This is my April column for the Kitsap Sun/Kitsap Business Journal.
How do you track the success of your business?
Unfortunately, a high percentage of small to middle market enterprises (SMEs) -employers of less than 500 people – track their business success like a hopeful exerciser frightened to step on the scale for fear of what it might reveal.
My daughter is getting married in July. Shortly after hearing the exciting news, I realized that wedding pictures are forever. That thought jabbed me in the pit of my stomach. That same stomach was of late getting slightly bigger than I wanted. It was at that point in mid-November, that I resolved to lose the unwanted baggage. If I was to walk my beautiful daughter down the aisle, I needed to take up less room!
I was a regular every morning at 5:30 at the gym. I couldn’t understand why this was happening. It seemed counter-intuitive, except the empirical evidence proved otherwise. It was time to step on the scale. It read 199 pounds. I think I audibly gasped; I’d never weighed that much before. I realized that just hitting the health club daily and working hard didn’t assure results.
One problem was that after an Achilles injury, I had essentially stopped running. In addition, my penchant for cooking and eating like I was still running was damaging my bottom line, or in this case, my belt-line.
I quickly created a plan to start running again, increase my stretching to avoid injury, and do something I really hated; step on the scale every other day to track my progress.
While the initial results netted a slight decrease of about 2 pounds, for some reason it never really broke below that. Checking dutifully every other day, I became increasingly agitated that my new routine wasn’t working. Even though I felt better and more energetic, the scale was still telling me an unkind truth. I was basically treading water.
That’s when I made one more change; this time to my diet. I cut out almost all bread and went gluten-free. I reduced my portions to only one serving instead of going back for “seconds.” And I eschewed all desserts except for the weekends. This new initiative did the trick. In just a few weeks, I dropped down to my current weight of 193 and on track to hit my goal of 189. I’m still weighing in every other day to make sure I don’t increase (and if I do I take corrective action).
Here’s the comparison of your bottom line to my belt line:
- Small business owners use the “feel” method for charting success. Instead of reading their own scales (metrics) regularly, they consider that by working hard every day, the results will follow. I was working out hard daily, but that was only masking my lack of improvement.
- Initiatives for improvement are put into place, but are done without strong metrics to track results. Everyone gets so busy that they assume things are better. Much like I felt better after initiating my running and stretching regime, however the scale told a different story.
- If I didn’t step on the scale 4 times a week, I’d still be 6 pounds heavier. If you don’t track and monitor your measures for success, you may find that over time, you’ve only kept pace or fallen behind.
It’s time to fearlessly step on the scale. Just like I was hesitant to see the “truth,” you might be hesitant to face the actual reality of your lack of reaching your own goals. Here’s my 5-step plan to accelerate your weight loss – or in your case – path to consistent growth and success.
- Create metrics that will chart what you want to measure. Examples include: Profit per employee; Productivity per employee; Rate of absenteeism; Customer compliments given; Rate of turnover; Revenue growth; Cash flow; and days that you are able to get away to take vacation.
- Seek expert help. There are a number of resources to find information on how to measure these categories. You can access consultants, trade associations, articles and videos, and even internal “smarts.” Create your own to match your industry.
- Gain employee buy-in. They need to understand this isn’t micro managing; rather a system to help them be more productive and happier.
- The first sale is to you. You must be willing to persevere and lead through these changes.
- Get on the scale daily. Check each of your categories on a dally basis. How do you know how you’re doing if you don’t know the score? A football coach makes in-game decisions based on the score, not on how things “feel.” You make important decisions all the time. You need to know your score.
The biggest hurdle for SMEs is the perception that they are too busy. They are working in their business, not on it. The reality for most of you is that at some point in the future, your business is going to fund your “golden years.” To maximize your business wealth and equity, you must ardently keep track of your success, so that you’re in a position to be nimble and change when needed. The consequences of not doing this are as detrimental to your business health as an expanding waist is to your personal health.
The surest way to protect and grow your business wealth is to step on that scale every day. Why not start today?
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