Category Archives: Benchmarking

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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

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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