Are they free and are they worth the time invested?
What does free mean? No cost to use? – or use something for free? lets be real – there is no such thing as free.
Time is money and to many small and medium sized businesses time is one of the most precious resources. So read the following with caution – the service may be free but does it add real value to your business?
All businesses have weaknesses as well as strengths. If you want to sustain and grow your business, it’s vital to address these issues before they threaten your chances of long-term success. A business health check can be a key part of that process.
A Business Health Check asks some key questions about your business, highlighting areas of potential weaknesses and pointing you in the direction of relevant help and support.
It should cover the following areas:
People, management and culture
Innovation/ Ideas & IT
Marketing & Sales
Operations & Systems
A business health check should also look at the culture or context the organization operates in, and should take more than one persons view. Any business health check that does not look at all of these areas is potentially missing a key element of your business. It is a bit like saying advertising does not work, because your advert for your car wash business did not attract much business – when the advert was only shown to cinema audiences watching kids time on a Saturday morning. Context is important.
There are many business health checks, so why are there so many available on the Internet? Easy a way of getting you to their site.
Different organizations put free health checks on their web sites and for various reasons these include:
- Marketing – a reason for you to look and interact with the web site, provide contact details so that the organization can contact you and sell you services.
- Sales – consulting companies use free online business health check& diagnostic tools, to help them identify at what products and services they should be selling to you. It gives them a warm lead in what was effectively a cold lead.
- Government funded business advice – Many government support organizations receive their funding based upon the number of companies that are involved with and support. Completing an online tools helps the achieve their goal
Accessing their (government backed initiative) web sites and the services they provide helps towards hitting those targets. The more people use their services the more money they get. Even if it is not adding value to the businesses in the country. Recently in the UK, many business support organizations have turned to using online business health checks in an attempt to capture numbers of companies that they work with. Each company that completes an online business health check counts towards one of their targets. So where is the value for you as the customer? When you use a diagnostic process, think about the possible agenda the supplier may have.
Samples of the many free business health checks and free business diagnostic tools available are listed below.
Is a free Health Check really free?
Some of these business health checks are truly free in that you can access and use them free of charge with no catch, online. Some (like ours) is a limited function version which does add value – but not as much as the full product.
Many require you to submit your contact details so that the provider of the service can contact you. Is the health check truly a version of the tool they sell, or is it a marketing gimmick to get your details?
Having your data puts you on their circulation and marketing list. This allows a selling company to know exactly what you need to do, your strengths and weaknesses, and when they put a proposal together for you, it will target the need to you identified as being a key issue is nothing wrong with this approach.
As long as you the customer understand where they’re getting their information from and how they will use it, it is not a problem.
From our research and development, and from the experience of tens of business advisers, we worked with over the last eight years, we know that the best diagnostics or the best business health checks are those ones that are carried out in partnership with the client organization and use highly skilled business advisers or consultants. Put simply this costs.
Many of the health checks (paid and free) only collect data from one source, you, the owner manager. This is fine in many ways. However, it doesn’t necessarily give us a true picture of what’s going on. It gives one person’s perception. What if information is being hidden or you you are being told what they think you want to hear?
With facilitated business health checks and diagnostic reviews you will generally include comments from the many people within the organization. This means getting varying views on what is actually happening from a diverse audience from within the organization/ business.
Some business health check and diagnostic tools (like the BIRTM) also gather data from people outside the organization as well to provide a 360 view, and in addition it will utilize experience of a business adviser interpreting and feeding back from a rounded perspective. This does not have to be as expensive as it sounds. Quality business diagnostics or reviews can reduce the cost of implementation in the long run.
Even with a paid business health check or business diagnostic review, there are sometimes catches. The question is, is the diagnostic standalone or is it targeted towards the consulting practices services?
A good diagnostic tool or health check tool will look at the whole organization will generally go beyond, whatever any single consulting organization can offer as a solution.
The question then is how does that organization help you achieve your goals?
An effective health check provider will partner with you to help you work with experts, some of them from their organization, some from other providers, as appropriate to help you, your business, in your current growth/ development phase.
A good, truly independent health check or diagnostic is one that does not rely on data from the owner managers’ only perspective. It will collate data from all appropriate stakeholders.
The Health check or diagnostic tool is purchased/ sold as a standalone product is commercially viable on its own – it does not rely on paying for its use by the selling of additional services – some of which may or may not be relevant.
Many Free health checks are there to sell you services, these will undoubtedly add value to the organization because its purpose is just that to identify sales opportunities. An effective health check will look at the stakeholders to take that into consideration with the strategic direction the organization, and then to propose a prioritize plan.
This sounds like hard work and it can be, however it doesn’t have to take that long. If it’s done with the right diagnostic tool and competent qualified business advisers.
These free online business diagnostic reviews are useful to help you understand, that perhaps something needs to happen if you’re really serious about developing health of your organization or business. Then it makes sense to have somebody independent come in to look at your organization, not through rose tinted spectacles but through the experience of looking organizations and businesses like yours to work with you and the senior managers to develop a plan that will work for you and achieve the strategic direction goals that you and your business aspires to.
While the team RapidBI present the links below is an example of the type of online diagnostics available. We in no way endorse or support their use. In their own way, each one can add value to your organization. However, as we mentioned, only having one person’s view and taking into account the agenda behind why this tool is provided free of charge should be taken into account both while you’re undertaking the diagnostic review. And when you get the roof feedback or report, remember only at any report is only as good as the action you take upon it to make change. We wish you well the business available on the internet but are they any good and what advantage do free business health checks have over paid for services?
Effective Business health checks are expensive tools to develop (if they are well researched) so ask yourself: Why is it free? Who paid for the development? What is the real cost?
However even using a free or low cost tool can help ask you some valuable questions about your business and how it is run. This is no substitute for an independent and competent review undertaken in association with a competent and qualified business adviser.
Please note that at the time of writing (30/12/06) the links were checked as working. We cannot be help liable for the content of these sites.
Business Improvement Review -solo
Business Health Check Form
Solutions 4 business Health Check – site deleted in Dec 2011
Business Link health Check
Another Business Link tool
Small business advice – Health check – www.smallbusinessadvice.org.uk site deleted sept 08
Chamber hr health_check
* from time to time we do check these links, those found not to be working, or re-directed to non health check pages are deleted- Nov 07 – 8 links removed. January 2008 – one link updated. Oct 08 one link removed as site deleted.
While the team RapidBI present the links as examples of the type of online health checks and business diagnostics available. We in no way endorse or support their use. RapidBI cannot accept any liability for their use.