Assess Your Business
Comprehensive step-by-step procedure with tips, best practices, resources and document templates you will need.
Either two years into a new business, or before the first investor is even contacted, it is important to make a clear, impartial business assessment. If your business is failing to do well, doing way better than expected, or you do not know if your new idea will work as a business, below are essential steps to help you make an impartial assessment.
The SWOT analysis is a method of evaluating your business. You list your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and any Threats.
TIP: It’s critical that you are completely honest and emotionally detached; conduct this analysis as this was not your business but rather a company, you’d want to invest in.
Worksheets: Personal Strengths & Weaknesses Analysis, Business Strengths & Weaknesses Analysis, Management Audit, Business Analysis.
Look over your goals/benchmarks. Are these benchmarks achievable? Is your team able to meet them in the time specified? Or, should you set your sights higher? If you have already started your business, did you meet your benchmarks appropriately? Are you able to meet the next benchmarks?
Checklists: Benchmarking Considerations, Organisation Wide Goals, One Minute Goal Setting.
Worksheets: Evaluating Management Performance
Review Your Processes
Do you have a plan for each process? Or, how well are your processes working? Are there areas that are simply not covered by processes like for example Accounts Receivables?
TIP: Review all your processes but pay close attention to the following processes in particular as they are critical but sometimes overlooked: Finance, Risks and Client Services.
Checklists: Possible Human Resource Management Strategy, Possible Marketing Strategies, Possible Production & Operations Management Strategies, Possible Research & Development Strategies, Assessing the Primary Activities in the Value Chain, Assessing Support Activities in the Value Chain, Possible Information System Strategies, Developing Service Standards, Manufacturer Analysis, Service Strategy, Strategic Planning, Vendor & Supplier File.
Do you know the responsibilities for each role in the company? Have you outlined your expectations and how each job fits in with the future of the company? If you have already started your company, do you have the right people to fill out the organisation the way you want? How is your structure working out? Is everyone on your team able to match expectations?
Checklists: Giving Job Performance Feedback, Sales Rep Evaluation, Performance Evaluation.
Surveys: Employee Compliance Survey, Employee Satisfaction Survey.
Forms: Employee Suggestion Form, Employee Appraisal Form, Peer Improvement Form, Superior Improvement Form.
Review Your Technology
Think about your technology. What kind of software do you need? How about hardware? Or, what is working for you? What is making your business better, faster, more convenient? Are there significant gaps in productivity due to a certain program?
TIP: Make sure to note all technology, starting with: CRM, Financial Planning, Office Software (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), technology customised for your market/industry.
Checklists: E-Commerce Solution Providers Comparison, Website Rating.
Besides assessing your business, it is helpful to assess yourself. If your heart is not in what you do, you might consider adjusting. Try a questionnaire to help you assess yourself.
TIP: You might also consider filling out a Business Plan to analyse every aspect of your business.
Worksheets: Self-Assessment, Self-Evaluation.
Plans: Business Plan.
What is your potential market? Do you know how to reach target customers? Or, if you already have clients, are you on a path for growth? Are they rewarding to you? How are your marketing efforts working to bring in new clients? Do you know them well enough to adjustments to meet their needs?
TIP: Consider interviewing clients and prospective clients.
Checklists: Trend Analysis
Worksheets: Demographic Analysis, Demographic Comparison, Target Market.
What sets you apart from other businesses in your industry? How difficult is it for others to emulate the same model, due to the unique factors that make it up? If others can easily imitate you, are you unique?
TIP: Is your business model based on a game changing cost structure? Basically, are you making money using a plan that is designed initially for something else, but is cost-effective to implement in your market? For example, if your business is a phone service and you set it up to piggy-back on other phone company towers, which allows you to offer plans at a lower cost, you have essentially changed how the game is played.
Checklists: Characteristics of Competitive Strategies.
Worksheets: Competitor Analysis, Industry & Competitive Forces Analysis.
How much do switching costs prevent your customers from changing over to you? If it costs too much to change, even if you have a superior product, how will you combat that? Does your business model produce recurring revenues? Or, do you earn before you spend? If you are constantly in the hole by just producing products or delivering services, you might consider changing your business model.
TIP: 1) Do you take advantage of others doing your work? Facebook designed a platform that allows the users to upload photos, videos and many other things. While the designers made the avenue, most of the work is done for free by the users. Is there a way for you to take advantage of this kind of free user-generated work?
2) Take the time to carefully go over your financials. You might not be the one in charge of the numbers, maybe you hired someone specifically to do that job for you. But you need to know what everything means, or you will not be able to properly plan for the future of your company.
3) Ratios are a small-scale method of representation. Create ratios yourself or ask your financial department to create them.
Checklists: Possible Financial & Accounting Strategies.
Spreadsheets: Financial Ratio Calculator, Financial Projections 12 Months, Financial Projections 3 Years, Break Even and Profit-Volume-Cost Analysis, Cashflow Forecast Monthly, Cashflow Forecast Quarterly, Sales Projections.
What is are the trends affecting your current market? What is the Total Addressable Market? What about the Demand Generators and your ability to meet them?
TIP: Understanding your market is a key factor for success, this is an area where you should take the time and make the extra effort.
Checklists: Market Planning, Industry Analysis.
Worksheets: Market Study Outline, Cost Analysis of Market Research Methods.
Surveys: General Market Survey, Market Survey Business to Business.
How scalable is your business model? If you have the chance to grow your business, are you able to do so with your current model? What are the costs involved? Is your team capable of adapting?
TIP: Facebook started out only available to students as a way to connect to other students in his or her school. They started with a niche and completely dominated it, and then progressively extended their reach as their foundation was solid. This is the way to go, as opposed to attacking a huge market with limited resources, which ends up producing only a very small impact.
Be especially honest here. How well does your business model perform? Is it surviving the tests thrown at it? Does it have the ability to sustain itself/continue making money?
TIP: What is stopping you from good performance? Make a list of all the positive things about your business, starting from the beginning of these steps. Next to that make a list of all the negatives. You may also call this step writing down the “Pros and Cons”. Do not be afraid to be harsh.
There is very little point to making an assessment you cannot understand or is difficult for your management team to comprehend. Make your assessment clear, categorizing each step you took to come to your conclusions.
TIP: You might consider one of the following formats as well: 1) Asset Approach: How much value is there in your assets? 2) Market Approach: What are similar businesses worth? 3) Income Approach: How much income might your business generate in the future?
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