A benchmark is a standard or guideline used to compare some aspect of a business to some objective or external standard measure.

For example, when a banker compares a business’ profitability to standard financial ratios for that type of business, the process is sometimes referred to as “benchmarking.”

LivePlan’s Benchmarks feature can help you see how companies similar to yours have performed in the past, which can be helpful, especially when you compare it to your own forecast or actual financial data. Industry benchmarks can tell you whether you are matching the profit margins of your peers, keeping too much inventory on hand, or getting paid faster or slower than others.

For more on small business financials, see The Key Elements of the Financial Plan.

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At Bplans, it's our goal to make it easy for you to start and run your business. The Bplans glossary of common business terms will help you learn about key small business and entrepreneurship topics.