Author Archives: admin

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Company Pulse gold silver or bronze

Which health check is best for my business?

Perhaps you’re about to make an important change in your business: entering a new market or launching a new product line; considering an acquisition or merger; or planning for succession or an exit. Or maybe you know there’s a problem but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Perhaps you just want to take stock of your business and plan for the future. In any event, you think it’s a good time to check the commercial and financial health of your business. But which business health check should you choose?

Obviously, we hope that you’d choose one from Company Pulse. All our business health checks:
• Provide an independent and objective review of your business
• Present our findings in the form of a balanced scorecard
• Use intuitive graphics and charts to highlight relative performance
• Benchmark your business against other businesses of a similar type and size
• Evaluate your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
• Identify areas for improvement and sources of untapped potential
• Help to develop action plans and set priorities for implementation

But we offer three different levels of business health check, so you need to find the right one for your business.

Our Gold and Silver business health checks are all-round business reviews that provide you with a detailed and comprehensive report using our unique PULSE evaluation framework:
People + Processes
Utilisations + Outcomes
Logistics + Infrastructure
Strategy + Finance
Ethos + Relationships

Our Gold business health check is our premium service in which:
• Our experienced advisors will meet your senior management on-site to review your business in-depth, giving you plentiful personal contact time
• We use scenario analysis to review forecast financial performance and highlight a range of potential outcomes
• Our advisors present and discuss our findings in person with your Board
We think our Gold service is most appropriate for more complex businesses, such as those with multiple brands or product categories, or those trading internationally in several territories.

Our Silver business health check has the same scope as our Gold service. The key differences are:
• Only one of our experienced advisors will meet you to review your business
• A simpler review of forecast financial performance
• The presentation and discussion of our findings is via video-conference
A Silver business health check is cheaper and quicker to complete than the Gold and is most appropriate for smaller and/or simpler businesses, typically with a single brand and product category, and probably not (yet) exporting to a significant degree.

Our Bronze business health check is a distinct service that:
• Covers only the financial aspects of your business, notably analysis of the current financial position and forecasts of future financial results
• Includes a review financial planning and controls
• Is conducted exclusively online
A Bronze business health check is the cheapest and quickest to complete and is most appropriate for businesses whose prime concern is their finances.

Of course, if you can’t decide between our business health checks or want to sample our services before you buy, you can always start with our Free Trial Diagnostic!

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Company Pulse business health check

Prevention is better than cure

Most of us recognise that preventative care is cheaper than curative care (or treatment), and more effective than palliative care (which just reduces the impact of symptoms). And not just in medicine, but in many activities. That’s why we have routine services for our cars, planned maintenance for our infrastructure and quality assurance in manufacturing.

It’s the reason why at Company Pulse we offer business health checks as the primary tool for improving the commercial and financial health of businesses. We think that if you want to help a business grow, step up to the next level, or even just survive, you need to know its strengths and weaknesses and how it can use them. One of our business health checks is the first step in understanding business potential, helping the management team think strategically about their business and actively planning its future direction.

The easy option, of course, in not to check your business health. But can you afford not to?

Back in the day, most people thought quality management systems were a nice-to-have that added costs to a business. But Armand V. Feigenbaum (in a 1956 Harvard Business Review article) showed to the contrary, that the costs of NOT taking preventative actions were almost always higher. The cost of quality failures generally far outweighed the costs of prevention. Feigenbaum’s work lead directly to the development Total Quality Management and Six Sigma. He defined four main cost areas (with typically increasing overall cost to the business):

Costs of Control
Prevention (planning, training, process control)
Appraisal (inspection, testing)

Costs of Failure
Internal failure (scrap, rework)
External failure (complaint handing, servicing, warranty, reputation)

A business health check falls under the costs of control, with elements of both prevention and appraisal. Analysis of the business environment is an essential element of strategic planning, and such elements of a business health check are pure prevention, as is the review of business capabilities. Benchmarking business performance comes under appraisal in the quality costs model and will highlight potential deficiencies and areas for improvement.

