By  Tom Dustman, International Sales Director, Sunnen Products Company    

Part 1 of 2

The formal business review is an essential process that sometimes gets overlooked because of day-to-day commitments and pressures to lead the organization, whether your job is CEO or Sales Leader. Any healthy, forward-looking organization should conduct a formal business review every three to five years.

Many in business and academia will tout the importance of a quarterly business review. That may be necessary in some businesses, but for a small business I argue that an annual business review or perhaps even an 18-month interval is more appropriate. My experience in the machine tool market is that changes take longer to form, and that there is expense involved in taking your team members away from day-to-day operations. Also, organizational change is best done with a good dose of calm and patience.

Whatever time frame you choose, business reviews consist of a formal review meeting between frontline managers and sales leadership. You may want to bring in some of your organization’s up-and-coming talent so they can understand the direction and pace of the company. If you have a global organization, you may want to include sales leadership from around your global network.

Certainly there is value in including your finance department leadership, your customer service manager, and perhaps even a member from your IT team.

The purpose of such a meeting is to review the last period’s performance and to discuss plans for the next period. It is important to strategize about how to retain your existing customers, win new business and renew lost customers, and develop plans to work through upcoming challenges and identify the opportunities in a new light. 

Before your organization can move forward with new or modified strategies, you need to review your prior efforts with honesty: what was successful, what stalled and what was dead on delivery.

Your meeting should be a collaborative effort to understand from all perspectives what worked well, what tools were used or weren’t used, what went wrong during the period and what will be different in future periods.

In the lessons learned effort, please consider the following point: Communicate to your organization about the formal business review and why you are undertaking this effort. Set the stage for a report after you conclude the review. This will build your organizational stamina and you may need “all hands on deck” to pull off a business change.

Set up your review team. Make the team process known and efficient. Always maintain the defined process. Ensure that each review gets better than the prior one. Everyone might not agree on everything, but they all need to buy in for the plan to succeed. 

Next month, this article will conclude with some of the specific questions you need to ask during your business review.