How to take your ego out of the business? Tricky at the best of times. For me, benchmarks are one of the most reliable ways to judge my true abilities against someone else’s.
You see this in sports all the time.
Maybe you have a friend that thinks they are pretty handy on the golf course. And maybe they are. Compared against those they know they can beat, of course.
But what happens when someone new joins the club?
Ever notice the way these loudmouths slink away and make their excuses. Suddenly the bravado is gone.
They adopt a ‘wait and see’ policy.
If the guy (or girl?) is really good, they’ll steer clear. If they know they have a chance, they’ll come bouncing back. You know the type, I’m sure.
This is fine on the golf course.
But, in business, you don’t have the same luxury. The pressure is on. You need to gauge how successful your product, service, or customer satisfaction is and adjust accordingly.
You can’t afford a ‘wait and see’ policy. Time lost is money lost.
Ten Step Benchmarking Model
One way to address this is to use a set of benchmarks. I use benchmarks in different ways to judge my performance and also how my products are selling. I sell digital products on the web and look for ways to judge my performance (not only sales) against my competitors.
Why? Benchmarks help me see things with greater clarity.
Instead of leading with my heart, which most small business owners do, the benchmarks allow me to assess things objectively.
It takes me out of the picture.
Here are ten steps to benchmarking your business.
1. Identify the benchmark target – highlight the product, service or activity you want to improve. Start with one benchmark and learn from this. Don’t complicate things by defining multiple benchmarks at once.
2. Identify benchmark partners – look at competitors you want to compare yourself against, for example, similar size SMEs or startups with a similar market presence. Be realistic.
3. Collect data using a combination of web tools and excel spreadsheets. Google provides some excellent tools for monitoring firms and brands. You can compliment this by developing surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups to glean more information.
4. Determine the gap – look at the market research findings, clean the data, and look at the difference in performance, sales, or customer satisfaction between you and the benchmark you’re working against.
5. Project future performance – set a target of what you want to achieve and timeframes for getting there. Again, be realistic and allow some leeway if this is the first time you’ve benchmarked your products.
6. Share results – one way to keep the team motivated (and in unison) is to share this information. This also helps set the standard and show the team what’s expected of them from here on.
7. Establish goals for each person – be specific about each person’s targets. The more you refine the targets, the greater the chance of them reaching their goals.
8. Develop Action Plans – armed with the information from the market research, develop an Action Plan that works with the goals and timelines you’ve established for your team. Use the Action Plan to clarify to each member of the team what’s expected of them and the critical success factors associated with these targets.
9. Implement plans and monitor results – hold a workshop or team meeting and kick off the project. Assign a project manager to lead the activity and agree on how status reports should be delivered. Reduce misunderstandings by sharing examples of status reports, action plans and other deliverables. Monitor the results as per the action plan.
10. Recalibrate benchmarks – look at the feedback and tweak the benchmarks where necessary. Don’t change things just to keep your team on their toes. Instead, encourage them on their work to progress and show how their contributions help the company move forward. Celebrate major milestones to boast morale.
Do benchmarks work?
I’ve used benchmarks in companies for different reasons.
Sometimes we’ve wanted to see how our customer service compared with another firm.That makes sense.
Other times it was to take people’s ego out of the equation. Benchmarks are neutral. They don’t take sides.
If your department or project is struggling and you can’t get a handle on where to move next, let’s say you can’t reduce the number of customer complaints:
- Work with the team to setup benchmarks.
- Show them that you have nothing personal against under-performing team members. These are the industry averages and we need to get there.
- Then examine why we (we’re all in this together right?) have not hit this target yet.
- Build consensus. Show that this is the best way forward. Take other suggestions but be careful with those who are trying to undermine you.
- Create a Project Plan, assign tasks, and deadlines.
- Create an Action Plan and walk each person through what’s expected of them.
Revise, revise and repeat.
That’s one way to do it.
How can we improve upon this?