A Company Pulse business health check is an independent and objective review of your business that should lead to real performance and profitability improvements, enhancing business value and delivering a positive return on investment. And because our business health checks are low cost and fixed-price, the initial investment will probably be less than you expect and almost certainly less than the costs of not taking a precautionary check-up.

Unlike an MOT or filing your accounts, there’s no fixed schedule for checking the health of your business. Best practice is to take regular (say, biennial) health checks of your business. But if you haven’t got into that routine yet, when is a good time to take its pulse? The two main triggers are whenever you are considering major change; and when you know there is a problem, but you’re not exactly sure what it is.

The sorts of major or strategic change in your business, when a prior business health check is advisable, include:
• Entering a new market
• Launching a new product line / category
• Acquiring or merging with another business
• Raising new finance or refinancing existing debt
• A fundamental change to existing business strategy
• Implementing a turnaround
• Succession planning
• Seeking an exit (through selling your business)

If you’re about to embark on one of these potentially risky ventures, a modest investment in a business health check, which should alert you to any hidden problems and steer you towards a better outcome, is likely to be time and money well spent. After all, prevention is better than cure.

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Company Pulse financial planning

What is the correct assumption? Or how to choose a good set of baseline assumptions

In a meeting to review business case projections, the discussion ranged over various assumptions in the financial model and someone asked “But what is the correct assumption?” For those with a background in analysis, this question was an amusing distraction, but it raises an important point – what assumptions should you use in your business forecast?

One of the problems of any forecast is that it reflects the biases of the forecaster. And when you build a financial model of your business you are also making potentially biased structural assumptions about key business drivers. So, even though you’ve constructed a ‘rational’ financial model, it will inevitably be biased and the assumptions potentially unrealistic or inconsistent.

So what should you do to minimise bias? The best approach is to view all assumptions as just that, assumptions, and not facts, and to use sensitivity analysis to refine your understanding.

Sensitivity analysis helps answer the “what happens if…?”questions, such as sales X% down on forecast, payroll inflation up by Y%, or overheads reduced by Z%. A good financial model will have the capability to do this quickly and easily, perhaps with switches for key variables or scenarios.

The main benefits of sensitivity analysis are to evaluate the range of potential outcomes, to understand better the relationships between inputs (assumptions) and outputs; and to test the robustness of the model by revealing potential errors (as highlighted by unexpected, counter-intuitive or non-linear relationships between variables).

If you use sensitivity analysis systematically by adjusting your assumptions incrementally away from a central value, rerunning the model and reviewing the output, you can start to understand which variables are the most important to your business. A more sophisticated version is to use the Monte Carlo method to generate a large number of outputs having randomised each of the key input variables. Ideally you will automate this process and then run the model through a large number of iterations.

However accomplished, reviewing the range of outputs will give you a sense of the most likely outcome, and the potential range around that expected outcome. This process also provides a ‘sense check’ for your baseline assumptions.

There is another useful variant of sensitivity analysis to consider before finalising your baseline assumptions: break-even analysis, which allows you to find the levels for key variables where the model breaks even, for example sales volume, selling price or cost of sales (whilst holding all the other variables at their central assumption). Break-even analysis is a simple and powerful concept, but surprisingly under-used.

So, having reviewed your sensitivities and evaluated the break-even points, you have arrived at a better understanding of your assumptions. You may find that something previously considered insignificant is a critical, or the impact of some variables is reduced by self-correcting mechanisms, others may affect timings but not quanta, and yet others will be much less significant than the received wisdom would have suggested. You should also consider each assumption in the light of the others: are you assumptions mutually consistent? Such insights may provoke further research and debate as you home in on your baseline assumptions.

You will probably have realised by now that there is no such thing as a “correct assumption”. The best you can have is a baseline set of realistic assumptions that are internally consistent. What you do need is a management process: a progressive approach to a better understanding of your assumptions leading to a better forecast of the outcome.

This review process should continue every time you update the model with actual performance. After an update that results in a step change from the original plan, ask yourself “Is this the start of a trend, a blip, or a timing issue?” Keep running sensitivities (especially those suggested by recent actual performance) and, if necessary, update your assumptions. You should converge on an increasingly accurate forecast which, after all, is the goal of your modelling.

