I’m a committed believer in the value of benchmarking operational results, and comparing them to the results of other similar businesses. I’ve written about that many times, but essentially the idea is to answer the question, “is my business running well or not?” To answer that question in a realistic and helpful way, the second question should be, “compared to what?” That is where industry benchmarks come into play. They answer the second question, and allow the business owner interested in improving performance to compare his/her business against peers.

This exercise, in and of itself, is incredibly valuable because it can highlight areas that may need attention.

It may also be in comparing your business to others, you see an anomaly, but the cause isn’t immediately apparent. Now what? This is where inviting other business people, in a similar business(es) to look in detail at certain parts of your operations, may be very helpful.

Recently, we had several key people, from a similar business in a different part of the country, visit us to “audit” our operations. I wanted to try to better understand how good a job we were doing, where we might improve, and perhaps return the favor by allowing others to learn from us. In my invitation, I was clear that no question was off limits, everything was available to see, and our employees should cooperate as fully as possible.

This takes a willingness to be humble! After all, you’re essentially parading naked down Main Street, in a metaphorical sense.

The results of the visit we had over three days were extremely helpful to us, and allowed us to better understand the impact of our operations on our numbers. We got a lot of great ideas for improvement and had meaningful conversations on a range of issues that affect our business. Yes, the debrief required a lack of defensiveness, but the learning was outstanding. Our colleagues also benefitted as they learned some new ideas as well. It was a tremendous win for everyone.

Have you ever tried something like this? If not, I hope our experience is motivating to you. With a properly prepared, “non-disclosure agreement” and colleagues who are not competitors, you can’t lose! Benchmarks may tell you something could be better. Going beyond benchmarking can show you how.


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