Having established why and when even smaller business owners and leaders should conduct Business Reviews, its time we explain the value and practicalities of planning Business Reviews well, rather than just jumping straight into the task.
At this point its really tempting to ask: “can I just buy or copy something off the shelf that will do the job ?” Unfortunately, we know from our own experience that there are no complete, prepackaged Business Review templates available that can do that job on their own, because every business’s circumstances will be unique. Even the best designed assessment tools and processes – such as our own Business Health Check – will need to be supplemented by steps that adequately explore the differing circumstances and needs of that business, eg its Vision and Mission. We will return to this point in our next post in this series.
So before undertaking your Business Review you should invest some time in planning. Here are our tips on what any small business owner or leader needs to focus on at this point:
- Be Strategic: This is not the time to fiddle with internal policies and low level processes, for example. Take a “top down” approach and emphasise those matters that have the greatest potential to deliver broad, positive changes.
- The Big Picture: Leaders need to step back and see the whole scene in one view, not just focus on what they already know best. Research what you may not yet know and challenge the fundamentals that you might currently take for granted.
- Be Fair: Be neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic, and as open minded as possible. Be prepared to question obvious opportunities, and do not dismiss risks without good reason. Build in challenge points and mechanisms, eg by using outside experts who may bring both valuable subject matter expertise and greater objectivity.
- Emphasise the Relevant: The Business Review process should be weighted to focus on the more likely opportunities and risks that are associated with each stage of the business lifecycle, as discussed in our previous post.
- Look Forward: Base your analysis on both current data and reasonable projections. Historical information is only useful in a Business Review when it can help you do better in the future, and looking backwards might even foster complacency.
- Look Outside: Never lose sight of the strategic needs and likely behaviours of customers, competitors, employees, suppliers and regulators. You may not be able to change them significantly, but you should be able to anticipate, mitigate or even capitalise on them.
- Plan to Act: The Business Review should culminate in “challenging but achievable”, concrete steps that can be prioritised and taken quickly to improve the health and value of your business. After all, only born bureaucrats love Business Reviews for their own sake.
- Get it Done ! – the Business Review for a smaller business can and ideally should be completed within one week, with no more than five follow up actions that can be executed within three months.
This is a good point to discuss how long your Business Review planning should take. As a rule, we would counsel that you should spend up to 20% of your allocated time on planning your Business Review process, 60% -70% on analysing information and formulating your findings and needs, and the final 10% to 20% should be devoted to prioritising and scheduling your follow up actions. After all, “thinking” and “doing” go hand in hand in business.
Bearing all of that in mind, it may still be difficult for a smaller business owner or leader to put together a bespoke Business Review process, where they lack the time and / or expertise, and they will probably go to the market to see what they can buy in. In our next post in this series we will explore “Who” can best help smaller business owners and leaders with their Business Reviews.