What Does “Great” Mean in My Business?
I recently spent four days out of the office on a yearly retreat with my Forum. As is usually the case when I spend a little time away from the office, I was able to step back and see some things more clearly, and this time one thing became painfully obvious.
When I called the office at the end of the day on Friday to check in, I heard the following: “The week went great. We got a bunch of new opportunities and three clients closed this week. The data centers are running smoothly. Projects are on target for completion.” It all sounded great, but I realized at that moment that something was missing: real metrics.
That phone call convinced me that I need to come up with a better way to track what happens in the office when I’m not there— and even when I am. As we grow and I delegate more of my responsibilities, I need to find a formal way to keep track of everything before it’s too late and I’m totally lost. I need to know what “great” means, how much “a bunch” is and what projects are due when.
More specifically, I need to know things like how many new leads come in each week, how many go to trial and how many clients close. I would like to know all of this on a per-source basis— how much business is being generated by my sales team, my telemarketers, our partners, client referrals, public relations and media, etc. On the other side of the business, I need to know exactly how many support calls my engineers handle each week. Finally, I want to be able to get a snapshot of our average client in terms of revenue and data storage. For us to assess our performance, we need to start documenting all of this on a weekly basis.
It isn’t that we aren’t tracking all of these things in some way now; it’s just not as organized or consistent as it could be. I don’t have a good executive view of how things are going from one month to the next. It’s not just about whether we are growing, it’s about where we are growing. Also, it’s about knowing where to focus our time, energy and dollars to get the best results. Maybe that means hiring another sales person or a dedicated partner relationship manager, or maybe it means focusing more on our PR efforts.
I also owe it to my employees to provide structure and accountability for their performances. I’ve heard many people say, “Employees don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect.” My employees are dedicated and loyal, and at the end of the day they are going to focus on the things that I ask them to do. However, if I want to provide my employees with clearly defined expectations and then hold them accountable, I have to have a way to measure their performance.
Right now, I believe the solution may be as simple as creating an executive dashboard using Microsoft Excel. My Forum teammate, Gary Tuerack from the National Society of Leadership and Success, created one for his organization. Each week his team enters their numbers on the sheet, and depending on whether the number is above or below the chosen benchmark, the cell will turn red, yellow or green. I like this idea; it seems simple and visual. This is definitely a project that I will ask our new operations person to manage.
Thanks to this solution, I no longer ask myself the following questions: If I spend a lot of time out of the office, how do I keep up with what happens while I’m away? How do I measure and track what goes on in my business? Now that I’ve implemented this program, I’ve been able to routinely measure our success as a business, both on the road and internally. As any entrepreneur knows, that’s priceless.
This article is an excerpt of Jennifer’s blog, “You’re the Boss,” hosted by The New York Times. To read more of Jennifer’s musings on business,