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By Roy Rasmussen Updated on October 14, 2021

How to Make a Business Review (Plus Conducting One in 8 Steps)

Knowing how to make a business review helps you transform your current results into future success. 

Here’s how to evaluate the performance of your small business. We’ll talk about what a business review is and how often you should do one before we show how you review your business operation or that of your clients. In the process, we’ll share some best practices to help your company performance reviews go more smoothly.

What Is a Business Review?

A business review is a periodic meeting held to review performance, evaluate results, plan improvements and schedule actions. It may be used to review any area of business performance, including:

For best results, performance reviews are expressed using measurable key performance indicators (KPIs). This allows for more objective evaluation, goal setting and benchmarking.

Business Review Format

The format of a business review may include items such as:

  • Notes from previous meeting agendas
  • A summary of current KPIs
  • Target KPI numbers to be achieved by the next review
  • A list of action items to achieve these goals

Note that the exact contents of a business review may vary based on what area of performance is being reviewed. For instance, a review focused on sales performance will cover different items than one focused on business efficiency. Different industries have their own unique needs. A software provider might focus on numbers related to a client’s usage of specific product features, for instance.

Business reviews may be conducted internally for one’s own company or externally for a client’s company. For example, an accounting firm may conduct reviews of financial planning numbers for clients.

A giant magnifying glass inspects a small coffee shop.

How Often Should You Conduct a Business Performance Review?

An evaluation of business may be conducted at any interval. Some companies, for instance, may use an annual review presentation. Others, however, may use quarterly business reviews instead of a yearly business review presentation. Conducting reviews more often than this is possible, although doing reviews too frequently may become tedious and counterproductive.

If you do conduct frequent reviews, you will find it helpful to use a business review template and an automated KPI tracking system to speed up the process. For example, if you’re reviewing financial data, syncing your point-of-sale software with your accounting software and setting up automated reports can streamline your review process.

How Do You Do a Business Review? 8 Steps

The process of conducting business reviews can be broken down into 8 general steps:

  1. Establish your KPIs
  2. Set up your tracking system
  3. Create your review template
  4. Identify who should participate
  5. Set review meeting agendas
  6. Schedule your reviews
  7. Run meetings
  8. Follow up

Let’s look at what’s involved in each step and how to execute it successfully.

1. Establish Your KPIs

The success or failure of your business review system depends largely on choosing the right KPIs to evaluate performance and set goals and benchmarks. Which KPIs you should use depends on what you’re trying to review. This in turn depends upon your business goals or those of your client. 

For example, if your reviews will be focusing on financial performance, you might select KPIs related to items such as sales revenue, expenses and cash flow. Either internally or with your client as applicable, discuss the business goals you want to focus on and determine which KPIs would best serve to measure progress toward those goals.

2. Set Up Your Tracking System

Once you know which KPIs you want to track, you can set up tracking procedures. To maximize the efficiency of your review process, strive to automate your KPI tracking process. 

You can do this by using apps with built-in KPI, dashboard and reporting features or by using a business intelligence software program that enables you to create your own KPIs, dashboards and reports. For example, accounting business intelligence tool Fathom lets you pull KPI data from QuickBooks into reports and presentations.

3. Create Your Review Template

To prepare your reviews efficiently, set up a template to streamline the process of planning your review sessions. In general, a business review template can include:

  • Notes on agendas from previous meetings
  • Meeting agenda items
  • A reporting section highlighting KPIs pulled from your tracking system
  • A section for identifying target KPIs for future meetings
  • A section for listing follow-up actions to be taken to achieve target KPIs

Expand upon this framework or other business review templates available online to develop your own customized template.

4. Identify Who Should Participate

Before scheduling business review meetings, it’s worthwhile to invest some time in deciding who needs to participate. Meetings consume valuable time, and there’s no need to waste the time of personnel who don’t need to be there. In most cases, only a few key individuals need to participate in the meeting in order to relay data and decisions to other relevant parties. 

Having unnecessary attendees both will waste the time of people who don’t need to be there and slow down the discussion by generating excess input. Limit attendance to essential attendees.

5. Set Review Meeting Agendas

Another preliminary for scheduling business review meetings is setting your agenda. What key items will your meeting discuss? You don’t necessarily need to cover every KPI in equal depth. Also, certain items may be more relevant for strategic planning than others. 

Agenda items might include:

  • Reviewing goals discussed at previous meetings
  • Reviewing progress toward specific goals
  • Analyzing factors influencing performance numbers
  • Highlighting vendor contributions to client performance
  • Forecasting trends
  • Developing strategies for improving key numbers
  • Setting new goals
  • Scheduling follow-up actions
  • Scheduling the next meeting

Develop a customized agenda list based on your needs or those of your client.

A calendar hangs on the wall. A date is circled in ink with the note, “Business Review.”

6. Schedule Your Reviews

Once you know who’ll be attending and what you’ll cover, you can schedule your review meetings. Using a calendar tool and scheduling app can help automate this process, saving you time inviting attendees and sending out reminders.

When inviting attendees, take the opportunity to share your meeting agenda with them so that they can come prepared. You may find it expedient also to share KPI reporting data so they can come to the meeting better informed with questions, concerns and suggestions ready.

Depending on how much information you need to review, you may find it more practical to schedule a series of meetings rather than covering everything in one sitting. Plan your schedule based on the specifics of your review items.

If you’re working with an external client, talk to them about how often they want to schedule reviews. Different clients may have different needs and preferences.

7. Run Meetings

When it comes to actually running meetings, aim to keep the presentation short, to the point and engaging. Identify who will be the presenter. Also, plan how much time will be devoted to each item so that you can keep your meeting manageable. A half-hour may be sufficient for quarterly reviews, while annual reviews might be longer, in which case breaks may be in order.

Using visual aids can help sum up key data quickly in a user-friendly format that highlights your main points. Some items may lend themselves to presentation as a story about performance improvement rather than dry numbers. Include opportunities to ask questions or make suggestions to promote engagement. Consider bringing food and beverages to improve the atmosphere.

8. Follow Up

For business reviews to have practical value for you or your client, following up on action items is essential. Identify specific action steps which should be taken for KPIs under discussion. Note who will be responsible for implementing these steps and what they plan to have accomplished by your next scheduled meeting. If there will be any check on progress between meetings, determine what procedures will be followed and who’ll be responsible for them.

Last but not least, set a date for your next meeting. This last step will make your business review process self-sustaining, enabling you or your client to make continuous progress toward your business goals.

Use Business Reviews to Plan Future Success

Business reviews are internal or client meetings held periodically to assess performance and plan improvements. They may be conducted annually, quarterly or at other desired intervals. For best results, a good business review process should focus on measurable KPIs which can be tracked automatically and incorporated into reports as part of a review template.

Once you have a good tracking and reporting system in place, conducting reviews is a matter of planning, scheduling and running meetings. A typical meeting should cover reviewing current numbers, setting target numbers and planning actions to achieve desired goals. To put plans into action, make sure to follow up, including scheduling your next meeting.

Roy is a respected, published author on topics including business coaching, small business management and business automation as well as an expert business plan writer and strategist.
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