Client: “I feel like I am not making progress.”
Me: “How have you defined progress?”
Client: “I am not sure.”
Me: “Then how do you know you aren’t making it?”

A quick exchange followed, and my client left the call with some much-needed clarity and a few action items. I also had a few takeaways from the conversation, including the realization that potentially others were feeling like my client.

As I do the work of building people and those people build businesses, I am continually uplifting the importance of strategy. In so doing I am forced to remind myself and my clients (especially in moments of doubt or frustration) that strategy is more than creating a list of goals and objectives.. It is a way of thinking that it is relevant to every area of your development.

To this end, when building your personal brand, professional brand, business or vision, it is both strategic and crucial to have some accepted assumptions about what growth is supposed to look like and how fast it is supposed to happen. These informed assumptions in an are called benchmarks; and are used to facilitate goal setting and productivity management with a primary focus on time, impact and quality. The process of benchmarking requires assessing parts your performance against general standards and best practices; and aims to identify gaps, create solutions and implement necessary change measures.

While a quick google search will provide you with a wealth of information on benchmarking most of the models you will find engages the process from a complex business perspective which can be complicated and overwhelming (one source lists a total of 18 steps). So how does the average person or small-business owner use benchmarking to create better outcomes?

First, you should have a clear understanding of the two main types of benchmarking and their utility.

  1. Internal benchmarking measures the things happening within your business. professional or personal brand. Many entrepreneurs, visionaries, professionals and individuals struggle in this area as they either set goals that are unsustainable or fail to set goals at all.
  2. External benchmarking measures you against your competition. Many struggle in this area also. For evaluation in this area to be effective, it should focus only on mission critical functions and you must be careful to compare apples to apples.

Benchmarking should ideally be done from both perspectives with each perspective informing the other. Having clarity around, for example, how many hours you should spend on essential functions, how much money you should be gaining, losing and investing in your venture, and the type of value you bring to yourself, your vision, audience and clients is essential to remaining motivated and progressive.

Next, you will need to select a method. As I previously stated google has a number of them with varying degrees of difficulty and relevance to business and brand owners like you. To increase your efficiency, I have constructed a process of benchmarking that can be easily remembered using the acronym D.I.A.M.O.N.D.

  • DOCUMENT current practices and methods (include what, how and when);
  • IDENTIFY relevant best practices and processes (emphasis on relevant);
  • ASSESS which practices are ideal for your unique venture, goals and constraints;
  • MAKE an honest evaluation of the gap between the current and ideal;
  • OUTLINE the steps needed to fill the gap between the current and ideal;
  • NAVIGATE the transition (yes navigate as opposed to implement); and because you will have to
  • DO IT AGAIN as often as necessary to ensure continued effectiveness.

Finally, get started. This process is all about YOU and defining the norms of YOUR business and brand. Any comparisons, assessments, and changes you make should be about creating the best opportunity to meet your desired outcomes.

And remember you are either going to be your easiest or toughest critic so you will have to do the work to remain objective and set realistic BUT challenging targets.