Businesses need health checkups too

Health can be reported in different ways because it can be viewed in different ways. The educational health of a student is told with progress reports and report cards. The health of an employee is reported in a performance review. Regardless of the method used to measure health, a simple word – checkup – can send a shiver up a spine.

These are just tools. Certain standards have been set, and these report the comparison against those standards. If the standard is consistently not being met or is met with too much ease, the standard should be re-evaluated.

Businesses have measurements too. It helps to set a goal. And, it helps for the business to understand why it fell short, met or exceeded the goal that was set.

I’ve taken business courses, and I’ve taken courses that train Boy Scout leaders. One of the common areas to both is the importance of S.M.A.R.T. goals. The letters can stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. If you look up S.M.A.R.T. goals on the internet, you’ll see that there are other similar words to create the acronym. Regardless, the exercise is to create a goal that can be met or exceeded but not so easily that there is no challenge. This is used to start a path. It’s a good exercise to keep the goals on track and realistic.

Benchmarks are useful tools, but I really like when the benchmark has to be increased. In pole vaulting, it’s called “raising the bar.” It’s a great feeling to get a call asking, “What on earth are you doing to get those results?” I like the word “overindex.” But, if the goal is set too low, these aren’t true accomplishments. As well as set too low, sometimes the bar can be set too high. That causes a lot of angst and worry. So it is important that the goal be true and not artificially underinflated or overinflated. Once the goal is set, it should be monitored so that any adjustments can be made where necessary.

Other words used in goal setting are “targets” and “projections.” It is important for a business to look at itself from an outside perspective. It is too easy to get stuck in the day-to-day activities of the business to see the outside influences on the business. What is the economy doing? What is the employment rate? How is competition doing? How are the suppliers doing? These answers may have some insight into the business’s performance.

There is no crystal ball that will give us the answers we seek. Through data collection and analysis, we can certainly see trends in our business and in our industry.

The importance of a business checkup is to evaluate how the business is doing and to made adjustments to keep the business relevant and profitable. There are generalists and specialists who can aid businesses in their quest for longevity. These professionals aren’t medical doctors, nor do they have to have Ph.D.s, but they can certainly help a business owner look at the business from another vantage point.

Poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself….” No business is an island either. It is our connections with others that help us stay healthy and point out things we cannot see in ourselves. Sometimes checkups can be uncomfortable, but they do not have to be. And, they beat the alternative.

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