Having run my own businesses for the last ten years as well as work 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 really going on in my business at an immediate glance.
Cashflow is the lifeblood of the business, and I do a regular check on bank balances across the businesses, regardless of the businesses are cash generators, or longer-term cash cycles. I always have a finger on the pulse, and in difficult years, 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 cashflow.
I prefer doing debtors checks weekly, in times of crises as well as times of abundance. It is so easy to not 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 absolutely claim your stake of being called a small business, and letting 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 to always have a close eye on. A sale is never a sale until the contract is signed, the goods delivered, and the customer acknowledging receipt of the goods or services in good order. Monday morning sales meetings is 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 it 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 get to measuring the temperature of the business 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 temperature gauge information, yours may be different. But mine 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, a watercooler chat, physically or virtually, but there is daily contact. That, plus the help of an organisational culture online tool, and various instant messenger channels provide sufficient information to feel immediately if there is something that needs adjusting. Find the instrument or way that works for your business, but the people info bit is the most important bit. For your business, your clients, your teams, and your 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, again, 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 just 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 new metric:
We drive for continuous innovation, whether in a way of thinking, or in a way of delivering, or in a 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 clearly understand the level of team fatigue as well as level of 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 your own set of key pieces of information you cannot run your business without, the point is about having them, more than what they should be, as it will differ from business to business. But keeping tabs on information will make your business succeed, or not.