Everyone needs a Dashboard..........
Having worked in sales/marketing for both Coats Viyella and Mars, setting an annual plan and then tracking and monitoring against them was a discipline that was just second nature. So when I started Breckland Orchard I came pre-conditioned that that was just how things worked – like I say, I know no other way.
For me, setting a financial plan gives me a direction……….it sets a marker in the sand that I can monitor against, that I can allocate variable expenditure against and that ultimately gives me a direction. I set it at the start of the year and I monitor and report against that financial plan every single month. I call it my Dashboard – its only 4 pages long, its not complicated, its not automated, its simple and I do a written report against it every single month. I do a quick check against my goal at the end of every single week [25% time gone, 50% time gone. 75% time gone] – I’m the [sad geeky] product of a corporate background!
- MAKE IT AS SIMPLE OR AS COMPLICATED AS YOU CAN HANDLE
Better to keep it topline rather than create a detailed monster that becomes unworkable!
Make the plan and the dashboard reporting as top-line or as detailed as you like. You will know your own business, your own reporting tools and your own threshold for detail[!]. The most important thing is that you have a dashboard which you feel committed to completing and detailing every month.
In my corporate life I had a great richness of data, and a number of tools which were able to manipulate that data for me. At Breckland Orchard I don’t have that richness of data, but I’ve got a great tool in Sage. I’ve had to be a lot more topline – it contains just enough data to allow me to keep a handle on my business and I’ve had to prioritise my KPI’s as a result.
- PLANNING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE TIME CONSUMING
As an entrepreneur I’m constantly juggling……do I have masses of time? of course not! My dashboard takes me about 5 minutes to track weekly, and about 10-15 minutes to complete monthly. And its a good 10-15 minutes where I just take a breath, look back on the year to date and consider what I need to do in the year to go. It doesn’t have to take a long time [honest] and if it is taking a long time then you’ve probably made it too complicated [see above!]
- DOCUMENT NARRATIVE AND LEARNINGS
I track financial performance and KPI’s but perhaps the most important part of my monthly dashboard is where I track:
– What went well
– What could have gone better
– Focus for the coming weeks/months
Numbers are just numbers, and looking backwards does nothing unless you are going to do something different as a result of it.
- PLANS WILL ALWAYS BE WRONG
The chances of writing a perfect plan is one in a million. Essentially plans are just about setting a line in the sand and then monitoring progress against that plan. Be comfortable [joyful even] that you will be either above or below your plan – its what you do to correct your course that is essential. Above plan? perhaps more investment required, more staff, more production. Below plan? more sales activity required, less production required, move investment backwards, move investment forward.
- HAVING A PATH IS LIBERATING NOT RESTRICTIVE
I love the wisdom of Lewis Carroll: if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. If you have a roadmap of where you are planning to go it’s a great motivator – trust me x
So if you haven’t got a plan, go set yourself a challenge to write one in 30 minutes………write it on a single piece of paper, make it simple and then track it monthly – you’ll love it [believe me]
aka Dashboard evangelist [sorry!]