1. Are the business's financial results reflective of the budget prepared at the beginning of the year?
The strength of a business rests on its financial results and financial position which is reflected in the income statement, balance sheet and cashflow statement, so starting off by looking at the results to date gives a good indication of the overall health of the business, explains Ms Gitonga. “It is essential to investigate any material variances between actual results and budget and to put corrective measures in place where necessary. The impact of abnormal or once-off events on the business should also be considered," she notes.
2. How have departments and staff been performing?
The feedback from individual performance reviews provide valuable insight that should be considered as part of this review. “All businesses should have formalised performance measures and performance review processes. Once performance reviews have been completed, it is essential to reward good performance to avoid a fourth quarter slump in morale, while putting the necessary measures in place to improve bad performance."
3. What impact has the external operating environment had on the business?
“Business owners have to ask themselves if they are still operating in the same environment that they were at the start of the year, and if not, they need to identify what they have to change in order to adapt to the current environment," Ms Gitonga says. She advises that business owners scout the environment - including global economic growth rates, general business confidence, exchange rates, interest rates, fuel cost drops and hikes, as well as events like national elections - and evaluate whether the current environment has changed compared to the assumptions that were made when the annual budget was drawn up.
4. Which customers have been lost and gained?
The end of the third quarter is a great time to relook the business's customer retention and attraction strategy, to ensure that projected figures are on track for the end of the year. “Business owners should look at which customers they have lost and understand why," says Ms Gitonga. “In addition, they should also look at customers who have moved over from competitors and develop insight around this."
5. Are there any new or alternative suppliers available?
Ms Gitonga recommends that business owners evaluate suppliers in terms of their pricing, quality and service of their product. “If better alternatives are available, businesses should carefully start the process of moving part of their procurement over to these service providers."
6. Is the business operating optimally?
Throughout the year, businesses should identify sources of inefficiencies and bottlenecks and look at innovative solutions to these problems. The theme of innovation should run throughout the business, says Ms Gitonga, and shouldn't just focus on products, but also extend to the production process, administration as well as all other departments.
7. Should budget adjustments be made?
Finally, Ms Gitonga says that businesses should make the necessary budget adjustments for assumptions that were incorrect or inadequate. “This includes assessing the liquidity position and working capital finance needed to achieve business objectives. If the business has exceeded its growth expectations, then it may be necessary to rework the working capital finance needs and to put those facilities in place."
While the third quarter review may not set the pace for a business strategy, it is instrumental in allowing a business to identify problems with systems, processes and employees, and to set up corrective measures. “Conducting regular checks brings about a renewed sense of focus, attention and action. A holistic understanding of where a business finds itself throughout the year, is vital to stay on the correct track," Ms Gitonga concludes.
- About Business Partners Kenya:
Business Partners International is a specialist risk finance company for formal small and medium owner-managed businesses in Kenya, and selected African countries. The company actively supports entrepreneurial growth by providing financing from US$50, 000 to US$1 million paid out in local currency, specialist sectoral knowledge, and added-value services for viable small and medium businesses. Since establishment, Business Partners International has provided business finance worth over US$110 million and facilitated over 10 500 jobs. Visit www.businesspartners.africa for more information.