It’s easy to get a little lax about taking care of your car. That is, you get in, it starts right up, and then you’re zipping down the road. No worries, right? But then, warning lights start appearing on the dashboard or the brakes start to squeak, and you realize you haven’t had it serviced for awhile. Or maybe you procrastinated too long and now that little rust spot on the rear fender is a hole as big as your thumb. Or maybe you find yourself on the side of the road with a flat, wishing you hadn’t tried to get a few more miles out of those old, bald tires. So sometimes, even though your car may seem to be running just fine, it pays to take a peek under the hood, kick the tires, and give the whole thing a good visual inspection. Likewise, we go to our doctor for an annual check-up, even though we may feel fine, just to verify that no hidden malady is starting to sneak up on us. Same with your business. Even though things seem to be going along just great, it may pay to take a peek under the hood once in awhile just to make sure we’re not overdue for a tune-up. If you haven’t given your business a check-up for awhile, please continue reading below.
“Whoever said, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ probably never heard of preventive maintenance.”
– Steven Kasper
As we enter the fourth quarter of the year, it seems a good time to give your business a thorough inspection looking for areas of weakness, of vulnerability, or areas for improvement. Your inspection should include:
Marketing – Markets and market conditions are continuously changing and evolving. Are your marketing plans and programs current and appropriate? Or are they old, tired, and in need of an update? Maybe you put some marketing strategies in place during the Great Recession that don’t make sense anymore. Worth a look.
Finance – the Great Recession caused a raft of changes, not only in the way the Federal Reserve has tried to regulate the economy, but also in the ways banks must now do business. If you haven’t already done so, you will benefit from a review of your banking relationships, and from a frank conversation with your banker about how your debt is structured and about how you can work most effectively together to meet your financial needs.
Operations – The seven most dangerous words in business are, “It’s the way we’ve always done it.” Complacency, sooner or later (usually sooner), will come back to bite you. As Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” You’d better be constantly monitoring what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, looking for ways to do it better/faster/cheaper . . . because your competitors are. A little paranoia here is not necessarily a bad thing.
Administration – Are your systems able to deliver the information you need on a timely basis? Are your credit policies serving the needs of your business as well as the needs of your customers? Do your personnel policies and procedures allow you to attract and maintain the workforce you need?
We’ve talked here about broad areas common to every business. For your own business, you should get more granular. For instance, what we’ve termed “operations” here may actually be three or four different activities within your particular organization. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to do a department-by-department SWOT analysis. In this, you’d be looking for Strengths (competitive advantages), Weaknesses (competitive vulnerabilities), Opportunities (ways to leverage your strengths), and Threats (such as new regulations, new competitors, disruptive technologies, etc.).
It’s possible that this sort of top-to-bottom look at your organization will show everything is just so swell that you can hardly stand it . . . but only if you do it blindfolded. It’s much more likely you’ll find a significant number of things that need to be changed or improved. So then what? Well, then you develop strategies to address those changes and improvements, and you fold those strategies into next year’s plan.
You are beginning work on next year’s plan, aren’t you? Of course you are! Why would you not? But just on the off chance you’re not working on a business plan for next year, call me. We should talk.