What Business Metrics Should Entrepreneurs and Executive Assistants Track?

Think of the last time you missed a sports game that you wanted to watch. Maybe you were at a wedding and missed an NFL playoff game with your favorite sports team (go Steelers!) or maybe you just missed your kid’s soccer game because you were out of town on business. Either way, what’s the first question that comes to mind after the game is over? I bet it was “What was the score?”

Why do we always ask this question when it comes to sports? We ask because the numbers tell us a story. In football, if someone told you that the score was 30-7, you would immediately form an idea about how the game went. The other team’s quarterback got injured or the winning team dominated with interceptions. Maybe it was a really close game, 27-24, and you immediately have another idea about how the game went. The teams were neck in neck until one missed a field goal! You may not know the specifics, but the number gives you instant clarity about how the game unfolded. The same thing is true in business. We all need our scoreboards.

Our score – good or bad – tells us how to win in our business, helps the people in our organization know what they need to do to win, and provides a clear course of action based on what the score is. Again, the football sports analogy works here. If you go into half-time and you’re up by 23 points the conversation is very different than if you’re down by 3 points. Everything about the plan changes depending on what the score is – you’re either pushing defense or offense, you change the plays you call, and you may even switch up the players on the field. So the entire game plan changes based on the story the metrics are telling you and you start leading from a very different place.

The added benefit of having clear business metrics reporting and scorecards is that your Executive Assistant and/or Chief of Staff can also help you to gain clarity on your organization’s numbers, pull the right information to help you make better decisions, and make sure there is thorough accountability and follow-up once those decisions are made. Remember, your Force Multiplier is an extension of you and is there to help maximize your results. When you’re all working off the same playbook and scoreboard, you can pivot in real-time and hit your goals faster.

Know Your Business Metrics and the Story They Tell

We may think that we know our business metrics inside and out. As entrepreneurs, we pride ourselves on making numbers work to turn a profit. But the reality for most people is that we’re not as clear on our numbers as we think we are. Sure, we have a general idea. But a general idea isn’t good enough when you’re building and leading an organization.

Several years ago I had to ask myself the hard question (and be willing to hear the answer): “How well did I actually know our companies’ numbers?” Immediately my ego said, “Hell, yes, of course I do.” But when I relaxed behind my ego and paused to just listen… I heard a different answer. I realized I didn’t know the numbers are well as I thought I did. Sure, I know a lot of our companies’ numbers, but what I really needed to do was spend time reevaluating our numbers to make sure 1) I understood the story the numbers were telling of my business and was setting the plan and vision accordingly, and 2) I was focusing on the best numbers that would tell the most accurate story. 

It’s impossible to plan effectively when you are not totally clear on all your numbers. If the numbers aren’t complete, the story you’re telling yourself of your business isn’t complete either. The same is true in life. How often do people avoid hopping on the scale? It happens all the time, right? And why do we avoid it? Because we know numbers don’t lie. Numbers aren’t emotional (though we may feel emotional about the numbers); they are hard facts. We can’t talk our way out of a number. Once we know the number, we’re faced with a choice – keep being the same person or change and become a new person. I can speak to this firsthand because I did this for years before getting serious about losing weight. When I decided to hop on the scale, I was also committing to a new way of being in the world. It can be hard to look at the number, but when you do, it can change who you are forever.

In business, we also come up with a whole bunch of reasons why we don’t have to look at our numbers, and often we’ve hired people to know them for us (whether it be an accountant, operations manager or CFO). But if we’re not looking at our numbers square in the face daily or at least weekly, we don’t know the full story and our business suffers as a result. When we look at the numbers frequently, we gain so much more clarity about how to lead our business, our team, and what the next best step is for everyone. This has been especially true over the past couple of years and will continue to be so as the global economy and local markets shift.

What Metrics Should Entrepreneurs and Executive Assistants Be Tracking?

The numbers and reports that you will need to see are going to be somewhat dependent upon your industry and company size. More specifically, they are going to be highly dependent upon your annual and quarterly OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). But just get started! You can always adjust the information and data you collect as you go.

Here are a few examples of metrics you may want to see weekly or monthly to get you started:

  • Sales and revenue
    Examples: The number of new coaching clients and the contract amount, number of homes sold and the corresponding sales volume, number of units of your product sold and at what price point, or number of online courses sold.

  • Marketing, social media, and public relations
    Examples: Number of new followers, number of media placements, number of new contacts added to your email list, number of unsubscribes, your blogs SEO ranking, or number of podcast downloads.

  • Customer and client satisfaction
    Examples: Net promoter score, number of new client reviews or testimonials, or number of referrals.

  • Operations
    Examples: Current production costs, number of sales calls made, number of new product demos scheduled, and available inventory.

  • Recruiting and hiring
    Examples: Cost of a hire, time it takes to hire, cost and viability of recruiting and sourcing ads, retention rate of employees and independent contractors, and open vacancies vs. filled positions.

  • Financials
    Examples: Profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, balance sheet, statement of retained earnings, available cash and credit, or salary and bonus reports.

Note: You will mostly likely be looking at financials and recruiting/hiring numbers monthly; however, if you are working on turning around your business, in high-growth mode, or simply want to create a better habit, you can review these weekly.

One additional note: I would highly recommend both you and your Executive Assistant/Force Multiplier are receiving this information. First of all, it will teach your Force Multiplier how to think like you and learn how to interpret the data to help you make better decisions. It will also give them additional context into the business. As you both regularly analyze the information, you may begin to pick up on different ways to use the data, or begin to identify patterns that you didn’t see before. Remember, your business’ numbers tell a story. My general philosophy is to always have your Force Multiplier seeing the same information you’re seeing, it will only help you (and them) help the company grow. And who doesn’t want that!?

Create a System For Tracking Your Numbers

Now, I know it’s not fun to constantly be looking at your numbers. If you’re like me, then you need to make sure you have a system in place to have the numbers prepared and presented to you at regular intervals, otherwise, you’re just going to trick yourself into thinking you know what they are, and likely avoid them all together! Create a system around tracking your metrics – whether it’s your bookkeeper giving you weekly reports, your sales dashboard creating an automatic report, or another team member compiling the data for you to review – get those numbers and make sure you understand the story they are telling you. In fact, this is a perfect time to get your EA involved. Leverage the report gathering to them and simply make sure you’ve set guidelines around what information you want to see at what frequency. Then your Force Multiplier can go forth and liaise with your accountant, the sales, operations, and marketing staff, or even just pull the reports himself for you both to review.

There is essential information you will need to help drive the company forward. Figure out what your most important metrics are for your business, and then make sure you create a system to look at those numbers daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually.

Here’s the big takeaway though – metrics shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself if you don’t like what you see, nor should they make you feel great if they are trending in the right direction. Even if you’ve been avoiding them, numbers are data, and data provides clarity, and clarity provides power and speed in business and life. Whether it’s out of control operational costs, massive debt you’ve accumulated, your best sales quarter ever, or an uncomfortable number on the scale, stay neutral. It’s just as dangerous to get overly excited and confident from a large increase in revenue, as it is to become depressed and paralyzed by a huge loss. The more you can step back and let go of any emotions or attachment to the number, and look at it as pure information, the faster you’ll be able to make a sound strategic decision for your organization. This is where your growth as a leader happens. Numbers tell the truth. And the truth sets you free.  

Want more on this topic? Head on over to the Business Meets Spirituality episode “Do You REALLY Know Your Numbers?” where I take a deeper dive into numbers and why they are so essential to your success.

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