Many clients I work with have often started their journey with me because they are looking for something to change. Sometimes they want to start a business, sometimes they want to grow a bigger business, and sometimes simply want to get out. Clearly the motives are different, as are the outcomes, but they all have one thing in common; it’s nigh on impossible to start the journey unless you have a pretty good idea of where the destination is. Destinations are about a number of things, some of which are financial based, some of which are time based, and some, because they offer the stepping stone to the next thing.
Often there is push back to having clarity about the destination – ‘I’ve never done this before, how am I supposed to know what it looks like?’. I don’t see this as a relevant argument. When we go on holiday, despite the fact that we have never been there, we are normally pretty clear about a number of things. We know whether we want it to be hot or cold. We have chosen accommodation. We have a budget. We allocate time to go. In most cases, within 24 hours, we have travelled half way around the world and arrived at where we are meant to be. If you consider the stats on ‘failed to arrive holidays’ it’s an infinitesimally small number. You might argue that our planning skills are pretty good.
Another thing that strikes me as odd, is that when understanding and navigating our business we often do so without any instruments or feed back. We may just use one, the bank, and so long as that is ok, we’re ok. That’s a bit like a sailor setting off on a life long journey, and so long as the thing his boat sits in is wet then he must be OK.
One Golden Rule to running a successful business
Now here’s a golden rule, and it’s applicable to all businesses big and small, no excuses, what is measured is managed. And conversely if you can’t measure it, you are going to find it really difficult to manage. This applies to the day to day running of your business and most importantly when you are proposing to make a change. If you consider the above example of going on holiday (and the virtual 100% achievement rate) we start by identifying our first destination- ‘The Airport’. We pop the details into our SatNav, we may never have have driven to Cardiff Airport before, so we may allow for a few contingencies, and off we go. The SatNav is constantly measuring our arrival time and we respond to that by setting our speed to ensure we make it on time. And lo and behold, we invariably do. What is measured is managed.
Without wandering too far off with this metaphor, what is it you are measuring in your business that you can glance at every now and again to ensure you are precisely on track? The point is, no one is asking you to become an accountant. You didn’t have to take an Advanced Driving Test to understand how to read a SatNav. You don’t need to understand how the data is compiled, you just need to make sure you have the right data at the right time. Can you imagine how useless SatNav’s would be if there was a lag in the comms that meant they only updated every hour? So, it’s not just what you measure in your business, it’s how often you measure it that matters too. Clearly some things can be on fairly long cycles, for example- measuring how much tax you need in your savings account can be done monthly or quarterly. In some businesses, information such as sales or enquiries can (or should?) be measured on a daily basis.
It’s always about the outcome
Some of the processes or systems we use to achieve our outcomes may be clumsy or clunky, but that matters less than ensuring we reach the outcome. A very tidy digital system that downloads information to your iPhone at 7 pm every night so that you can read it in the bath is arguably no more useful than a post-it note stuck on the front of your t-shirt, if it gives you the information you require to know that you are going in the right direction. And that brings us full circle to ensuring we have clarity with regards to knowing exactly where we are going and what we need to measure if we want to stand any chance of getting there.
I’m not going to get in the ring to debate what will or will not work best with this coronavirus, but it’s probably fair to say that time will hopefully be the best healer. Whilst we all remain confined to our homes we have some excellent time to reflect on the lessons we have learned, not only in our business, but in the last 3 weeks or so. And in so doing, begin to make the plan of what we want things to look like when this is all over- what we need to measure and how often we need to measure it in order to reach the right destination.
We are really happy to help you with this, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Landline – 01326 660022
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