The Business Owner’s Midyear Exam

It is never an unproductive use of time to stop and gain perspective to measure progress made towards goals that have been set.
Bob Villa of “This Old House” preached, “Measure twice; cut once.” At the start of the second half of 2013, I have prepared questions to assist business owners and leaders in the measuring process; I call it the business midyear exam.
The first two questions require time for reflection before answering. These questions should also be asked of employees for their perspective. The questions are designed to be thought-provoking. The owner will better understand what employees’ value and are focused on when the input is received.
The first question is: what is one thing that, if implemented quickly and properly, would make a significant, immediate positive impact on our organization?
The second is: what are three things can be done to raise employee engagement levels above their job function (duties and tasks) so everyone is more focused in their job essence?
Job essence is defined as helping the company to create promoters. Promoters are clients less price-sensitive; have higher repurchase rates; and account for at least 80 percent of positive word of mouth for the company.
The third question is: what the company should start, stay and stop doing for a better second half?
The final portion is a review of key result areas. This section of the midyear exam is something that the management team should be answering. Read each section and rate the company as it now stands on a 10 point scale, one being poor and 10 being great.

Leadership and Strategy
Does the company have a written three year plan defining the direction of the business? Does the company have a BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal)? Is there a written mission statement? Are the values of the organization visible for employees, clients and vendors? Is the 2013 operational plan measured monthly against results?

Sales and Marketing
Does the sales team have objectives? Does everyone have a plan to execute? What is the continuing sales education schedule? Is everyone prospecting to the right targets? Do employees understand their role in revenue production and not in revenue prevention? Is there a written marketing plan? Are all revenue streams profitable? Is client profitability measured?

Financial Management
Are cash flow, profit and loss and the balance sheet tracked? What is breakeven? Are financial statements issued and reviewed timely? What about cost reduction efforts? Are profitability plans in place? Is there a credit and collections policy to maximize cash flow and minimize risk?

Are policies and procedures in place for daily, routine activities? Is the organization current and in compliance with all governmental regulations, including those related to human resources? Is there a service quality control plan in place?

Do job descriptions exist for every position? Are job descriptions tied to measurable, tangible results? Is there a formal performance evaluation system in place? Is every employee formally evaluated on a regular basis? Does every employee have the tools they need to do their job right?
If the score totaled between 40 and 50 points, all the right things are being done; whether or not they are doing them correctly is another question.
If the total score is between 30 and 39 points, one or more areas may be weak and attention should be focused there.
If the total score was less than 29 points, start working on the lowest scored area immediately. Outside counsel may be needed to turn things around.