The Small Business Owner Performance Review

Nov 3, 2015, Written by Sue Miley

When I worked in the corporate world, I always looked forward to performance reviews…at least I did when I had a boss who actually put time into them.  The kind of time that really focused on some of the details of what was working and what wasn’t. A couple of my bosses really took an interest and helped to develop my skills and my work ethic.

I won’t lie, sometimes my feelings were hurt during these reviews, but they always ended up improving my performance in the future.

As a small business owner, we don’t have an experienced, objective boss or mentor to help guide us for our own good.  Yet, I know that most small business owners want to excel because they have even more at stake than an employee of another person’s business.

Ultimately, we have to develop and evaluate ourselves.

Here is a methodology I have used, especially at this time of year.  When we are getting close to the new year, I go into planning mode.  I like to have a plan and I like to focus my business on a few key initiatives.  At the same time, I want to evaluate my personal efforts and have a few personal development goals in place, too.

The Small Business Owner’s Performance Review

Here are the areas I review for myself:


  • Have I been fully engaged and present with all of my clients this year?
  • Have I been innovative and helped clients with a significant paradigm shift or business adjustment during the year?
  • Have my clients’ businesses achieved their goals and performed well during the year?
  • Have I treated each business as if it was my own?  (Was my heart totally there?)
  • Have we provided the services most needed by our clients and performed our best?

Focus and Clarity:

One of the areas that makes a huge difference in my decision-making and effectiveness as a business coach and business owner is my focus and clarity.  When I am all over the place with my own goals and objectives and I am not disciplined with clients, neither our team nor our clients get my best.

  • Have I stayed focused and disciplined to the plan this year?
  • Have I managed my time well?
  • Have I taken the time to prioritize and focus on the most important things?
  • Have I maintained processes and functions that I previously deemed important? (Have I been consistent?)


Personally, I have kept my team small for years because my time is spent with clients.  Teams need leadership, direction and communication.  However, our team does grow and includes contract people and vendors, as well as employees.

  • Do I have the right people on our team?
  • Have I set them up for success?
  • Do I maintain effective communication with them?
  • Have I focused on their development, if appropriate?
  • Have I engaged, even on difficult matters?


As a business owner it is up to me to continue to educate and develop my skills.

  • Have I continued to practice skills and used learning from prior year professional development?
  • Have I attended conferences or purchased courses to continue my own professional development?
  • Have I set goals to work on specific areas of my work, whether it is technical, leadership, or process-oriented?

Business Performance:

The business performance is the last thing I actually look at in the review.  I believe that the business will do well if we work the right way on the right things.  Obviously, business performance is monitored continuously throughout the year and hopefully if there are any problems, they are addressed way before year-end planning.  This part of the evaluation is more big picture.

  • Did the business achieve the financial objectives of the year?
  • Is the business performance healthy (i.e. Not keeping all of our eggs in one customer basket. Are we retaining clients? Do we see repeat business? Do we have a nice flow of new clients?)
  • Did we stay focused on our core business and maintain our point of difference?
  • Did we spend as wise stewards of the resources God has provided?

This is the main area I look at each year as it pertains to my own personal performance and ongoing development.  I have to do this because I don’t have anyone else asking me these questions.

A Personal Development Plan is the Outcome

Once I complete an honest assessment, I review the results and develop an improvement plan for the following year.  Sometimes the improvement plan is capitalizing on what has been working, sometimes it is improving things that aren’t working.

In the end, I have a plan for the coming year that includes:

  1. One (or two, at most) habit or characteristic I will focus on.  Examples may be: time management, emotional intelligence, being more organized (this is on the list more years than not), or some other work habit.
  2. One or two professional development activities–I have hired coaches, attended conferences, and signed up for workshops.
  3. Several books or online resources I will study.
  4. One or two business changes I will make. (This past year I outsourced my bookkeeping because it took me too long and I don’t like doing it.)

Create Your Own Personal Performance Review

If you are a small business owner, I suggest you set up a similar discipline.  The questions may vary for you but the concept is the same.  If you do not continue to develop, your business may not continue to perform.

Most small business owners are self-starters and, sometimes, even perfectionists.  Chances are you may be harder on yourself than a boss would be.  Some other business owners may want the freedom of not having an evaluation.

All I can say is that your business and team will continue to thrive if you take your own development seriously and if you are honest with yourself about your progress.

Anyway, I plan on going through this review check list in the next few weeks.  I want to challenge you to join me and take the first step to effective planning for the new year.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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