Best practice is a term often used in business in which techniques, research and technology are used to achieve a desired result. Once a best practice is established within an industry, widespread acceptance tends to follow. 

To be successful, you must keep an eye out for successes other companies achieve and what they have done to reach their goals. Best practice is an integral part of how a market functions. You can’t succeed in business without understanding and learning from your competition. If you want to make sure you stay ahead of the pack, here is a guide to making the most of best practice:

Best practice is good for your small business. While you always want to pursue innovation, chances are you don’t have an expansive research and development department. Best practice allows you to look at larger companies and carefully adopt some of their innovations to serve your own purposes. As you remain careful about following copyright and intellectual property laws, you may have  discovered a way to revamp your product.

Research is key. Researching a wide range of market sectors can give you an innovative boost. Staying on top of what’s going on in your own industry – and others – is absolutely vital to your success. Consumer reports, product digests and computer benchmark software are popular resources for business owners. There are also a number of best practice databases online that describe a range of first-rate practices in sales, human resources and other industries. Additional outlets for understanding the market can include fashion magazines, social media websites and movies. If you stay alert, great ideas can come from any number of places.

Benchmarking is a systematic science. You may occasionally be hit by a flash of inspiration, but for the most part, figuring out the best practice that works for you is a step-by-step process. First, you will want to take a critical look at your own company and identify your problem areas, such as marketing and managing. Then, take a look at companies similar to yours. Focus on the industry leaders who have proven their relative strength in business. These companies usually have consistently great performance, record high sales and garner business excellence awards. With the help of third-party benchmarking research, assess where the difference is between you and them. Following this new framework, decide on a game plan to improve your own strategies. Finally, set your plan in action and see where it goes.

Keep track of your results.No two companies are alike; what works for larger companies may not necessarily work for you. Once you have begun implementing your plan, keep detailed records of the results. You may want to track customer feedback, sales numbers or the overall health of your finances. Tweak your plan as you go along, tailoring each best practice to your company’s needs. Improving your company should be a permanent, ongoing process.