We all like to see progress. For a business, increased sales revenue, new product launches, new employees and even new carpets or furniture can all create the appearance of progress. The real question is this: Is the business really growing?
Benchmarking has been around for a long time. It’s simply the process of comparison. Companies like to use benchmarks when comparing themselves to other companies. A sales or marketing professional might proudly exclaim; “This month Zany Big Spiral Widgets Corporation just lost three large clients while we increased our Spiral Widgets accounts by six!”
That might sound like a benchmark, but it really isn’t. If Zany Big Spiral Widgets started the month with one-hundred accounts and our business only had a total of twelve, there’s not much point in making that comparison.
Effective benchmarking can produce actionable results if you take the time to benchmark your company against itself. To do this, you’ll want to take a snapshot of your business processes now and again at a future date, say in one to three months. Something like an efficiency assessment, benchmarking your enterprise will highlight the results of your policies and procedures and how they affect your day-to-day business processes, including sales and marketing efforts, employee productivity, customer service quality, spending and your company’s IT services.
Using your company’s computer and IT services as an example. Identify everyday processes that can actually be counted. This list could include not only your website traffic statistics, but your mail server log and your phone log. Where automated logs aren’t possible, prepare a plan for employees to spend the month quantifying ‘events’ that might change their behavior. A few examples:
- How many times do you receive a complaint about not receiving an emailed document?
- How many times did the server ‘go down’ this month?
- How many times were online meetings postponed due to technical difficulties?
- How many times did discovery of a virus or malware result in a loss of productivity?
- How many times were incoming calls routed to an answering system, rather than being answered?
- How many callers hung up before leaving a message?
By monitoring this kind of activity, even for a few weeks, patterns of behavior and deficiencies in policies, practices, and infrastructure will emerge. As business owners, we’re often preoccupied with counting receipts or dollars spent, meeting the day-to-day needs of our customers and staff, but there is an inherent cost to doing so inefficiently.
You may be losing potential new customers simply because your phone system is too complicated for callers. Your server might be clogged with malware, or is too old to meet your current business demands. When you started your business ten years ago, your phone company’s internet connection seemed like a workable solution. It’s quite possible that your business has outgrown its current provider and a more robust and secure connection is required. Malware infested old servers, limited capacity on your local network and on the Internet, all contribute to frustrated clients and employees result in lower productivity and ultimately lost revenue. Gaining competitive advantage is essential to keeping your company in the black. Take the time to benchmark yourself. Get the answers, make decisions. It’s what you do.