Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Too often, critical business functions fall into “set and forget” mode, so it’s important to check your business' vital signs periodically.

A passion for the game of chess and a market of people wanting to learn the strategy in Adelaide saw David Koetsier establish Chesslife in 2010.

But while he was well equipped to teach the game given his years of playing professionally, and his business was going well, he soon realised the need for improvements to make the most of his potential.

Three men with beer in hand leaning on machinery

Get your plans on paper

The fact that Koetsier could implement improvements came about after he received a free Business Health Check report on Chesslife, following his entry in 2014 into the Telstra Business Awards.

“We started our business because we were passionate about chess. In our head we knew what our customer services ideas were but we never put it into any structure,” Koetsier said.

“The Business Health Check made us look into aspects of the business we hadn’t considered - like identifying business values and documenting our marketing plan.

“By defining our business values and putting it in writing, we can bring staff in line with our objectives and they feel part of a team with a plan to move forward.”

Koetsier wasn’t alone in filing his business plans in his head.

An analysis of last year's business health check reports revealed that 90 per cent of respondents have long-term business plans covering five to 10 years, but only 40 per cent have plans fully documented.

Keep on top of the financials

Chesslife’s Business Health Check also highlighted a need to improve financial disciplines.

These Business Health Check disciplines, such as regularly measuring pricing against costs, monthly financial reporting, setting expense budgets, reviewing cash flow and being able to interpret a Balance Sheet, are imperative to running a business and ensuring sound financial decisions.

“As far as our finances, we were just documenting in Excel spreadsheets and creating invoices in word documents with no real idea what our revenue or profit was at a particular time,” he said

“We’ve since purchased accounting software and have full visibility of our revenue and profit each month. It’s given us a far better handle on pinpointing the best time to dip into the cash flow for purchasing stock,” Koetsier said.

Koetsier is one of more than a thousand entrants to benefit from the Business Health Check - developed by the NSW Business Chamber to evaluate every entrants’ business performance against international benchmarks, current legislation and accepted industry best practice - since it was introduced in 2010.

Seek fearless feedback

Another business that benefited from the independent review of areas such as sales and marketing, customer relations, management, planning and performance and financials is the 2014 Telstra Queensland Business of the Year, Carbon Media.

The founder of the media production company, Wayne Denning, found it hard to get a subjective assessment of his business when drawing on internal feedback.   

“It’s hard to know how you’re travelling when everyone is on your payroll, and evaluation can tend to be piecemeal from different stakeholders. We don’t have an independent board so to be able to test and evaluate the business via the Business Health Check is a real value-add,” said Denning.

“The Business Heath Check provided us with valuable insight into managing for growth, looking at opportunities and how we can reinforce that.

“To a degree it also reinforced what we did know about ourselves and a reminder to keep growing and expanding. It’s definitely reminded us to keep looking to the future.”

Executing on a plan

Jamie Cook, Director of Byron Bay brewery Stone & Wood Brewing Company, which won the 2014 Telstra Regional Business Award, said the Report and Awards process helped move their plans off the page and into tangible results.

“Our problem wasn’t so much getting our plans down in writing, but more putting that plan into action – all our big ideas were sitting on a piece of paper with other priorities ahead of them. The BHC helped us see the importance in re-prioritising them,” said Cook.

“Since the Awards, a big focus has been achieving our environmental sustainability goals.

“We’ve employed an environmental officer, launched our sustainability program Green Feet and are ontrack to improve water efficiency and achieve zero waste to landfill. We’ve also just pushed the button on a big solar energy project to install 480 solar panels on the roof of the Murwillumbah brewery that will provide 70 per cent of the power during the day.”

“Plans are now turning into action and the Business Health Check certainly gave us the nudge to do it.”

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