I just finished watching the latest “Mission: Impossible” and I was struck at how similar it seemed to owning a small business – fast-paced action with seemingly impossible tasks to solve every single minute. And guess what? Just like Ethan Hunt, we CHOSE to accept this mission.

For me, it often seems like the tasks and to-do lists are endless. Talk about an impossible mission?!

When one thing is fixed, something else breaks. When one system is put in place, the rules change. Constant motion, constant adjustments. Yes, it is endless. And yet, I often find myself in some sort of insane loop ABSOLUTELY LOVING the chaos and
never-ending pressure… I guess that is exactly why I chose to accept this impossible mission.

Fortunately, every now and then, despite the seemingly endless mayhem, I get a glimpse of hope and I’m re-energized.

Recently, I finished a book called “The Gap and the Gain” by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy. The TL; DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) is this: Often we measure according to what we have left to accomplish (the GAP) rather than measuring all the things we have accomplished (the GAIN.) 

I found that way of thinking to be massively useful as a Business Owner.

It is like climbing a ton of stairs – it can seem never-ending. Maybe even deflating. Imagine an endless struggle of stairs that seemingly goes on forever. Yet, if we allow ourselves to stop for a moment and look behind us, we can see all the progress we have made.

Measuring the gap can contribute to the never-ending lists while measuring the gain can give a perspective of accomplishment, as well as better strategic planning with these annoying never-ending tasks that I thought were so important. This is why I love the new year. It is a natural time to take stock, measure how far you have come, smile at where you are and use that perspective to plan for the upcoming year.

In fact, take a moment right now to acknowledge and celebrate 3 accomplishments and successes of the previous week, month, year (or even 5 years). It may be an increase in revenue, positive customer reviews, the launch of new services/items, enhanced operational efficiencies, staff, or maybe even something you’ve done personally.

These gains are the foundation upon which you can build a stronger future. One key aspect of GAIN thinking is understanding what contributed to these successes. Did you implement a new marketing strategy, hire skilled staff, or invest in better equipment? Recognizing the factors that led to your gains will allow you to replicate and build upon them in the upcoming year. It could be as simple as knowing the cash is getting to the bank or that you have a location to operate. Maybe it’s staff morale or a new training system. How about new products? All of these are gains that can be acknowledged.

I almost don’t want to write what I will do next.  Self-acknowledgement of the gains we have made happens so infrequently, (as entrepreneurs often have the “what’s next” mind-set), so please take sufficient time and energy to appreciate the gains before you move on.

And the next step for my new year is to imagine what I want my dream business to be. What would it look like? How would it FEEL for my customers? How would I feel at the end of each day? THIS is the gap.

After that, I pick four large concepts, critical for my business to be what I envision it to be, to try to tackle for the new year, like customer service, systems, operations, or training. They will function as a guiding light for me for the year. And when I get distracted, in the daily mayhem and chaos, these help to bring my focus back to center.

Years ago, a regional restaurant operator Pals shared their secrets to their phenomenal success. One of them was focusing on FEWER things each year. They had found that a concerted focus on fewer things rather than trying to do several things at once was critical to their culture and long-term success. It may seem counter-intuitive to do less, but I can attest, less is more.

One of Zingerman’s 12 Natural Laws of Business is “It takes longer than you think to make something great happen.” Essentially, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The New Year is a perfect time to get started. And it all begins with looking at your gain.