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Company Pulse business health check

Start improving the commercial and financial health of your business

The turn of the year is a good time to reflect on past achievements and to plan for the future. For most business people, that means thinking about how to improve the commercial and financial health of their business.

As we’ve discussed previously, a healthy business needs more than just good financial results. The healthiest companies are characterised by strong performance across a range of measures, including sales growth, profitability, balance sheet, employee skills and motivation, supply chain efficiency and customer satisfaction. This all-round fitness allows them to reap sustained, long-term rewards.

Long-term success in business means being better adapted to your environment than your competitors. This requires fitness in the past, present and future – as demonstrated by recent performance; current capabilities; and adaptability and flexibility.

So if you want to take stock of your business and start preparing for a prosperous new year, how should you start? The best way is to see how your business shapes up by taking a business health check.

A Company Pulse business health check uses our unique PULSE evaluation framework: People + Processes; Utilisations + Outcomes; Logistics + Infrastructure; Strategy + Finance; and Ethos + Relationships. We benchmark your business performance using this framework against other businesses of a similar type and size to help you understand your comparative strengths and weaknesses. As good business health derives from a combination of factors, we present our findings in the form of a balanced scorecard showing your benchmarked performance across multiple dimensions. We will also develop with you a prioritised action plan of how to improve the financial and commercial health of your business.

A business health check is the ideal start to improving the commercial and financial health of your business. Once you have established where you are and what you could do to improve, you can start implementing your action plan. And that would be a really rewarding way to start the year.

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Company Pulse business health check

Top tips for financial modelling

Financial models are useful business tools. In our view, they are the only reliable way to quantify a business plan. The model may be of a specific business case, perhaps to evaluate a proposed investment, or of the whole business. Financial models come in all shapes and sizes, including short-term cash forecasts, annual budgets and 5-year business plans.

However, financial models have come in for some bad press, particularly as the essential underpinning of complex financial products. And some financial models quickly fall out of use through being unrealistic, overly complex or too cumbersome to use.

But these negatives shouldn’t put you off financial models – they are very effective in helping you understand your business better, and allowing you to make more informed decisions about strategy, plans and investments.

Here are our ten top tips for business owners in how to build and implement a financial model:

1. Don’t be afraid to take an unconventional view
A financial model doesn’t need to follow your current chart of accounts, although it is advisable to reconcile the model back to your accounts. Businesses often find themselves constrained by current accounting practices, and a financial model is a low-risk way to start realigning the accounts – if you are considering doing something different, your financial model should reflect this.

2. Keep it simple
Models are simplifications of reality. To work efficiently and well, they need to encompass all the relevant factors as straightforwardly as possible. Over-elaboration leads to complexity, opacity and mistakes. Unless you specifically need to evaluate a longer period, limit your model to a maximum of five years.

3. Integrated and commercially-based
Build the model up from commercial activities, so unit sales are based on resources, turnover is based on sales units x price, cost of sales is based on sales units x costs, gross profit is turnover less cost of sales, and so on. Commercial performance should be translated in the profit and loss statement, which is reflected in balance sheet movements which in turn give you cash flows. The four elements: commercials; P&L; balance sheet; and cash flow, should be fully integrated.

4. Model each category separately
Keeping each product category, line of business or territory separate allows you to evaluate differing performance (and in the case of overseas territories, allows you to model exchange rates effectively). Your model should have a single layout that applies to each category, each having its own commercials, P&L, balance sheet and cash flow. These can then be consolidated into a set of whole company views. If you have a number of (relatively) immaterial products or activities, it’s probably best to lump these into ‘Other’ – but be prepared to break out any that are found to be material.

5. Separate logic from numerical assumptions
Hold your numerical assumptions together on one worksheet and label them clearly: these can be single point assumptions (e.g. a discount rate) or variable assumptions, by time (e.g. annual pay increases), product category (e.g. cost inflation) or territory (e.g. distribution costs). Separating the logic from (numerical) assumptions means that assumptions can be changed easily if required – this also makes sensitivity analysis a lot easier.

