customers, and either refine your message, or step your game up.

He adds: “At the end of the day, people want to buy results, so be the guy who sells those results.”

Lesson #4: Reduce inefficiencies without burdening employees

Taking advantage of new technological trends may be a great way to usher in the new year. We covered some of our favorite new trends for 2016, and we’re not the only ones looking forward to trying new tech.  

“The goal is to keep our staff happy while increasing productivity,” says Kristy Knichel of Knichel Logistics, who will be focusing on how she can leverage new tech in her business, in a way that benefits her employees.

“Our industry is increasingly competitive, so in order for us to grow in a scalable manner, we need to reduce internal inefficiencies,” she says. “After a successful 2015, our plan of attack for 2016 is to leverage our new technological acquisitions by making those platforms work better for our employees.”

Lesson #5: Hone in on your true purpose

In 2015, Jere Simpson of KITEWIRE INC decided to be more selective.

“We stopped reaching our hands out to anyone that would throw some coins our way,” he said.

While this may seem like a bold, risky move, it paid off. “We spent time better crafting our purpose and made sure it was something all current and future employees could get behind,” he says. “The result? Our best year on record.”

Lesson #6: Hire more employees than you think you need

“Don’t be conservative with the number of people you hire,” recommends Ayelet Noff of Blonde 2.0.

If you’re worried that this will leave you with the proverbial excess of mouths to feed, Ayelet believes you’ll find that this isn’t an issue.

“Turnover in today’s world is high. People no longer stay at a job for 30 years. You’re lucky if they stick with you for three,” she says.

Her advice? Hire more, and you won’t be left wanting. “If you plan to grow rapidly, always be prepared for a situation where people will leave,” she says. “Hire more than you think you need. It’s better to have a few extra hands than be left with only a few that limit you from growing.”

Lesson #7: Grow and deepen your network

Is your goal for 2016 to improve your networking skills?

While that’s a great goal, Matthew Capala of Alphametic spent 2015 learning about the value of getting deeper into his existing network, rather than growing a new one.

“With the limited time we have, I’ve learned to stay focused on deepening my relationships with the people I already know before adding more to my business network,” he says.

His advice? “Take a meeting with someone you already know instead of going to a networking event where you don’t know anybody.” This way, you can build a smaller set of stronger connections, rather than a large network of people you really don’t know all that well.

Lesson #8: Remove negativity

In 2016, let go of any negativity surrounding your business. “Negativity is like a cancer to your team and business,” says Megan Armstrong of Dogma Training & Pet Services, Inc. “Negative people or clients rarely change, so this past year, I learned to remove them sooner.”

How did Megan’s business improve as a result of her elimination of negative clients and business associates? “[Negativity] becomes easier to identify, and your time is better spent on the positive aspects of your business,” she says. “The rewards are immeasurable as you spend more time on the things that matter, experience less stress, and create a better atmosphere for your team.”

Lesson #9: Embrace the crazy adventure

“This year, I’ve learned that no matter how high the highs are (or how low the lows feel), they will pass,” says Alexandra Skey of Rallyon. “You will always move out of the period you are in, and having people you can lean on through this process is essential.”

What has 2015 taught her about weathering the storm?

“I’ve become OK with sharing that everything isn’t always perfect and realized that there are always people who are willing to help,” she says. “Starting a company is an adventure.”

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Briana Morgaine
Briana Morgaine

Briana is the content marketing specialist for Bplans. She enjoys discussing marketing, social media, and the pros and cons of the Oxford comma. Bri is a resident of Portland, Oregon, and can be found working remotely from a variety of local coffee shops. She can also be found, infrequently, on Twitter.