July '12

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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| | | | Your Personal Business Trainer BENCHMARKING = OPEN TO CHANGE It comes as little surprise that today's market- place is more global in nature than ever before. For that reason alone, small businesses can ill afford to be inflexible and inwardly focused. Many small business owners regard their op- eration as too unique to warrant any compari- son across the board. However, most business analysts disagree—noting that companies can learn from the experiences of organizations from a wide range of industries and are more willing to share information with outside busi- nesses who pose no competitive threat. Some common barriers to small businesses conducting their own benchmarking include lack of time and proper technique, the high cost of gathering accurate comparative data, access to relevant information and procedures due to confidentiality issues and generally poor strategic planning. (Studies indicate that only 17 percent of all businesses have a current strategic plan.) Many third parties are willing to assist a small business in their benchmarking ef- Checks what happened Always competitive Tough to uncover information held secret Conducted independently Used to assess the competition Goal is industry/market knowledge Focus on company needs COMPETITIVE COMPARISON ANALYSIS ONLY BENCHMARKING (ADDING BEST PRACTICES) Looks at results Looks at the way results were achieved Checks how things are done May not involve the competition Shared; Information is easier to obtain Conducted in cooperation with others Used to achieve improvement goals Goal is process improvement knowledge Focus on needs of the customer Figure 1: This chart, derived from the book Benchmarking: The Fundamental Questions (Smith, G., Ritter, D. & Tuggle, W., authors, 1993), helps to define the difference between ana- lyzing and benchmarking. undertaking, take the time to calculate ROI before diving in. forts. Additional help is available from independent consultants and trainers for sur- prisingly nominal and affordable fees. I suggest attending a trade show—such as The NBM Shows—so you can rub elbows with and tap the brains of leading manufac- turers, distributors, industry experts/speakers and fellow attendees. And, as with any WHAT TO BENCHMARK Despite the barriers, there are numer- ous benefits to benchmarking, includ- ing improving ways to gauge and meet BENCHMARK FRAMEWORK When Xerox raised bench- marking to an art form and considered it a science, they created the framework upon which most companies today begin their analysis: 28 | PRINTWEAR JULY 2012 • PLANNING — determine precisely what is to be benchmarked, identify the comparative companies and select the data collection methods to be used. • ANALYSIS — determine the present-day "gap" in performance or results and project future performance levels to be attained. • INTEGRATION — decide how benchmark findings (a.k.a. best practices) will be communicated, taught and/or acquired, and how acceptance and commit- ment to change will be earned. • ACTION — develop a detailed tactical plan to implement the best practices and monitor progress along the way. • MATURITY — recalibrate benchmarks, "hold on to the gains" and assume a leadership position as a potential comparison company for another organiza- tion wishing to use you as their benchmark.

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