Build your own fog horn - Strengthen the data component
Having lived in San Francisco since 2007, the longest I've lived in any place really, I learned a few things about fog. One thing we all know about fog is, if you are driving in the middle of it, you can't see well, and if you can't see well, you might loose direction.
When I first moved to San Francisco, I was wondering about this blaring sound I would hear every afternoon for hours, until I learned it was the fog horns on the bridge that help sailors navigate in and out of the bay and stay the course.
As an experienced entrepreneur you probably have good instincts for the market and environment, when we combine that with a good set of objective data, we can be much more confident in our decision making.
The tool we use is a simple scorecard, and we are not talking about a balanced scorecard here, rather than a simple set of 5-15 activity based numbers, leading indicators that give you an absolute pulse on your business. Simple, and yet I'm often surprised how few teams have a good scorecard in place when we start working together. They look at revenue, the P&L and often a myriad of KPI's, and still don't have a good understanding of what's lying ahead.
The goal is to define measurable activities that produce future results. Some examples that influence future revenue:
# of new leads
# of scheduled sales appointments
Close rate %
Examples for gross margin goals could be:
Ultimately, the spreadsheet will have the following columns:
Goal (what is the target number, %, etc.)
Who (is responsible to keep it on track)
13-week history (to see and understand trends
Once defined on company (leadership level), we are bringing it down to the department level to help understand if your sales & marketing, operations and finance efforts are aligned with your company goals and direction.
The last step is to assign a number for every employee. We want everyone in the organization to look at a scorecard each week, and be accountable to keep at least one number on track. Everyone should understand how they are contributing to the overall goals of the company.
If you are still in the fog, try building your own fog horn to guide the way.