Competitive Benchmarking and the Small Business Owner

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Information about Competitive Benchmarking and the Small Business Owner
Small Business & Entrepreneurship

Published on May 5, 2014

Author: InnovateBurlington



Competitive benchmarking is the process of identifying best practices in a given industry, and comparing one's own business to those benchmarks. It has extraordinary potential to cut costs, streamline processes, improve strategic planning, and catalyze business growth, and yet, it is surprisingly under-utilized by small and medium-sized business owners. Want to make your business more efficient? Innovate Burlington can help!

Competitive benchmarking and the small business owner 5 May 2014 Leah Nosal, Research Consultant

Competitive benchmarking is the process of identifying best practices in a given industry, and comparing one’s own business to those benchmarks.

On topographic maps, benchmarks are known control points that can be used as a starting point for land surveys.

Similarly, benchmarks help businesses to understand their position in a given industry.

For businesses both large and small, competitive benchmarking is a vital comparative tool.

Learning from competitors helps business owners identify new opportunities to make their business even more efficient.

It is important to note that benchmarking is related, but distinct from competitor research.

Competitive benchmarking represents a process of continuous assessment, in which a company strives consistently to identify, meet and exceed the best practices of its most successful competitors.

Competitor research will help a firm to understand its position in the market (i.e., the status quo), but does not lend the same attention to identifying business processes and best practices.

Though competitor research may tell you what your market looks like and who your competitors are, competitive benchmarking examines how your competitors do business, which competitor(s) is/are most efficient, and how your business can follow suit.

A benchmarking exercise generally includes, but is not limited to, the following five steps for business owners:

1. Identify opportunities for efficiency gains in one or more aspects of your business. Depending on which aspect of your operations you highlight, it will be important to document current revenues, expenses, and processes as points of comparison.

Note that benchmarking can be used to compare quantitative information, such as revenue and expense figures, but it is most valuable when used to examine business processes.

2. Identify competitors and other businesses from whom your business could learn. Depending on what you would like to improve about your business, the best learning opportunities may be outside of your industry.

For example, businesses may strive to streamline their recruitment process or make their supply chain more efficient. In these cases, best practices may very well emerge from firms outside of your sector.

For example, when McDonald’s launched its specialty coffee brand, McCafe, at retail locations across Canada, it could have conducted a variety of diverse benchmarking exercises.

Benchmarking itself against direct competitors could have yielded valuable insights regarding inventory costs and profit margins.

However, if McDonald’s wanted to streamline it’s supply chain, it might look to other companies that export from South America.1 1

In short, competitive benchmarking is a dynamic tool that can be customized based on your business’s needs.

Once you have identified who you can learn from in your benchmarking exercise, it is time to …

3. Conduct primary and secondary research. Depending on your industry, some basic benchmarks may be publicly available. However, more often than not, businesses must approach those companies that they are trying to learn from.

Note that while some firms will not disclose best practices so as to protect their competitive advantage, benchmarking offers mutual benefit: many companies will share a best practice in exchange for one of yours.

Based on the data you are able to collect, the next step is to…

4. Identify best practices What businesses performed best according to the indicators you established? What do best-performing firms have in common? This step also involves identifying any gaps that exist between best practices and your own processes.

5. Design tactics for implementation and reassessment Competitive benchmarking is committed to recurring assessment and corrective measures. It represents an ongoing effort to maximize efficiency and perform at a superior level than your competitors.

The process of benchmarking helps businesses – large or small – identify untapped potential for efficiency gains. Quality Speed Efficiency Cost

Unfortunately, small- and medium- sized enterprises face unique challenges with respect to this exercise: Limited time Limited money Limited research experience Limited localized public data

As a result, too many small business owners are missing opportunities to:  Cut costs  Streamline business processes  Improve strategic planning  Catalyze business growth

Innovate Burlington is committed to helping your business thrive.

Want to make your business more efficient?

Innovate Burlington can help.  Contact Us Innovate Burlington 860 Harrington Court Burlington, ON L7N 3N4 905 634 6500 @InnovateBurl Innovate Burlington Innovate Burlington

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