6. Provide summary output and use charts
The summary output should be boiled down to a few top-level lines shown on an annual basis. It’s easy to drill down into the detail if you need it, but it can be difficult to spot the key messages if too much output is presented. Use charts to illustrate and complement numerical analysis – a dashboard-style usually works well.

7. Ensure easy updating
You should update your model regularly with actual performance, so consider ease of updating at the design stage (even in a one-off business case, as you’ll want to review what the actual results were). If the financial model is to have any longevity, you should also permit new products (etc.) to be added easily.

8. Reconcile the starting position
It is essential that you can reconcile the model’s starting position to your accounts, personnel records and any other key inputs, and that the initial balance sheet balances. Whenever you update the model with actual data, you will need to check it still reconciles.

9. Include sensitivity analysis
Every financial model should include some form of sensitivity analysis: what happens if sales are X% down on forecast or payroll costs up by Y%? You may need to provide for scenario analysis, looking at a number of scenarios, each of which has an internally consistent set of assumptions. You may even want to use the Monte Carlo method to generate a large number of outputs with key variables randomised, and then review the range of outputs to get a sense of the most likely outcome.

10. Testing, more testing, documentation and sign-off
Test the model thoroughly before use, and have someone other than the modeller carry out the tests. Initial testing should include calibration of the model to ensure it reflects what is currently happening in the business. Stress testing should be employed to check whether the model breaks within its normal operating range and what happens when you push assumptions outside a ‘reasonable’ range. Sensitivity analysis tests allow you to check input-output relationships and be confident that key assumptions and variables behave as expected. Once you are happy the model performs well in testing, it is useful to allocate a business owner for each of the main assumptions, and reflect to them in the model’s documentation. Finally it is essential to gain business sign-off for the model ideally from the board or, in an owner-managed business, from the business owner.

Financial modelling is an essential tool for all but the smallest of business and it is vital that business owners and managers understand how to deploy a financial model and how to get the best from it. We hope these tips are a useful start.

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Company Pulse business health check

What is known and what is unknown? Or how Donald Rumsfeld, the Johari window and a business health check are linked

Donald Rumsfeld’s famous quote about “knowns” and “unknowns” (reproduced in full below) was illuminating in that he missed out “unknown knowns”!

The Johari window is a useful psychology tool for understanding relationships between a subject (self) and others (peers) that categorises awareness of information (in the psychologists’ case, character traits) into 4 quadrants:

• Open or Arena, where both the subject and others are aware;
• Hidden or Façade, where information is known by the subject but not by others;
• Blind Spot, where the subject is not aware, but others are; and
• Unknown, where neither the subject nor others are aware.

This tool can also be applied to companies in respect of knowledge in the business environment. The Open quadrant contains information in the public domain, such as statutory accounts or demographic trends; the Hidden may include trade secrets, commercially sensitive data and pricing algorithms; the Blind Spot could comprise customer sentiments being aired on social media, new entrants or processes that you are not (yet) aware of; and the Unknown hold anything from future fashion trends to undiscovered new technologies.

As in personal relationships, the main benefits to business from using the Johari window are in becoming aware of things in the Blind Spot and tackling them appropriately.

In business, many items of information move from one quadrant to another, whereas your personality traits tend not to change much. Your new invention will start in the Hidden quadrant until you register a patent, when it moves into the Open quadrant (albeit protected from exploitation by others). Much information moves from your Blind Spot to the Open quadrant as you learn more about your customers and competitors. But things can also get forgotten or overlooked and move the other way – material once considered important but now buried in a dusty file. And, of course, new technologies, business processes and market trends emerge from the Unknown. Because of these movements, businesses should not consider their Johari window as a one-off exercise, but should keep reviewing it for changes, perhaps annually.

One major benefit from taking one of our business health checks is that it will normally reveal to you things currently in your Blind Spot. These are issues that you have never been aware of or not paid much attention to, but that our market and industry intelligence can bring to your attention. We may also remind you about important factors that have dropped off your radar. Whilst, as Rumsfeld acknowledged, you can’t do much about things that are Unknown, you can improve your business performance by minimising your Blind Spot.

