Business review from an external point of view

The scene

No matter the size, structure or shape of a business, or whether it’s public, private or not-for-profit, frameworks and functions required are the same.

One business owner came to us overwhelmed and not understanding how their business should be structured. The confusion was having a mega effect on performance and direction. The business owner had sweated over developing different structures to solve the problem, but to no avail. Staff were confused. Sales were down. The business was in chaos and it wasn’t even complying with relevant legislation.

The business owner called me as an efficiency expert. With a Master’s in Business Administration, it is relatively easy for me to paint the big picture for owners and then supporting them to get the right things right. Without this, they’ll never progress.

The solution

The solution, as I saw it, was to take it from the top and examine the business against a best practice framework.

I explained that common tasks are grouped to deliver the outcomes of a function, such as Marketing. I outlined what some tasks are that typically fall under this function—branding, marketing collateral, fundamental promotion and communications tools such as websites, newsletters, social media platforms, blogs, advertising, events and conferences. I asked if the business was operating with a marketing strategy. The answer was ‘no’.

I then moved to another function relevant to that business, Sales. I outlined some tasks that typically fall under this function, including setting key performance indicators, commission structures, bonuses, customer and client relations, sales training, defining sales areas and sales strategies. I asked if the business was operating with a sales strategy. The answer was ‘no’.

I kept testing the business against the framework, moving into finances, operations, Human Resources and other areas.

We then worked together to dive deeper into tasks, asking important questions such as:

  • Are all tasks being completed properly?
  • What isn’t being completed that could cause compliance issues?
  • Is the right person doing the right task? Do they have the knowledge to complete the task? Should someone else have the responsibility?
  • Can some tasks be outsourced or contracted out to save time and money?
  • How many additional tasks is one person completing that should be completed by someone else?
  • What tasks haven’t been identified that need to be?
  • Are the right tasks being completed to achieve business outcomes?
  • Should some tasks be eliminated because they’re not needed?

Working with the owner and the team I applied my efficiency expertise to help the business owner step back, ‘see’ what functions are working, and determine adjustments are needed.

Then, bingo. The business owner, and senior team, saw the bigger picture and started sorting through what to:

  • focus on
  • delegate
  • contract out
  • fix
  • improve
  • update

In the case of this business, Human Resources was the weakest link (it often is in business).

Results

We developed a plan to address all issues relating to the business framework, but in a practical way that didn’t overwhelm the team. We agreed it would help if I stayed on for a couple of weeks to get things rolling, such as updating and implementing policies, procedures, manuals and work, health and safety systems. This enabled others in the business to continue to focus on core business.

We also assigned components of the plan to individual leaders in the organisation to share the workload.

Within two months the business was in a very different place, and happier and more productive. Efficiencies had improved, profits had improved and staff morale had improved.

Tips

  1. Don’t waste time wasting time. Assess when external expertise is required and be realistic—no business owner is good at all things. Seeking external help isn’t a failure; it’s a strength.
  2. Act quickly so problems relating to the framework of your business don’t escalate out of control.
  3. Bring the team along with you, so they understand what you’re trying to achieve.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make hard decisions—they’re often needed to improve.

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