Hopefully, you check in with your doctor and dentist, annually. You might even schedule an every 6 month cleaning at the dentist, and some annual required exams, after a certain age, or if you’re in a high-risk category. But, have you considered doing the same for your business? Your business has a pulse and you need to keep it strong to withstand market volatility and crises (they happen to every business, so it’s best to be prepared). Following are some key performance indicators (KPI’s) or metrics that every business owner needs to know:
- Financial Metrics
Cash Flow, Balance Sheet, P&L are the basics. Make sure debt as % of revenue and net income are the basics, too. Whittle that number down every quarter. Be sure to include industry specific metrics, too. As a manufacturer, I need to know inventory turns and labor rates. Another financial metric I watch is the funding level of an emergency account to the equivalent of 6 months expenses. My favorite game-changing book is Profit First, by Michael Michalowicz. Mike challenged all my assumptions about sales (expenses) = profit. Mike’s premise and the book’s bottom-line: profit shouldn’t be considered last. My company is leaner and more profitable since I read the book (about 3 years ago). Oh, and it is an entertaining, laugh-out-loud, “uh-huh, that is so me!” read.
- Professional Development
Education, Leadership Training, Coaching, Motivation, Success, and Industry Certifications. No one operates in a vacuum. In fact, we’re often (too often) in our own head and it’s kinda myopic in there. As your company’s leader, you need to get out of the office and be among your peers. In addition, you need to stay abreast of the latest thought leaders. Commit to reading 2 dozen business books a year, that’s only 2 p/month. Considering it takes 3-4 hours for the average reader to read and absorb a book, multiply that by 2 books p/month, that’s only 10-15 minutes a day. Audiobooks are fine. But, recent research shows reading engages (good) parts of the brain that listening doesn’t. Don’t know where to start? Read E-Myth, by Richard Gerber, it’s a seminal business classic. He distills why we all need to process our business functions. And it’s a well-told story, too. Take an on-line course or two to improve your skills and hire a coach; a
good great one. Your hand should be shaking when you are hitting that “enter” button to pay their fees. On that note, if you expect people to pay for your time, you need to walk that walk, too.
- Employee Metrics
Appreciation, Retention and Development Programs; Sales p/employee, employee hours (sick-time, overtime, accrued vacation time); company benefits, timed response and satisfaction rates for employees directly involved with customers. Employee manual updates need to be logged, as well.
- Customer Metrics
Without your customers, you wouldn’t have a business. So you better know this one up, down and sideways. I know my customer demographics and my end-user stats (they are not always the same). I measure the # of orders, the AOV (Average Order Value), LTV (Life-Time Customer Value [tip: breakout the profit, too!]), CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost), CPC (Cost p/conversion), conversion % (for e-commerce stores; otherwise closure rate), CRM (customer relationship management) stats, return %, pipeline stats (# of visitors to store, sources of customers, etc…), social media stats (# of followers, posts, re-tweets, etc…) every week.
- Process Metrics
Process is more than IT or engineering. Process metrics monitor, evaluate and improve processes company-wide. From the simple, how employees answer the phone, to how refunds are processed, to the more sophisticated EDI for inventory controls, process is part of every company. You think this doesn’t apply to your company? Again, I encourage you to read E-Myth. Mr. Gerber takes us on an entrepreneurial journey with Sarah, a fictional small town pie-maker. If you’re like me, you’ll be converting her pies to your widgets.
- Sales & Marketing Metrics
Though closely linked to Customer Metrics, classic numbers to follow are ROAS (return on ad spend) for each channel/medium, # of blog entries (and stats on those [tip: watch what’s effective and replicate it]), sales p/employee and p/account executive. Do you have a metric to track follow up of calls, brochures, inquiries? I guarantee you, you are leaving dollars on the table if you have no formal process or system.
- Strategic Metrics
I left the most important for last. You need to spend time working on your business not just in it. If you take 1 day p/month, off-site, to just think, dream and strategize about your business you will be farther ahead 1 year from today.
Things to think about are: what worked? what didn’t? where do I want the business to be in 1 year? What does it look like? How can I get there? Who or what will I need to get there? Who are our customers? What do they look like? What do they need? What can I give them? What isn’t being met in the marketplace today? What strategic partnerships should I pursue? What do they look like? How do I get there? How are we perceived in the community? What can I do for my employees? What’s my exit strategy? Will I leave it as a legacy for my family? Should I liquidate? Should I sell? To whom? My employees? A competitor or a strategic partner? How do I prepare for maximum value and a meaningful exit regardless if I leave it as a legacy, close it down through a liquidation or a sale?
At bare minimum, you should review the above metrics at least once p/month. Only then can you address problematic trends, or dedicate more resources to solutions that are working. Once you have them identified consider consolidating them to a dashboard on your computer screen. Domo and GuidingMetrics are two I like. All the info and basic stats in one place change the way you manage your business and your team.
What did I miss? Post your helpful comments below.