When Rumsfeld talked about “known knowns” (Open quadrant), “known unknowns” (Hidden) and “unknown unknowns” (Unknown), he failed to mention “unknown knowns” (the Blind Spot). Perhaps this was his subconscious Blind Spot?

So don’t get caught out by things in your Blind Spot. Uncovering them and dealing with them effectively is vital, especially as the business environment changes an “unknown known” becomes significant to your business.

Donald Rumsfeld quotation (Feb-2002 at a US Department of Defense briefing)

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

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Company Pulse business health check

How a business health check is like a personal health check – and how it differs

A question posed the other day was “A business health check: is that like a personal health check-up?” And the answer is broadly “Yes” but with some important differences.

Many will have experienced a personal health check-up with their GP or a private healthcare provider and will be familiar with the process. There’s usually a preliminary questionnaire into your lifestyle (diet and exercise) and family medical history. The appointment with the nurse or doctor starts with an interview, probing your questionnaire answers and assessing your mental health and wellbeing. Then measurements are taken: blood pressure, pulse, height and weight, body fat percentage. Blood and urine samples may be taken and sent for analysis (checking for cholesterol or liver problems); you are screened, where relevant, for specific diseases and function (thyroid, prostate, cervical smear); and sometimes other tests (cardio-respiratory exercise, motor reactions) may be carried out. After the consultation, calculations (such as BMI and metabolic rate) and diagnoses are made. You are given feedback on your health, an assessment of key risks (such as heart attack or stroke) and recommendations in an action plan for improving your lifestyle and overall health.

A Company Pulse business health check follows a similar process. You answer our online questionnaire into your business health, provide us with hard data (for example your statutory accounts). During our Gold business health check we meet you and your senior management team to probe your questionnaire answers in more detail and to explore any opportunities or concerns. We analyse your data and calculate key ratios (such as productivity, staff turnover, financial returns) and benchmark these against comparable companies. We project your finances forward and highlight any areas of potential risk. We provide our feedback to you in the form of a balanced scorecard with an intuitive, graphical dashboard of your business health. All this is summarised in a report containing our recommendations which we discuss with you and agree on a prioritised action plan for improving your business health.

Where our business health checks differ from a personal health check is in the area of adaptability and flexibility. Here, we stop thinking about your company as a single organism and instead consider it as a species. Businesses, like species, have an advantage over individual organisms in their ability to evolve in response to a changing environment. We take the view that companies are in a continual struggle: “survival of the best adapted” (to their business environment).

As well as examining your business health under our five PULSE dimensions (People + Processes; Utilisations + Outcomes; Logistics + Infrastructure; Strategy + Finance; and Ethos + Relationships), we analyse across the dimensions of current capabilities, recent performance, and adaptability and flexibility. For us, adaptability and flexibility is vital. In a rapidly changing business environment, healthy businesses need to be able to change to keep up with, or stay ahead of the competition. Being better adapted could mean or being better at satisfying customers, having more efficient operational processes, or being better at innovating. And the targets keep moving (for example due to rising customer expectations), so healthy businesses need strategic-thinking, continual development and a nimble response to any new opportunities.

The main difference between one of our business health checks and a personal health check is that, in addition to an assessment of your current health and prospects, we also focus on how adaptable and flexible your business is to take on the challenge of a rapidly changing business environment.

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Company Pulse business health check

Benchmarking is not just for large corporations

Benchmarking is a well -known and oft-used technique in large corporations, but relatively few smaller companies take advantage of this valuable business tool. Many SMEs think it is too difficult, too expensive or not worth the effort. This is a missed opportunity as SMEs often benefit more from benchmarking than their larger counterparts.

Benchmarking is a technique for comparing various aspects of your business (such as financial results, input costs or process outputs) with those of other businesses, ideally of a similar size or in the same industry. Performance benchmarking is one of the best ways to see how your business compares with best practice and therefore understand your relative strengths and weaknesses. Best practice refers to a process or methodology that delivers better results and is consequently the target benchmark to aspire to. There is a whole industry of management and process consultants who can provide benchmarking tools and/or advice on best practice. And because there are many benchmarking consultants, competition keeps prices keen – although you need to be careful in selecting the right advisor.

