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Pilot Your Business: Why Every Professional Business Needs a Progress Dashboard and How to Build One

Imagine for a moment that your business is an airplane, and you are sitting in the cockpit. You have a visual screen in front of you – showing you exactly how each of the areas of your business is performing.

You can see your goals and your progress towards them. You know your direction and your speed.

You have a gauge for sales and revenue. Another gauge for customer satisfaction. Yet another one to measure the strength of your team.

You’ve got warning lights designed to go on if there’s a problem.

You know where to adjust and where to stay the course. You feel confident and in control.

This is what having a progress dashboard gives you.

It’s a key component of CLARITY.

Clarity in your business comes from these 3 things:

  1. A clear and compelling vision of where you’re headed.
  2. A roadmap of the steps you need to take to get there.
  3. A dashboard to show how far you’ve come and to let you know when you’ve strayed off course.

Today we’re going to talk about dashboards.

Let’s start with where you are now.

Which of the following best describes your relationship with numbers, data, and financial reporting?

  1. You don’t do a lot of tracking beyond financial data for your yearly tax returns. You judge how your business is going primarily by your bank balance and gut feel. You may even feel afraid to “check your numbers.”
  2. You have some tracking in place, you may not review it regularly, you may not have all the data you need to make good decisions – you may feel “in the dark” about some things.
  3. You feel like you know what’s happening in your business and you’re confident about it because it’s backed with data. You’ve identified meaningful leading and trailing indicators, your tracking data is current and accurate, you review this data regularly and use it to make decisions and course corrections.

Unless you have an accounting business, you probably didn’t start your business because you “love looking at numbers.”

This is why so many business owners struggle.

Numbers and data aren’t their forte.

It’s my goal with this article to inspire you to implement dashboards – because having this information can change everything in your business. (Picture that airplane cockpit!)

As a numbers-loving person, I will try to contain my enthusiasm. 🙂

Just know that I would be delighted to help you get all of this set up in your business. You can read the rest of this post, or just take the shortcut and set up a consultation here: Book a Call with Dawn.

Why you need a dashboard

Business management expert Peter Drucker famously said:

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Having a simple and clear dashboard allows you to do exactly that. Measure and monitor what you want to manage.

Your dashboard will help you:

Make Better Decisions.

When you have complete, up-to-date, and accurate information in front of you, you can make decisions based on comprehensive information (rather than just gut feel – or worse – putting the decision off.)

You’ll also be able to spot trends and patterns so that you can pre-emptively do something about a situation before it becomes a real problem.

For example, you may notice that your sales have been trending downward. Now that this has been brought to your attention, you might decide to increase your marketing.

Identify Areas for Improvement

When you’re stuck in Owner Overload, it can feel like everything is wrong with the business! The key word here is “feel” – and that’s all it is – feelings.

Your dashboard will show you the objective truth. Which might be that sales are good, profit is high, customers are happy, but employee turnover is through the roof. Now you know where you need to focus.

Not only is this clarifying – it can also help you reduce those feelings of overwhelm and despair.

Get Objective Performance Information and Feedback

By quantifying performance metrics, you can objectively assess how well the business is doing against its benchmarks and goals.

These metrics also give you a feedback loop. Did the changes you made to your talent management program reduce turnover? Is the new marketing initiative working?

In essence, your dashboard shows you whether you’re on the right track.

So now that you know why you need one, let’s look at what goes into creating one.

How to create a management dashboard for your business

A good management dashboard will track both leading and trailing indicators.

Trailing indicators tell you what has already happened.

You can think of these as the rear-view mirror. Examples of trailing indicators include things like revenue, profit, business value, and employee turnover. Your year-end accounting reports are full of trailing indicators.

While trailing indicators are useful, they often provide the information after the window to do something about it has passed.

This is why you also need to track leading indicators.

Leading indicators predict what will happen in the future.

These allow you to measure your progress in real time. Leading indicators are the things that impact the trailing indicators.

For example, a leading indicator for employee turnover might be employee training hours. More training should lead to employees feeling confident in the job and happy because they are getting professional development – resulting in them staying longer.

What do you need on your dashboard?

Your dashboard should be simple. Only track what you need to.

The specific elements on the dashboard will vary depending on the nature of your professional business, but here are some general categories and metrics to consider:

Operational Metrics

  • New Client Acquisition: Number of new clients or cases added during a specific period.
  • Open vs. Closed Cases or Projects: Track active engagements against those completed.
  • Appointment or Consultation Volume: If the business involves consultations or appointments, monitor the frequency and volume.
  • Response Time: Measure how quickly inquiries or issues are addressed.

Financial Metrics

  • Revenue: Breakdown by month, quarter, or year.
  • Expenses: Categorized by major cost areas.
  • Profit Margin: Difference between revenue and expenses.
  • Accounts Receivable: Monitor outstanding payments.
  • Billing Efficiency: Percentage of billable hours vs. non-billable hours.

Client Satisfaction

  • Client Feedback Scores: Use tools like NPS (Net Promoter Score) or CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score).
  • Client Testimonials: Showcase positive feedback.
  • Issues or Complaints: Track and address any negative feedback.

Employee Metrics

  • Employee Satisfaction: Regular check-ins or surveys can be helpful.
  • Turnover Rate: Monitor retention and attrition rates.
  • Training & Development: Track ongoing education or professional development.

Strategic Goals

  • Goal Tracking: Break down overarching goals into measurable chunks and track progress.
  • Key Initiatives: Highlight major projects or initiatives and their status.

Marketing and Outreach

  • Website Analytics: Page views, session duration, bounce rate, etc.
  • Social Media Engagement: Track followers, engagement rates, and content performance.
  • Lead Sources: Identify where new inquiries or clients are coming from.

Operational Efficiency

  • Process Bottlenecks: Identify areas that might be slowing down operations or service delivery.
  • Resource Utilization: How well resources (human or otherwise) are being used.

Compliance and Risk Management

  • Audit Findings: Any issues or commendations from audits.
  • Regulatory Updates: Track and stay updated on industry-specific regulations or standards.

Technology & Tools

  • System Uptime: Monitor if your IT systems are running smoothly.
  • Tool Adoption Rate: If new tools or software are introduced, track how well they are being integrated and used.

Industry-Specific Metrics

Depending on the type of business you run, there may be specific metrics that are critical.

For instance, a medical business might monitor patient outcomes, while a law business might track case win rates.

A useful dashboard will provide a visual cockpit for your business: visually appealing, easy to interpret, and updated regularly.

Use graphs, charts, and color-coding to provide a quick snapshot of performance.

The goal is to have a concise view that can drive decision-making and course correction.

Just like a cockpit in an airplane.

If you’re ready to take control of your business and would like some support, book a strategy call with me and we’ll get started! Book a Call with Dawn

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