In a world full of (and beginning to overflow with) new ways to market and develop business ideas, you can choose from a plethora of options. You determine your strategies and actions, and initially that is so exciting and promising.
Because of the multitude of options available, the choices can be difficult. The good news is that you can try something and if that isn’t creating the results you want, you have alternatives. So, how do you know if what you are doing is working as intended?
You can feel it intuitively, but trusting your gut in business or finance can be misleading when analyzing decisions and their potential impact or results. It’s similar to ending the day thinking you ate well. Only writing it down will reveal the reality that you have readily forgotten.
Whether you are a free-flowing creative or a hardcore business person, the rule applies. Data is the only truth teller. I resist this and wish it weren’t so. It’s not in my nature to enjoy collecting or analyzing data. However, once the information is in front of me, it’s hard to look away and it forces its way in as the ultimate guidepost.
Honestly, once you have the data compiled, it also becomes your friend, your informant. It will quietly tell you what you need to hear and without judgment. The meaning you put to it is all on you. Whether you make it negative or positive, recognize that you are bringing the emotion into the equation.
Numbers tell a story and tracking them is designed to inform you, not upset you. What you do with the information is what counts. This is where you can get creative and write the next chapter in the story.
When implementing a strategy, it’s the data that tells you if it is working and whether to continue. You must look at it and use it. The more regularly, the better. It’s the truth staring you in the face, so any predetermined ideas or assumptions will be proven right or wrong. This has huge value. It’s how your actions are graded so you can determine whether you continue on your path or go back to the drawing board for some new ideas.
Choose your own way of running your business, or handling your career search, but use appropriate measurements to know if it’s working for you.
“We’ve all heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.” It means regular measurement and reporting keeps you focused — because you use that information to make decisions to improve your results. Your most critical measurements are called Key Performance Indicators.” (University of California, Digital Library)
The performance indicators may differ but the need to measure progress is a constant. In the business world, it can get complex and very detailed. Tom Peters presents some ideas below.
Some of the basic and essential ways to track your progress are as follows:
1. Revenue and Net Income –Always track and report the amount of income you produce, collect, and what remains after expenses. Comparisons against equivalent time periods or historical time frames is important information as well. Tracking is necessary whether income is coming in or not. It’s better to see the patterns and trends, even if they are bleak. Waiting to measure progress until you see it, delays the process. Trust me on this one. The temptation is real and so are the missed opportunities.
2. Cash Flow –Cash flow can be more mysterious than income or expense tracking. Observing your bank balances, and the fluctuations in available cash is extremely important. Poor cash flow is often the cause of stress in business. Can you keep and consistently raise a threshold or cushion in your accounts? Are you able to pay bills on time and in full? This is a big topic to cover. Find a couple of metrics that will indicate positive cash flow for you (paying yourself may be one for entrepreneurs starting out) and track those to begin. If farther along in your business, you can set higher cash flow standards and track more sophisticated numbers.
3. Products and Services –Tracking the number of clients you service or products you are selling against goals you have set is key. If you provide a mix of products and services, you will want to know the numbers for each of those and any patterns that show up in the purchasing of those products and services. Track the who, where, when, why and how of the sales you make.
4. Marketing –Marketing is rich with data to track and evaluate. So much so, that unless you love this process, you will be wise to find the key metrics to track, and may want to seek professional advice in this area. Online marketing platforms have their own analytics to use. However, there are many third-party data tracking companies that offer more independent information.
At a minimum, see how you are currently marketing and track the obvious numbers that will indicate success in your marketing strategy. If you are going to networking events, how many significant connections did you make? How many have you followed up with or met with? Has business or income been generated from the connections? Have there been other less tangible but still worthwhile benefits?
5. Customer Satisfaction – Tracking the satisfaction level and interests of your customers is an ongoing process. How often do you reach out to prior customers and in what way? What kind of future interaction do you hope to have with people who have engaged with you before? Can you gather information that would help you assess the general satisfaction level of the people you work with or the users of your products or services?
A word to those embarking on a career change. This journey can be a long one and is somewhat of a numbers game. So, tracking your actions is as important to your success and the speed with which you make this transition, as anything else.
Developing and executing strategies can be emotionally taxing when in the search for a new career. You may feel that you are “efforting” at this for hours each day. Measure your actual work time and track the results by monitoring the following each week:
How many resumes have you given out?
How many positions have you seen that were interesting and worth pursuing and what categories were they in?
How many interviews have you scheduled/done?
How many networking events attended/ significant connections made?
How many connections have you made on LinkedIn or messages sent?
Treating your job search like a job itself and measuring your actions, will keep it moving and progressing in a way that will yield so much more. It is a valuable indicator of how you are using your job search time.
The sooner you implement tracking mechanisms and measuring tools, the faster you will see your results (partly because you will actually be looking at them).
Setting up a one sheet with specific tracking points is a simple way to measure what matters to you without overwhelming yourself. Find your accountability partner and document the reward you are going to give yourself for tracking, regardless of the results, to avoid stagnation.