February 28, 2019

Four Ways to Gain Benchmarking Insight

Heidi Pozzo

Heidi Pozzo
Strategy and Growth Expert/Heidi Pozzo LLC

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Have you ever wondered how you stack up against your competition or companies in other industries? It can be a tough question to get the answer if you are in a private sector business. But it is a really important perspective to understand because people will only want to put money into your company or do business with you if you are financially stable.

In this article, I’ll outline four ways to gain benchmarking insight to get perspective on your company. I’ve considerable time in both public and private companies and have found a variety of ways to get the information to tell how well the companies in my industry were performing. I’ve also looked at returns in other industries to understand how the returns stacked up against others. People have a choice where they put their money. It's not enough to do well in your industry, you must also do well against companies in other industries to attract capital. This article will help you find the information to tell how you are doing.

 

#1 – Your Banker Has a Wealth of Knowledge

 

Depending on the size and focus of your bank, there is a wealth of knowledge to be found. Many banks publish reports on industry sectors.  They contain specific information about trends in the industry, results on publicly traded companies, key metrics for the industry, etc. There are typically economic reports that comment on the general indicators and drivers of the local or national economy. 

Relationship bankers and lenders will have perspectives on how your company stacks up. They see the financial results of many companies.  While they won’t be able to give you specifics about other privately held companies, they can give you generalities about the ranges of margins and where you fit in.

 

#2 – Your Accountant Has Deep Insight into Financial Results

 

Just like your banker, your accountant sees a vast number of financial statements of companies in your industry and others. Some firms develop benchmarking reports available for their clients, others have an informal perspective based on what they see every day. They also may have a perspective on the trends in the industry that lines up against economic or other drivers in your industry.

Because of their deep work through auditing or tax preparation, they also have keen insights into opportunities that may not be as obvious just by looking at just the numbers. Maybe there are new tax incentives or deduction opportunities. Or new supply chain opportunities that are having financial and productivity impacts. You might be surprised at the insights when you sit down to have a conversation.

 

#3 – Local or National Industry Associations Have Great Insights

 

Many industry associations conduct benchmarking studies to help their constituents understand how they stack up relative to others. It is a blind process to ensure private data is not disclosed, and the information is aggregated to ensure that it is kept that way.

The benchmarks will typically include both financial and non-financial data. Typically grouped by revenue size, the information will include cost of sales and overhead figures to allow you to benchmark operating margins and overhead structure. There will also be key operational metrics such as productivity measures and volume measures. In some cases, they are focused on a specific area of the market.

 

#4 – Business Publications and Internet Searches Can Provide a Plethora of Information

 

There are a number of governmental and private entities that collect data on virtually everything. The information can be found free or for a fee. Depending upon your industry, some of the major business publications will regularly publish the data in a summarized form.  Some industries have magazines that publish specific data or make it available for an additional fee.

A quick search of the internet can reveal a variety of sources of information, many that are very current and reliable.  Depending upon your industry, you may find both financial and non-financial information. It is important to understand the source of the data and assess its reliability. 

Understanding where you stack up relative to others is important. It gives you a gauge on the health of your company and the likelihood others will do business with you.  Investors, bankers, customers and suppliers will all try to make this assessment and decide whether they want to partner or continue partnering with you. Benchmarking doesn’t need to be a massive, time-consuming exercise.  It will likely take a little longer the first time you do it.  But once you find the right sources of information, it can be quick and easy to stay up to date with how you stack up.  How do you plan to see how you stack up against others?

Comments? You can contact me directly via my AdvisoryCloud profile.

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