As a founder, you should be keeping track of milestones, performance, sales and everything else that’s going on with your company, but you’re busy, being pulled in twenty different ways, you have to fundraise, you’re running all sales and marketing, it’s overwhelming. How can you make sure the company is healthy aside from just your MAUs, DAUs, retention, and sales going up. How can you benchmark your startup’s operating performance?

To help you do just that, there’s a pretty nifty framework that doesn’t take forever to complete, but will help you understand areas for improvement within your company.

A powerful, simple, tool to benchmark your startup’s operating performance

When benchmarking areas for improvement, or building a path for a new venture, focus on four critical areas of the business. 

Strategy, People, Finance, Product. 

For each of these areas, add three subsets. See fig 1 below. 

How to Benchmark Your Startup's Performance. Framework

Then score each on a scale of one to ten, with one being nonperformant, and ten exceeding expectations. 

With each score, I then add notes to the specific area. For an operating business, this would look akin to something like this:

Marketing – Score 5 – Notes: Marketing functions at the company consists of paid ad spend that sees extremely high attrition based on the company’s monthly uniques. 

Laying this information out gives me, and everyone else looking at the document a target area to focus on, and the problem to solve in the next work period. 

Foster quick decision making

In any company, and especially a younger one, most likely digitally enabled, change has to happen quickly. Decisions to fix underperforming areas of the organization have to be dealt with promptly. This methodology helps foster this thinking at new ventures. 

Say marketing is performing, but sales are lagging, then you can easily deduce that there is probably something going on in the sales department. If you have poor execution under the product subset, you may want to look at the management practices of your product or engineering team. This approach lets the executive suite or you as a consultant, quickly score, and hone in on underperforming areas of the company. 

Management can have a basic scoring model wrapped up in a day. 

Establish an action plan. 

Each area should have a targeted plan to deal with the most pressing issue at hand. If a company is lacking resources, to handle multiple problem areas, the one that has the most negative impact on the organization should be prioritized. 

See a sample working action plan here.

If the company is already in the 30+ personnel range, then there should be enough human capital to deal with area issues independently. 

Update monthly 

When consulting with clients, I also like to have this document updated. It gives everyone in management a good picture of who is working on what and creates a relatively clear timeline to set against planned milestones. 

I developed this as a tool that would help with the idiosyncrasies of the modern digitally enabled company, but I really can’t take full credit for the toolkit or framework, it’s heavily influenced by the Bell Mason Framework, which honestly doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

If you’d like, you can download the template worksheet, and check out my innovation strategy post for corporates.

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