An excerpt from the e-book, “Moving From Chaos to Growth: The 7 Elements that Fuel Fast-Track Expansion and Profitability.”
This blog series examines the 7 elements that fuel fast-track expansion and profitability, each of which is absolutely necessary in today’s competitive and evolving business landscape. When thoughtfully designed and faithfully implemented, these 7 elements allow a business owner to set the long-term vision of the business, define roles and responsibilities throughout the ranks and as a result, practically enable the business to operate by itself.
In this blog, we examine the fifth element: Signposts.
“The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” ~ C.S. LEWIS
Say you’ve established your leadership framework and path forward, built a sound structure and integrated the necessary processes and levers to fuel your business’ growth. Now, you need to determine if you’re on the right path and making progress.
That’s where signposts come in. Like signs on a highway, business signposts help you navigate your business growth from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. If you seek to grow your retail donut shop business from 10 stores to 1,000, what’s the timeline look like? How much cash will you need? Where should you put all those stores? What could grease the skids, or impede your road to success? Signposts point the way to answers for these and many other questions. They also provide a sound reality check of your business’ annual goals, and in some sense, your vision and mission (i.e., are they still valid and relevant?).
On a road trip to another city, you normally check road signs for distances, attractions and stopping points, gas stations and more. Business signposts serve similar purposes.
Data, information, reports and dashboards all serve to inform and improve decision-making about progress to your ultimate goal or destination. When you plot out your plan for your ultimate destination (e.g., 10 percent growth and profitability annually, locations in 20 states, one new product per year), you need checkpoints long before the final result to help you determine if you’re on track.
Establishing signposts for your business starts with the beginning and the end. What is your performance today? Are you growing at three percent? Five percent? Seven percent? Concurrently, ask yourself, where do you want to end up? At 10 percent? Twenty percent? Thirty percent? Likewise, as you start to push the accelerator on your business, where does the growth begin to slow, flat-line or decline? Knowing what might be driving that variation from the plan is critical to identifying barriers and correcting the limiting issues before it’s too late. Signposts help you to remember issues of seasonality, better understand competitive threats, and identify and qualify declining customer interest.
Historically, organizations have used reports as their primary signpost. Reports, however, have two major flaws:
- Typically, they contain haystacks of data, which the user must sort through to identify the “needle.”
- They tend to be retrospective in nature, rather than prospective. In this day and age, looking backward at what happened last week, last month or last year is like trying to drive a car forward while looking in the rearview mirror. In other words, you’re destined to crash. Modern dashboards and some reporting systems (using AI) can predict what is coming and help the user better decide how to prevent issues from arising.
Additionally, tools such as Microsoft PowerBI, Tableau and Qlikview transform data from dull, dry lists and numerical tables into visually driven powerhouses that can automatically be texted or emailed to a user with real-time links to the database. These tools enable real-time monitoring and modeling of data that serve as key signposts for a rapidly growing business.