In previous posts, we have discussed budgeting and planning as the separate issues they are. This post attempts to bring out the importance of periodic (specifically, yearly) business performance review. However, it is also dovetailed into future year projections to emphasize the linkage between the two.
At whatever stage your business is, you will need periodic performance reviews. Even for a business concept yet to be legally incorporated, you will need a timeline on issues such as idea testing, feasibility study, shareholder agreements, seed fund raising, key people recruitment etc. All these should have a time frame within which they should be completed. Taking care of them will literally take forever or be handled inefficiently if they are not properly monitored. The objective here may, for instance, be to see to the take off of the business by a certain date.
The issues for a going concern are radically different. First and obviously, any operating business should have a mission and objective. These would have been ‘translated’ into a budget comprising various targets in all functional areas such as daily production, monthly sales, cost, profits, recruitment of various staff categories, acquisition of some equipment, etc. Remember that the targets will be a composition of qualitative and quantitate ones in all areas of the business mentioned above. Periodic reviews therefore become necessary to remain focussed on achieving your objectives and targets, especially as your business grows.
Your review sessions are opportunities for you to:
- Assess your business performance vis-a-vis your targets,
- Assess your position in the competitive landscape,
- Restate (or review) your targets and maintain your focus or alter directions as regards your customers/markets, allocation of resources etc,
- Improve your business efficiency in the use of financial resources, production of your goods and serving your customers,
- Establish further ways you can deepen and leverage your external relationships,
- Develop your human resources as regards skills, knowledge and attitudes, as well as improve internal operations,
- Develop necessary supporting strategy for your plans, etc.
It is your duty to ensure that all those responsible for the achievement of any part of the budget conduct periodic business performance reviews depending on the timeframe within which the targets are to be achieved. A production unit team might require to meet on a daily basis whilst a departmental sales team might require to meet on a weekly basis. For our purposes here, we are going to consider your annual performance review and budget planning at corporate level.
Yearly performance review:
As 2015 has literally ran out, you should have by now reviewed your business performance for the year as well as fully made your plans for 2016. It is worth noting that some companies do not do their yearly performance review until early in the following year. This is, supposedly, on the grounds that their financial year runs from january through december. I think it is not the best approach. You should do a comprehensive ‘year’ review within the last last quarter of the year. This is key to planning for the following year which starts in january. Any ‘seasonal’ activity that either positively or negatively affects your business performance in the last quarter will also be assessed at the full end of the financial year, early in the following year.
Fundamentally, all performance reviews are predominantly about asking questions and providing answers. But you have know which questions to ask and find what their honest answers are.
How do you review your business performance and make future plans?
The review of past performance and projection into the next period is both a private and consultative exercise. As the chief promoter, you have to have tried to understand what has happened in the year under review and get a pretty good idea of what you believe can be achieved in the following. This private exercise is done first, working with the information available and relying on your experience and knowledge, as well as consulting experts who may have additional information and clarifications. This is about your own preparation for the general meeting to follow.
The general meeting should involve all key managers who had input and supervisory roles in delivering the results achieved so far. Other staff or external consultants can be invited where some specialised input or details are required. Such invitees only participate during the sessions they are expected to contribute, and should be excused for the rest of the sessions.
Review your business performance:
Every business, no matter how remote, operates in various environments. It impacts and is impacted by what is happening and not happening within and around it. Encourage yourself and your team to know what is happening in the global economy, your local economy, industry, and markets. It is only with a good understanding of these that you will be able to ‘see’ and seize opportunities as well as prevent and contain threats to your business. This understanding is a pre-requisite of any performance review and future planning. Now having said that,
Your prerfomance assessment should start with a review of what has happened in the global and local economies that have contributed positively or negatively to your business. Establish the impacts of those developments on your business. Be as detailed as is necessary and then go into specifics by identifying all areas that you failed to meet, met or surpassed your targets. The contribution to corporate performance from each function (production, finance, sales and marketing, HR, R & D, etc) of the business should be asssessed along such lines as:
- What were the targets? What were the actual achievements?
- What were the variances and what caused them?
- Are your assets being efficiently utilised in all spheres of activities?
- Could you have done better? Why? Why didn’t you?
- Were you able to seize opportunities ‘on the fly’?
- What (factors) and who (individuals and groups) were essentially responsible for meeting or surpassing the targets?
- What did they do right?.
- What can the organisation do to leverage on the successes? Take a note here to ensure that the organisation learns and internalises the factors that caused successes. This can be done by putting measures that will reinforce the behaviours that caused the success, etc.
What were the challenges, setbacks, ‘near misses’ and failures?
- What factor(s) was/were responsible for them?
- What wasn’t done right?
- Was there any particular person or group that was fundamentally responsible for them? This should however not be a blame apportionement exercise, but an opportunity to learn and avoid recurrence,
- What have the individuals, groups and the organization at large learnt from the failure?
- What has been done and/or can be done, in the future, to eliminate the risk that caused the failure?
- What was done to reverse the negative situations? Who was responsible? What can be done to reward them and reinforce such behaviour in the organisation?
- Do you need to adjust (upwards or downwards) your targets in light of current realities and developments?
The objective here is to ensure that you really understand what happened and why. You should also deliberately work to put measures that will encourage behaviours and actions that lead to successes and discourage those that led to setbacks and failures. Overall, the review process should reveal your achievements and failures as well as areas of competitive strengths and weaknesses.
As in performance review, future planning also requires a good undersaynding of global, national and local developments. Understanding your market and industry as well as the national and global economies will help you recognise what is achievable and not. You should have facts and figures on all necessary economic indicators that will help you benchmark and set your targets. Key information on global and local economies, markets and competitors, as well as your own realities will help you draw your following year’s budget.
- Based on your achievements so far, current and other resources you can provide (let us call these your strengths), what do you believe are the opportunities that are open to you?
- Based on your corporate weaknesses, what are the threats that could impede your efforts?
Be diligent and honest in making the assessments above. Encourage intelligent, robust, open and sincere discussions within your team. It is only in this way that you can establish reasonable assumptions necessary for you to build a budget that is both realistic and will stretch you. As with your business performance reviews, such assumptions will be detailed in all areas such as market growth, interest rates, exchange rates, inflationary trends, production volume, sales growth, cost management, cash flow, asset acquisitions, etc. These will then be translated into qualitative and quantitative targets in various statements such as resource needs assessments, cash flow projections, profit and loss account, and balance sheet.
As the other side of the coin, the planning process should make attempt to fully deploy your strengths to achieve your business objectives whilst covering your underside. At the end of the exercise, every unit and divisional head should be clear of what is expected of them in the coming year as well how they should work to achieve the targets.
On behalf of our team, I wish you a very successful 2016.