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Have you ever run out of gas?  It happened to me once, at the age of seventeen.  I was on my way home from work when my car stalled at a stop sign and refused to restart.  I would later learn that family members knew the car was nearly empty but assumed I’d see that and fill the tank.  They were vastly over-estimating my awareness at seventeen.  

Lesson learned though!  The embarrassment of sitting there stranded and holding up traffic has stuck with me, and I now keep an eagle eye on the gas gauge.  I know EXACTLY how much wiggle room I have before I need to stop, and I make sure I will always be able to get where I’m going.  

Just as the gas gauge tells us how many miles we can travel before we need to refuel and our compass tells us when we veer off course,  a business dashboard tells us when we are making good progress toward our goals, when we get off-track, and when we need to stop for supplies or repairs.  If you don’t have a dashboard for your business, this week’s blog will help you build one.  If you have one, use this week’s information to make sure you’re watching the right dials!  

When creating a business dashboard, consider these four questions.

1. What is your number one objective for the year?  

Mike Pruess, CEO and Co-Founder of Visible, a Stakeholder reporting platform, recommends finding your core.  In a recent blog article, he advised, “Your dashboard should have a core theme centering on a specific problem. A sales dashboard may ask: How can we make our pipeline more effective? Or a marketing dashboard: How can our marketing investments be optimized?”  

I recently served as the President of a local professional organization.  As my presidency approached, I realized the level of engagement among our members had dropped, and I made increased member engagement my top priority for the year.  As you consider your goals for 2021, what is your overarching, most important objective?  

2. What measurable signs indicate that you are on track toward reaching your top priorities for the quarter or the year?  

Once you identify your core objective, select measurable results and patterns that determine whether you are moving toward your goal or away from it.  These metrics become your dashboard.  

In the example above, I worked with the Board of Directors to identify three key measures:  The number of current members, the percentage of renewals compared to lapsed memberships, and the number of members attending monthly events.  An increase in any of these metrics indicated progress.  A decrease indicated a need for adjustment.  Everything we did in the next twelve months supported moving these three metrics in the right direction because we knew success in these areas meant a significant increase in member engagement.  

3. Create Goals that Move the Needle in a Positive Direction

While it’s tempting to shoot for the stars and set several goals for the year, resist the urge to overcommit.  Think about the difference between your car’s dashboard and a 747.  There’s a reason most of us can drive while the number of pilots among us is significantly smaller.  Fewer things to measure results in greater focus on the things that matter most.  

In the same way, having a dashboard with three or four key metrics allows you to develop supporting goals that align with and impact your results in these critical areas.  As you set goals, ask yourself, “Will this positively impact one of my dashboard metrics?”  If so, go for it!  If not, while it may be a worthy goal, it’s not going to help you achieve your core objective.   

4. Track your metrics and make adjustments as you go.  

Your gas gauge does you no good if you never check it, and your check engine light can’t help you if you ignore it.  Once you’ve established your key dashboard metrics and created supporting goals to improve each identified area, it’s important to regularly check in on your progress.  Our board reviewed the dashboard metrics at the beginning of every monthly meeting.  Most of the time, they moved in the right direction.  When they didn’t we talked about why and made adjustments, and because of our attention to these key numbers, we met our goals for each area.  

A regular reflection on your progress or lack of progress helps you adjust your course to get back on track.  

You wouldn’t head out on a road trip without keeping an eye on your gas gauge.  Don’t plow ahead toward your goals without a reliable dashboard in place!  

What metrics are you tracking this year and how did you choose them?  Let us know what you’re measuring and how they support your overarching goal for 2021.