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It’s Time to Keep Score of Your Business

I enjoy playing golf but it can be a very frustrating game. For that reason, I typically do not keep score when I play golf. I find that it makes the game more enjoyable when I leave the scorecard and the half-pencil in the clubhouse. I have also found that over the past three decades that I have played golf; my game has not improved at all. If anything, it has deteriorated over this time period. But then it is hard to tell because…I don’t keep score.

Many small business owners manage their business just like I play golf. They don’t keep score. Their reasoning is very similar to mine as well. They say it just makes running their small enterprise that much more frustrating if they must look at monthly financial statements or weekly sales reports. In addition, since they work in the business every day they know how the business is doing. What other information could they possibly need?

When friends ask what I normally shoot when I play golf, I usually respond with: “mid-nineties”. That sounds pretty good and it seems about right. The funny thing is that when I do actually keep score, I usually shoot in the high-nineties and low-hundreds. In other words, I don’t score as well as I presume I do.

Many small business owners think the same way. When I ask the business owner questions about profit margins, sales figures, specific ratios; I will either get a blank stare (bad sign) or a rough estimate. Upon examining their financial statements, I usually find that their “rough estimates” are overstated (sometimes dramatically).

I tell small business owners that the question is not whether they should be keeping score of their business or not. What they are operating is not a leisurely walk in the park slapping a silly white ball from tee to green. This is their livelihood. This is their dream. This is their business…

Instead, I inform them that the key question is what to keep score of? What should they be measuring and monitoring on a regular basis? How can they keep a pulse of their business on a day-to-day basis?  

My dad was an entrepreneur. He was not the owner of the business but he had to think like an owner. He was in charge of operating a large warehouse distribution center. I can remember being in his office and always seeing a small piece of notepaper (this was before “Post-Its”) in the upper front corner of his desk. On that piece of paper there were three numbers scribbled down. On one occasion I asked my dad what those numbers were. Little did I know at that time that I was about to receive one of the best business management lessons I ever received: in or out of business school.

My dad responded that his bookkeeper brought him this sheet of paper every day with three (3) numbers written on it. The numbers included the past day’s total sales, this day’s bank deposit, and the amount of accounts receivable outstanding that particular day. He explained to me that those three numbers gave him the “pulse” of the business each and every day. This is how he kept score of his business. Through his experience in managing this business, he knew what to look for in these numbers. He knew what was “below-par, par, and above-par”. He knew when his business “game” was on and when it was off. No guesswork here.

No one-day’s number would cause a panic. He was more concerned with patterns. Were sales increasing? Were receivables under control? He had a mental chart of each of these figures and would take action when action was necessary.

In addition to these daily reports, he would also receive weekly sales and inventory reports. He paid close attention to the monthly financial statements when they arrived. However, it was those daily reports that he relied upon most and allowed him to best keep score of his business. They were timely. They were accurate. They were critical to his ability to successfully manage this multi-million dollar operation.

What numbers should you receive every day? You decide. Possibilities include sales figures, bank deposits, inventory levels, employee timesheets, production reports, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and profit margins. Every industry has different areas of performance that need to be looked at regularly.

I think three (3) is the magic number. Pick any three of these numbers and watch them every single working day. That is your mini-report card for the day. That is your scorecard. Set reasonable standards for each figure and be prepared to take action when necessary.

Keep score of your business and watch it improve and grow.

TED Talks

If you attended the Small Business Matters Conference in May you know that I am a big TED fan. Great speakers giving short presentations on topics such as business, science, education, entertainment, and more. There are now TED conference held all over the world and the speaker presentations are then uploaded to their website. It’s an amazing collection of speaker presentations on topics that I never thought would be of interest.

Here are my top ten favorites in no particular order:

Seth Godin on The Tribes We Lead

Daniel Pink on The Puzzle of Motivation

Susan Cain on The Power of Introverts

Simon Sinek on How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Drew Dudley on Everyday Leadership

Sir Ken Robinson says Schools Kill Creativity

Lewis Pugh on Swimming the North Pole

Shawn Achor on the Happy Secret to Better Work

Srikumar Rao on how to Plug into Your Hard-wired Happiness

Hans Rosling on Stats That Reshape Your Worldview

It’s Not About the Nail

Rarely does such a short video pack such a powerful message.  Men… pay close attention. There will be a test. 

Don’t Call Us; We’ll Call You

Job interviews sometimes draw the strangest candidates. Here are true tales of the world’s most bizarre encounters, as collected by recruiting expert Robert Half:

  • Said if he was hired, he’d teach me ballroom dancing at no charge, and started demonstrating.
  • Left his dry-cleaner tag on his jacket and said he wanted to show he was a clean individual.
  • After a difficult question, she wanted to leave the room momentarily to meditate.
  • When asked about his loyalty, showed a tattoo of his girlfriend’s name.
  • Took three cell phone calls. Said she has a similar business on the side.
  • She returned that afternoon asking if we could redo the entire interview.