If you own a business that has a strong trade organization that provides industry Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)--join. National trade organizations, in many cases, are structured to have only one member in each competing market. That way, a business owner can share numbers without the risk of doing so with a competitor. This helps you, the owner, two ways: 1) You can benchmark and identify the areas in your business where you are doing well, as well as the areas where you are failing and need to focus; 2) By sharing information, you know who is doing well, and can ask them for ideas on how to make improvements. I have experienced firsthand how helpful people in the same industry can be if they are not regional competitors.
At my last corporate employer, we joined a national trade organization not long after I arrived. The first time we put our numbers into the benchmarking model, we realized how much we were doing wrong. Every area needed major improvement. The model revealed to us in detail those areas in which we needed to focus and those areas which would result in a faster and greater benefit to our bottom line. Amazingly, within a few short years, in the most profitable areas we were not only hitting, but exceeding, benchmarks. We then focused on the other less profitable, but no less important, areas. As a result, we sustained a consistent, healthy growth in the areas of our business that we chose to focus on due to the benchmarks…even during significant economic downturns.