The numbers never “speak for themselves.”

Assuming they do sets us up for failure.

As the founder of, a small company that analyzes data, I create and interpret metrics. I’ve learned to approach metrics cautiously and skeptically, a mindset I encourage everyone to adopt.

As small business owners, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of metrics and data. We believe that these numbers determine success. However, not all metrics are reliable, and no metric is reliable when interpreted by itself.

We want metrics to give us better control over our operations, improve processes, and help us manage resources more effectively. We don’t want to hassle with numbers. This post can help; it’s short, read to the end.

Metrics can mislead us, sometimes innocently, but often not. It’s a classic case of figures don’t lie, but liars figure.

Ten points to consider about business metrics:

  1.  There are too many metrics to track.
  2.  Not all metrics are equally important.
  3.  Most metrics only show what happened in the past.
  4.  Some metrics make you think one thing caused another when it didn’t.
  5.  Some metrics make you feel you’ve achieved things when you haven’t.
  6.  Some metrics are based on wrong comparisons.
  7.  Metrics can be based on flawed or sloppy data.
  8.  Metrics can be manipulated.
  9.  Some metrics take too much time and effort to gather.
  10.  Most metrics focus on your business, NOT on your customers.

Consider this an opportunity to reevaluate your business metrics and unlock new avenues for improvement.

Collect all your metrics, determine their meaning, and whether the data is accurate.

Now, let’s break those metrics down into two categories:

Output Metrics:

  • Measure the results of your efforts.
  • Examples: sales revenue, customer satisfaction, and number of products sold.
  • These metrics focus on outcomes and success.

Input Metrics:

  • Measure what you put into your business (time, money, quality and effort).
  • Examples: how many options you offered a customer, how often you provide same-day solutions, and how quickly customer calls were resolved.
    • Here’s a hint: If customers don’t care about the metric, it’s likely an output metric.
  • These metrics focus on actions and resources used.

Did you notice how few of the metrics we collect are Input Metrics?

Why Focus on Input Metrics?

  1. You’ll have Better Control:
    • You can directly influence things like work hours and sales presentations.
  2. You’ll Improve Processes:
    • Identify and fix inefficiencies to allocate resources better.
  3. You’ll practice Proactive Management:
    • Spot problems early and take preventive actions.
  4. You’ll influence Team Performance:
    • Keep employees trained, motivated and productive.
  5. You’ll increase Marketing and Sales Effectiveness:
    • Focus on quality marketing, thoughtful sales and compassionate pitches.
  6. You’ll improve Operational Efficiency:
    • Manage costs better and ensure time goes into valuable activities.

Trim your metrics, clean them up, and focus more on input metrics. That will help you fine-tune your business for better results. Isn’t that what we are all looking for?

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