The best way to ensure your print business gets a healthy check-up is to put it under the microscope of a self-audit and examine it with a fresh set of eyes periodically.
Over these last few weeks, we’ve been walking through a complete guide for self-auditing your business. If you’re just joining us, here’s what we’ve covered up until now:
- The importance and advantages of self-auditing your print business,
- Five different audit types you may want to consider for your printing firm, and
- How to become the most sought-after print business to work for with the help of a culture audit.
While up until this point, you’ve learned the importance of self-auditing your business, and today you’ll dig into the how-to a bit more with five steps for self-auditing your print business.
Ready to make your print business the best it can be? Let’s get started!
5 Steps for Self-Auditing Your Print Business
Mentally extracting yourself from your business and examining it from an outsiders’ point of view is one of the most beneficial things you can do to better your business. Follow these steps for success!
Step 1: Find Your Reason Why
There are a number of reasons why businesses want to audit or evaluate their business as a whole. But unless you have your own personal reason, your objectives will fall flat.
So, first things first, define your own reasons for wanting to conduct a self-audit.
Whether it’s to keep you in touch with certain company milestones or goals, find areas that are costing you too much, or simply to improve your overall business operations, defining your focus will help you choose the appropriate audit type to conduct and keep you narrowed-in on your mission.
Step 2: Plan Your Audit
Once you’ve outlined your objectives or reasons for your audit, you can move on to the planning phase.
During this step, you’ll want to determine things, such as:
- What type of audit needs to be performed,
- Who will be involved in the audit,
- What business processes need to be identified or reviewed,
- The audit timeline, and
- Any specific issues you should be keeping an eye out for
By the end of this planning phase, your goal should be to come away with a written audit plan that will keep you on track (and avoid scope creep) as you perform your audit.
Step 3: Get to Working “On” Your Business Instead of “In” Your Business
This is the part of the self-audit process where you’ll be collecting evidence and doing some “fieldwork” per se.
Your objective is to understand and evaluate the processes and systems in your business to see if they’re working as effectively as they should be and if they’re being followed by all.
Review and test different scenarios and any documentation you have outlining your policies, procedures, and processes. For example:
- Place fake orders through all of the different ordering scenarios you offer (email, phone, website, in-person) and then follow that order from initial placement all the way through delivery. Then, identify any weaknesses in your process.
- Review the data. e.g., What’s a typical print job’s turnaround time? Average cost per order? Per customer?
- Interview your team for what’s working well and what’s not working as well. (Remember, you’ll have to put down your defenses and really listen to what they’re saying. It needs to be a safe space for them to express their view.)
- Evaluate your product offerings. Are you stocking materials for products that are not being ordered anymore? (Devote your efforts to the strong performers instead of trying to pull up the weaker ones. It’s common for most businesses to do the opposite. Don’t make it your goal for everything to be average, or it’ll be the best you ever get.)
By collecting evidence in these areas and more, you should be able to gather an unfiltered look and how things are working at your printing firm and identify any discrepancies and issues that need fixing.
Step 4: Putting it all Together
After you’ve spent time in the “field” and collected all of your evidence, it’s time to put it all together.
You’ll want to compile all of your findings, as well as your plans and recommendations for improvement into an audit report of sorts. Since this is an internal audit for your own benefit, you can decide how extensive you want this to be. But just remember, improvement doesn’t come from simply pointing out everything that’s wrong. Improvement comes from taking action on the things that are amiss.
So use this step to describe your findings, specifically those items that aren’t in compliance with your company’s goals, and then note your recommendations and plans for improvement on those items.
Lastly, remember that finger-pointing or blame-shifting is not the goal here, but rather, it’s to identify any issues and develop a plan for improving them. And, on the flip side, don’t fall prey to explaining away everything you find. Take each issue seriously, so you can take the necessary steps to eliminate them.
Step 5: Be Sure to Follow-Up
American businessman Louis Vincent Gerstner Jr. once said, “People don’t do what you expect but what you inspect.”
To make this easier for you, during your planning phase, schedule follow-up check-ups to assess progress and to make sure none of the incredible ideas you came up with during the auditing process fall through the cracks.
Check back next week for a complete audit checklist to help you take the next step in self-assessing your print business.