The advantages of benchmarking are clear: it provides quantifiable targets for business improvement; allows progress to be measured; and provides estimates of the benefits that should be realised (so the most valuable improvements can be prioritised) – all of which should enhance competitiveness and improve returns. Benchmarking also tends to have a positive impact on business culture: by opening minds to new ideas, it sets your company further on the path of continuous improvement that leads to a learning, and therefore healthy organisation (See our previous blog on the key indicators of business health).

SMEs have relatively more to gain from benchmarking than larger organisations: many don’t have the embedded systems and processes for continuous improvement and first steps in this direction often deliver large benefits; SMEs can usually set clearer objectives and targets more complex businesses; and, if their peers aren’t doing much benchmarking, the competitive advantages are likely to be more significant. (If all the competitors in an industry achieve best practice, doesn’t that make best practice is just average?)

However, there are some disadvantages: benchmarks need to be relevant, and therefore be derived from a similar peer-group – if not, inappropriate practices may be proposed or unrealistic targets set; benchmarking has a tendency to become an end in itself, and not a means to business improvement; and, probably most importantly, benchmarking and related business improvements tend to focus on specifics but need to be managed holistically – otherwise, the business can become lop-sided with a few best practices constrained by many mediocre processes.

SMEs should worry less about this last point than larger, more complex, organisations. Having a single line of business makes concurrent management of the specifics and the whole a lot easier. The second reservation is also less of a problem for SMEs, where the risk of building a bureaucracy is lower.

SMEs do, however, suffer from a lack of relevant and comparable benchmarks. Not because there are few comparable companies (there are usually many) but because the population of SMEs as a whole is less engaged in benchmarking. This can be overcome by starting with benchmarks that are readily available for your relevant peer-group (such as financial benchmarks) or by carefully selecting a benchmarking advisor who has access to a relevant data set.

Indeed, for SMEs who are new to benchmarking, it is often advisable to start with high-level benchmarks and then to drill down into more detailed and specific measures when you become familiar with the benchmarking process. Our business health checks also provide an entry point by benchmarking all key areas of the business against comparable organisations and presenting the results in a balanced scorecard format.

SMEs shouldn’t miss out on the opportunities afforded by benchmarking. It’s a cost-effective way of prioritising what and how to improve in your business. And SMEs often generate proportionally greater benefits from benchmarking than large corporations do.

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Company Pulse business health check

What are the key indicators of business health?

Category : Business Health

At Company Pulse, we are focused on improving business health. But what do we mean by “business health”? And how can you tell whether a business is healthy – what are the key signs to look out for?

We have taken to heart McKinsey’s work on business health, and they have offered the following description: “Healthy organizations don’t merely learn to adjust themselves to their current context or to challenges that lie just ahead; they create a capacity to learn and keep changing over time.”
(McKinsey Quarterly, June 2011).

The Darwinian cliché is “survival of the fittest”. In business, as in Darwin’s view of natural selection, we incline to “survival of the best adapted”. (The phrase “survival of the fittest” was coined by Herbert Spencer and accepted by Darwin on the basis that “fittest” meant “better adapted for the environment”, not the common modern meaning of “in the best shape”.) A healthy business is one that is better adapted to its environment than its competitors. This could mean satisfying customers better, having a more efficient supply chain, being better at innovating, or one of a host of other characteristics, depending on market and industry conditions. A healthy business should have the appropriate current capabilities to meet the challenges of its business environment, including operating efficiently, and being able to learn from mistakes and build on successes.

The results of being well-adapted should be demonstrated by recent performance. A healthy business is one that generates resources for the future. A sound track-record does not just mean growth (whose importance if often exaggerated), but consistently strong results and the ability to turn a good top line into solid profits and, most importantly, cash.

Then we need to take into account that the environment is continually changing, and this change drives natural and business evolution. Change in the business environment is faster now than ever before, and accelerating. So, in addition to being well-adapted to the current environment, healthy businesses need to be able to change to keep up with, or stay ahead of the competition. We therefore look for adaptability and flexibility, as shown by strategic-thinking and innovation, along with a nimble response to any new opportunities.

