Having run my businesses for the last ten years as well as worked with literally hundreds of startups, across all life stages, over the last decade, these are the top six pieces of information I always want at my fingertips, and it provides me with a sense of what is going on in my business at a glance.
Cashflow is the business’s lifeblood, and I regularly check bank balances across the businesses, regardless of whether the businesses are cash generators or longer-term cash cycles. I always have a finger on the pulse, and in difficult years, I always ensure there is at least three months runway, and in easier years, at least nine months. Of course, the cash runway will differ from industry to industry and vertical to vertical. The point here is to have a handle on cash flow.
I prefer doing debtor checks weekly, in times of crisis as well as times of abundance. It is so easy not to have as extensive a focus on debtors during times of abundance. However, letting slip on this will not only let slip on the discipline of cash in soon but also set a level of perceived tolerance with customers on when you are okay to be paid. If you are a startup, or small business, with revenues below $3mil, you should claim your stake of being called a small business and let your clients know the importance of looking after the small businesses as they create jobs and change economies. Your debtor balances should be top of mind, always.
Sales pipeline size:
Projected sales and closing probabilities are numbers on which always to have a close eye. It is only a sale once the contract is signed, the goods are delivered, and the customer acknowledges receipt of the goods or services in good order. Monday morning sales meetings are a good practice to keep the focus on keeping revenues flowing, and if a confirmed lead is discussed for a fourth consecutive time at a Monday morning meeting, know that the delay is real and will very well impact your revenues. Don’t believe in fairytales. Make a plan, understand the delay, and get into the customer at various levels as soon as possible to understand and mitigate your risk. Keep the focus on closing the sale.
People temperature gauge:
How to measure the business’s temperature is different post-pandemic, as we are working so differently now. So, I have a simple rule that works for me to be on top of the people’s temperature gauge information, and yours may be different. But mine is as follows: There is a culture in the business that every supervisor or manager will check in with every direct report at least daily. It could be a meeting, a call, a message, or a water cooler chat, physically or virtually, but there is daily contact. That, plus the help of organisational culture, online tools and various instant messenger channels, provides sufficient information to get a feel immediately if something needs adjusting. Find the instrument or way that works for your business, but the people info bit is the most important for your business, clients, teams, and overall success.
Customer info through check-ins:
We have a B2B business, so this information data point is easier to reach than B2C. But for our B2B business, we make a point across the different teams to have at least three ‘ins’ into every customer, so at least three relationships across the different organisational levels to enable smooth communication and quick resolution of issues. So we keep in touch with customers daily, across the levels of ins, and I have a weekly check with all my direct reports on customer feedback, and make customer calls, at least three to five a week, to the key customers, even if it is to share research, or do a proper check-in, or to mitigate a problem we can see is in the making. This customer gauge is imperative to our business’s future and success.
What’s the new metric:
We drive for continuous innovation, whether in the way of thinking, in the way of delivering, or in the way of finding a new answer. So, there is a standard question on our weekly team check-in that I ask of everyone on the call. What did you do differently this week? What was new that worked well? This information helps me understand the level of team fatigue and customer delight experienced by our customers. It is such a great internal-external view of the potential world of our customers. And we drive for one new thing every week to remain relevant and on top of our game.
You may have the key information you need to run your business. The point is that having that key information will differ from business to business. But keeping tabs on information will make your business succeed or not.