Businesses get sick just like people do, so the Kansas University Small Business Development Center now is administering a bit of preventive medicine.
The SBDC, 734 Vt., is offering the Business Wellness Checkup program to assess the health and profitability of local businesses.
Mike O'Donnell, SBDC director, said the program, like all of the center's services, is free. It has been added as one of the ongoing services of the center, which provides counseling and assistance to existing and start-up businesses.
"For small and medium-sized businesses, you don't need to wait for an approaching recession or depression because there are always lots of bugs and germs out there that can infect a business," O'Donnell said.
The "checkup," which will be performed by the SBDC's existing staff, will consist of three of four elements, depending on the type of business, he said.
THE CORNERSTONE of the program is an overall business assessment using the Goldstick Business Health Index, which was developed by Gary Goldstick, a corporate turnaround specialist and author.
A health index rating will be compiled based on 60 questions about finances and management.
The second element of the program consists of a thorough analysis of financial data from the firm's balance sheet and income statement. O'Donnell said the SBDC will calculate key financial ratios for the business and make comparisons between those numbers and three sets of benchmark ratios for similar-size firms in the same industry.
The third element of the program, a "secret shopper" study, is particularly appropriate for retail firms, O'Donnell said. This involves a visit to the business by a team of volunteer shoppers who will be looking for the presence or absence of key customer-service factors. Neither the identity of the shoppers nor the time of their visit will be revealed to the business owner.
THIS SECRET shopper component, which is designed to provide the business with constructive customer feedback, may involve volunteer shoppers representing racial and ethnic minorities. The Lawrence Business Alliance and Lawrence Chamber of Commerce have agreed to help the SBDC find volunteer shoppers.
"It is important that all the retailers who participate in this program get a truly representative feedback from every category of their prospective and existing customers," O'Donnell said.
The final component of the checkup combines a brief on-site inspection of the company's facilities by an SBDC consultant and the presentation of a report detailing the overall wellness of the business.
As with all the consulting services provided by the SBDC, all findings and recommendations regarding participating businesses will be held in confidence.
For more information about the service, contact O'Donnell at the SBDC, 843-8844.