Measuring progress in the early stages

November 13, 2013

4_starsW

Are the business activities of your latest quarter worth more than just a cursory glance? You may feel you know what did or didn’t work well. However, do you really understand what made the difference between your successes and failures over the past 3 months?

An informal early-stage evaluation of current services, processes and systems as well as a self-evaluation can help new business owners learn about their achievements and avoid pitfalls. If the evaluation includes a closer look at your business through the eyes of your customers and peers you may gain valuable insight that a self-evaluation alone would not reveal.

Taking stock

I regularly encourage owners and managers to take stock. At first, many feel I am asking them to undertake a large organizational evaluation with an extremely formal structure that takes weeks to develop and months to carry out.

For the best results, have everyone complete the following statements. To avoid burdening your contacts, only ask for three completions per inquiry.

  1. When we/I began this [fill in what is relevant: e.g. business/service/marketing plan], the original plan was to …
  2. While working on this, we/I experienced these successes: …
  3. We/I also experienced these difficulties: …
  4. The following changes happened: …
  5. In the end, we/I learned: …
  6. Next time, we/I do: …

Additional questions you can ask are:

  • Do our customers represent a particular niche?
  • What is it about our service or sales process customers comment on?
  • Have you asked for customer feedback? Often, a buyer will have a different feeling after a couple of weeks or months than immediately after the first purchase. (It is also an opportune moment to ask for a referral.)
  • Are all your systems flawless? For example, is your marketing technique well established, how is your sale process perceived, and is your contract management system easy?

This simple early-stage evaluation helps entrepreneurs and managers understand how long it takes to get a customer, process an order and cover your investment costs. Mistakes are less likely, successes are celebrated and everyone in the picture is more invested in making your business better.

Author

Lisette Andreyko

Lisette is the founder of Kaleidoscope and is passionate about start-up leadership, personal growth and women in business (and psst.. about tea!). She enjoys connecting with small businesses through her network. You can find her on LinkedIn.