As an owner of a small business, and a person who gets the opportunity to support small businesses, I have had the privilage to learn a lot about how different businesses operate. Every business tends to have its unique operational systems, but there are a few things that seem to be consistent amongst the most successful ones. The operational attribute I would like to talk about today is measurement.
When a business is in its infancy, setting up measurables seems like it is more work than it is worth. Do I really need to figure out the utilization of my one employee? However, every business owner does indeed measure things; usually this is just the checking account. Once a business begins to grow beyond a few employees the need to measure the success of the business becomes more necessary. Metrics offer a business owner views of the company that allow the detection of issues before they grow into real problems. Metrics also give a business owner the ability to see and encourage the things that are going well. In fact, this is my favorite part of analyzing numbers.
I was not originally so pro-metrics. I felt like, if our customers were happy, then everything was going just great. What else is there? Well, I found out that by not measuring the different aspects of our business, I was running a few of our employees into the ground. And others were underutilized. I wasn’t able to balance the work load throughout the team. Once I setup metrics, I was able to find the places that I needed to add additional resources. This simple change of finding the correct measurements for our company has made a big difference in our operation and hopefully in job satisfaction for the staff at LIVE Consulting.
This concept is not new. I didn’t make it up. Many of you have read many different business books. The importance of measuring your success is regualry discussed in these books. For those of you who have read many business books, you know that there are good, and not so good, business books. For me, most books fell into the latter category. Many of the books left me wishing that I could have that time back. One book that I really enjoyed and have gained a lot of insight from is Traction by Gino Wickman. This book was recommended to me by some of the members of a peer group that LIVE Consulting participates in.
In the book Traction, Gino Wickman emphasizes the use of ‘scorecards’ for each team within the company and each person having numbers by which they know if they are succeeding or failing. We use software to create these scorecards. In the IT Services industry, there is software for just about anything you want to do. We choose a software that was designed to work with our primary billing, time accounting, and CRM software. This made the integration into our operations simple. Finding this kind of software solution may not be so easy for each industry, but even putting together a simple spreadsheet to keep track of the operations within your organization will have a positive impact on the day to day tasks.
Each small business will have different things that need to be measured. I measure utilization, ticket counts, age of tickets and the response times of our technical staff. Our sales team measures web traffic, leads, the sales pipeline, and closed deals. To determine what we’re going to measure, we started by looking at our core values and asked ourselves how we can encourage these through the things we measured. This method worked for us, but for each company and each industry, this will be a process that takes time. We have also found that this process requires revisions. The fine tuning of what we measure will probably be an ongoing task for some time to come.
Working through this process within LIVE Consulting has allowed me to find the issues we will have in the future and solve them quickly. Most importantly, metrics have given me the ability to congratulate our team on the successes they are having.