Key performance indicators that offer important insights into your company
Recently, I assisted a $10-million-a-year, Chicago-based, family-owned company that was anticipating significant growth. The company’s problem was that managers did not know what data they should be tracking to illuminate their operating trends and performance.
The firm’s officers also did not feel they had a handle on their key financial indicators. Once inside the company, I determined that we should look first at the performance indicators, and secondly at the financial indicators, to gauge how well the firm was performing in terms of productivity.
The company was at a point where the second generation had begun to assume leadership. The son, who had a track record of success, had been brought in to learn the business, so he could eventually take the reins.
However, his background did not include finance. The business was starting to grow rapidly due to the son’s efforts. I found the firm had a clean operation, but wasn’t sufficiently sophisticated to try to compile these performance indicators.
Firm managers knew they were doing well from a cash-flow standpoint, but had no measurement system to see if they were better or worse vis-à-vis the previous quarter or previous year. In short, because they didn’t know what trends were taking place, they didn’t know if the firm was trending positively or negatively.
In measuring key performance indicators, you first define the indicators you want to gauge. Some indicators can be compiled in relation to sales, others in relation to employees. Then you line them up quarter to quarter, and month to month, and have a year-to-date measure as well. This way, you learn whether the indicators are moving positively or negatively year to year, and within years.
Back at that company, I asked for the last three years of financial statements and operating statistics, to learn how much was being sold to create the revenues, margins and profits. Having ascertained that what was being sold was reports, I needed to learn the volume of unit sales, and simply concentrated on the number of reports sold. I thought about what happens from the time a customer orders their report to the time the report is issued.
The numbers helped me put together some key indicators to start measuring the company’s productivity and efficiency. As a result of identifying these key performance indicators, the company managers were now well informed, and the indicators showed their company was trending positive.
Here’s the takeaway from this success story. In a fast-growth environment, you must understand what you’re measuring, and what it means.
That’s what key performance indicators provided for this business, and what they will provide for yours. Next time, I’ll show you, again through the example of this company, how to generate and track key performance indicators.