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Benchmarking Your Business

During the past three weeks, I have visited three partner organizations, each of varying revenue, products/services offered and operational effectiveness. I also had a wonderful conversation with a fourth organization discussing new-hire on-boarding issues, profitability and lead management. All of these organizations had some challenges and various management frustrations in common.

One of the great opportunities I have had over the past 20-plus years is to work with, speak to and consult with hundreds of organizations. This has given me a great level of knowledge on which to base my consulting recommendations and to create the variety of tools that are used by thousands of individuals.

Because of my experience, one of the fundamental recommendations I make to clients and nonclients alike is to physically visit other organizations and view how other companies operate. This is called "benchmarking," which, as the dictionary definition states, is "a point of reference for a measurement."

There are many executive peer groups where individuals meet and discuss common business challenges and hold each other accountable. Some even compare financial metrics. In some peer group situations, business leaders are from the same industry and some groups are made up of general business leaders. All of these kinds of groups are excellent sources of information.

Our own Sales Management Board of Advisors program is similar. The boards are made up of individuals -- sales managers, sales directors and VPs of sales -- who are focused on sales management issues. While all of these groups share and learn information, the challenge that most of these groups cannot achieve is helping the participants truly understand how someone else's business operates.

I like to recommend that at least once a year, the management team from an organization visits another company and spends the day with that company's management team and operations staff. During the visit, you will actually see how other organizations physically manage their CRM systems, train salespeople, deliver their solutions and how their office is actually organized. You generally can't get this hands-on view simply from having executives speaking to each other at conferences or meeting in a group environment.

Obviously, you will see both the good and bad during these visits. This is the important aspect of the on-site benchmark meeting. The agenda and key topics to be covered must be carefully planned. These events should be coordinated with a group meeting at the beginning of the day, with one-on-one manger-shadowing during the day and a group wrapup session at the end of the day.

While the investment can be large, the payoff will be huge. In every session we have coordinated, both organizations have benefited from the experience. Openness and an attitude of sharing are critical.

Your challenge for the next five months: Find your "point of measurement" and dare to compare. It will make your business planning for 2012 a real experience.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on May 27, 2011