We're here with practical information for your business. Learn about business planning, running a business and more.

For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Why benchmark your business?

Rather than being a pointless exercise in data analysis, benchmarking can help you to identify areas where you can make changes and make your firm more profitable. It gives you an insight into different ways of working, which can give you an edge over the competition

To benchmark your business, start by deciding which areas you want to compare. Select those that are central to achieving your key business objectives, such as finance, sales or margins. For example, you might want to assess your business costs against industry norms.

What should you benchmark?

Look at the mechanics of your business. How well are you using your technology, for example? Are other businesses benefiting from new ways of doing things? Think how other firms’ objectives and processes can benefit your business.

Avoid over-complicating your approach - stick to one or two key indicators to benchmark. The more focused your research, the more useful it’s likely to be.

Benchmarking indicators include:

  • Costs (eg utility bills, wages, R&D costs, etc).
  • Key performance indicators (eg sales per employee, gross profit margins etc). Some indicators may require analysis, such as customer satisfaction levels or effectiveness of staff training.
  • Processes (eg stock management, quality control or customer service).
  • Strategy - you might be able to learn strategic lessons from other organisations.

Finding benchmarking information

You need to decide against which businesses you will benchmark your firm. At a basic level, you can compare your figures against published industry norms or data available from an advisory service such as Benchmark Index.

It is worth comparing your operations with firms outside your sector who excel in areas you want to measure. Analysing their approach and adapting it could help you overtake competitors.

You can also join forces with other businesses so that you can both carry out comparisons on an ongoing basis. It is vital that you come to an arrangement with a business (or businesses) of a similar size and structure - and one with similar objectives. Your trade association or local business support organisation might be able to help you find such a partner, or recommend an advisor or other service in your sector.

It’s a good idea to draw up a benchmarking agreement with your partner. This should include the information you want to exchange and how it will be used. Never ask for information that you are not prepared to share in return.

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