So what are the specific indicators of business health? Under the 3 headings of current capabilities; recent performance; and adaptability + potential, Company Pulse business health checks include measures of the following:

Current Capabilities
– Staff skills and competences
– Property plant and equipment
– Supply chain
– Management information systems
– Customer service and complaint management

Recent Performance
– Capacity management
– Productivity
– Financial results
– Customer satisfaction levels
– Compliance

Adaptability + Flexibility
– Recruitment and training
– Cost base flexibility
– Business innovation, research and development
– Business strategy
– Corporate governance and accountability

We have measures and benchmarks across multiple dimensions so that topics can be aggregated in different ways (notably also under PULSE: People + Processes; Utilisations + Outcomes; Logistics + Infrastructure; Strategy + Finance; and Ethos + Relationships). As good business health is a balance between a number of factors, we present our findings in the form of a balanced scorecard covering these different dimensions.

There is no one measure of business health. But we believe our approach of benchmarking a range of measures and analysing across multiple dimensions allows you to draw the appropriate conclusions about how well your organisation is adapted to its current business environment and its fitness to face potential future business challenges.



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Company Pulse business health check

Summer Reading

Category : Recommended Reading

After a quick straw poll we’ve chosen some recently read books we’d happily re-read. So, if you’re in need of some inspiration for holiday reading, please try any from this somewhat eclectic list of 20 books that should all be relevant and interesting for business people.

John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President by John A. Barnes

Beautiful insight into the thinking and strategies and decisions making processes of a (democratic) global leader

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Beautiful insight into the thinking and strategies and decisions making processes of a (despotic) global leader

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
A ‘must read’ on decision making – see our previous blog ‘One bad decision begets another’

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond
Comparisons of primitive tribal ways of life, problem solving and leadership with those of our own ‘civilised’ methods – brilliant

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C Mann
An interesting review of the first round of globalisation

The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin and Reward by Benoit B. Mandelbrot and Richard L. Hudson
An exposé on the weaknesses in the financial markets from before the crash – a bit mathematical and ‘geeky’, but brilliant nonetheless

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Paul Tudor Jones, Edwin Lefèvre and Jon D. Markman
An old classic from the 1920s with additional recent commentary showing how little has changed

This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff
Some of the statistical analysis has subsequently been questioned, but it’s hard to disagree with the thrust of the narrative – a bit heavy going at times, but worth the effort

Compassionate Capitalism: How Corporations Can Make Doing Good an Integral Part of Doing Well by Alan G. Hassenfeld, Marc Benioff and Karen Southwick
How companies can improve profitability by becoming more egalitarian and compassionate

A Nietzsche Reader by R.J. Hollingdale
Now said to be surpassing both ‘The Art of War’ and ‘The Prince’ on CEOs’ bookshelves – scary in some ways, but revealing

Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz
Central to this entertaining memoir is a tale of great management and teamwork under pressure

Beside the Bulldog: The Intimate Memoirs of Churchill’s Bodyguard by Walter H Thompson
Biography of Churchill’s body guard – a total ‘Rashamon’ view of the great man

Power Plays: Shakespeare’s Lessons in Leadership and Management by John Whitney and Tina Packer
Learn about management from Shakespeare’s plays – great idea, but slightly stretches the point

New Europe by Michael Palin
How we are all so different and yet so similar – in shorthand

Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner
How we are all so different and yet so similar – a more academic view

The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry and Invention by William Rosen
An economic history of the industrial revolution with the focus firmly on invention and innovation

The Art of Being Brilliant: Transform Your Life by Doing What Works For You by Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker
One of the better ‘self-help’ books – very optimistic but much of the advice is actually viable and useful

Answers to Rhetorical Questions by Caroline Taggart
Light and humorous, yet surprisingly thought-provoking – a great help in debunking the ‘cliché’

Putting the One Minute Manager to Work by Kenneth Blanchard and Robert Lorber
Companion to the famous ‘One Minute Manager’ with practical advice about putting the techniques into practice

The Times Great Lives: A Century In Obituaries
100 concise and insightful obituaries of the 20th Century’s good, bad and great – from the Times

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