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Business - 8 min read

Starting a business is tough. Once you have it up and running, it’s tempting to sit back and let your company run on autopilot for a while. But after those crucial, touch-and-go early stages are over, it’s time to use your breathing space to plan.

With real data in your hands and day-to-day operations underway, you can finally analyse your market position and decide where to take the business next. You’ll need to revise your original business plan with your new-and-refined strategy in mind. And this process will make your company stronger and more effective going forward.

In this article, we’ll look at the steps you can take to assess how well your business is performing. When you understand the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, you fortify your position and can implement improvements.


Reviewing Your Progress So Far

In the beginning stages, focusing on daily operations will help you to establish a solid foundation. But once you’re up-and-running, it pays dividends to start thinking long term and develop strategic planning goals.

To plan for the future, you have to review the past. And this planning is crucial if you’re preparing to create departments, take on more staff and distance yourself from the day-to-day operations.

Reviewing your progress is especially helpful in these circumstances:

  • You’re not sure how well the business is performing
  • The firm doesn’t seem to be meeting market demands
  • The company is moving in a direction you didn’t anticipate
  • Your business plan is out of date
  • You sense that you’re missing out on market opportunities
  • You feel that your company is ready to level up


Evaluate Core Activities

Include your financial advisers and senior staff in your review. They’ll have unique insights necessary for a thorough evaluation.

Start by considering what your business actually does. What are the core products you make? Which services do you provide? What makes your products and services successful? How could they be improved? What complementary products or services could be launched to enhance current offerings?

These discussions can be challenging to start and keep going. If you find yourself struggling to elicit helpful feedback, try using these questions.

  • How effectively are we matching our products and services to our customers’ needs? Have employees noticed additional needs during their interactions with customers? Have clients asked about products or services you’re not yet providing?
  • Which of your current products is most popular? What is it that customers seem to appreciate most about your best sellers?
  • Which of your products and services is the least successful? Why doesn’t it get the attention you’d anticipated?
  • For any products or services that are struggling, consider areas like pricing, marketing, after-sales service, design, packaging and systems. Could you develop any “quick wins” that give you enough breathing space to make fundamental improvements?
  • Have your costs changed since your initial business plan? Review your overhead costs as well as your direct costs for each product and service. Think about ways you could negotiate lower costs from suppliers.

Information gleaned from these discussions can form the basis for an improvement plan, especially in regards to profitability and performance.


Review Your Efficiency

Early on in the life of your business, you probably respond more reactively than proactively, and that’s to be expected. But as soon as you can, develop a clear, overall strategy. With the big picture in mind, you can decide whether the actions you take are appropriate or not.


Discuss factors that could be holding you back internally:

  • Do your premises meet your needs? If you grow, will you have to move?
  • Does your equipment manage production tasks adequately?
  • Does your information technology help employees to be efficient?
  • Do you have the right people to meet your goals?
  • Do you have the right management team to accomplish your overall strategy?


Evaluate Your Finances

Many small businesses indeed fail. Often, they fail because of a lack of planning or poor financial management. As you update your initial business plan, conduct a thorough review of key economic markers:

  • Are you using cash flow forecasts to strategise your inflows and outflows?
  • Have your working capital requirements changed?
  • Do your forecasted costs match up with your actual expenses?
  • Do you need to use less expensive lines of credit?
  • Do you have plans in place to accommodate your company’s growth?


Watch Your Competitors / Ask Your Customers

Your company doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and if you want to succeed long-term, you’ll need to keep tabs on your competitors actions & ask for feedback from your customers.

When you started your business, you probably included a market analysis in your plan. But markets change quickly. Companies come and go, new and emerging services appear and customers’ needs change. What differences can you spot between now and when you first opened your doors?   How do you respond to trends or changes in competitive activity?

Asking for customer feedback from those you already work with can help you to identify areas of improvement. Keeping tabs on competitor pricing and offerings will also help you to stay competitive.


Going Forward

With a thorough review of your progress, you have everything you need to plan the next active phase of your business. Build a cohesive strategy that can guide your decisions and set you on a clear course.

For expert guidance in developing your strategy, work with one of our business experts. An outside view from an experienced professional can point out problem areas or unusual strengths.

To talk with one of our advisers, set up a consultation. Whether you need temporary assistance in building a strategy or long-term help with CFO services, we’re here to help you succeed.


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