Diligently Track and Adjust toward Your Goals and Utopia
Strategy calibration is the single most important thing a creative professional can do to discover the best version of their business.
Cal-i-brate: Carefully assess, set or adjust
It might sound counter intuitive, but it takes diligence to create freedom, drive to create ease, consistency to create flexibility and habit to create flow. In our experience, it never, ever, ever happens by accident. Those that seem to have an awesome business/lifestyle achieved success through a diligent approach. The “overnight success” you might read about in business publications is a myth. Screw the overnight success: achieving goals through hard work and a disciplined approach is much more satisfying.
Designing a business strategy is useless without consistent “calibration” in the real world. As soon as you’re down the path of implementing – aspects of your business design are being challenged or become obsolete. Ongoing calibration of your strategy is where true value is formed and is a great test of entrepreneurial leadership.
How to Calibrate:
Track your Strategy on a Dashboard:
A dashboard is a killer tool to track your strategy. Building one is damn hard. Why? It requires you to distill down the vast data and information that could be tracked into what must be tracked to move forward effectively. There are many online dashboard tools but each we’ve encountered has proven inadequate for a holistic business strategy. Create one from scratch – you’ll learn something by doing it. For a template dashboard to start from, check out our Tools section
Dashboard Building Tips:
Use distinct metric categories:
– Positioning Metrics: those that tell you if you’re getting the right type of clients
– Operations Metrics: those that tell you if you’re operating efficiently
– Financial Metrics: those that indicate your past performance
– Cash-Flow: those that indicate your future cash flow constraints
Set Objectives or Strategic Priorities within each category. Examples:
– Positioning: “Gain Higher Value Clients” or “More Lifestyle Brands”
– Operations: “Build the Right People Structure” or “Improve Studio Efficiency”
– Financial: “Improve Financial Strength”
Learn How to Create Solid Metrics: There is too much content on metrics to cover in this article. Recommended KNOW THIS SH!T Reading:
– How To Create Positioning Metrics Here
– How To Create Operations Metrics Here
– How To Create Financial Metrics Here
– How To Manage Cash-Flows Here
Set 1-Year Goals for each metric. As an example – log in to your time tracking software and look at your billable time % over the last 6 months. If you’re at 50% – target a 10% increase in efficient time use over the next 1 year.
This is where the diligence comes in. To populate this dashboard with valuable metrics, you’re going to have to dig-in deep on the stuff you hate to do. Or, if you’re large enough to have an operations role on your team (lucky you) – you’ll likely have to challenge them to improve the process.
You’re going to have to track data that indicates something about your positioning, or dial in (and actually use) your time tracking software. You’ll most certainly need to keep on top of your bookkeeping monthly.
Process is what sets “ok” design studios apart from awesome ones. Not just in terms of operations or cash-flow. They do better work in a more organized structure with an increased sense of freedom and flow. Most importantly, the “process” studios are the ones who reach their Utopia: love their business, love their lifestyle and make good money.
– Spend time up front building the right systems – Your dashboard and the right metrics
– The important metrics you’re tracking – track every month without fail
– Make sure one person is fully accountable to the process
– Bookkeeping every single month (yup, every single month without fail)
– Pull the data together in your dashboard
– Review results every month – and create takeaways from the data
– Be patient – you’re not going to have the perfect dashboard right from the start and the process might be a bit fuzzy for the first year – stick with it
Be Objective: Listen, Think, Act
Don’t roll through your metrics and justify the negative ones to make yourself feel better. Look at them as if you’re an independent consultant and ask “what should the business be doing to improve itself?” If your new business pipeline is lacking, people are late paying you, billable efficiency for the team is down, roll up your sleeves. Create action items, think on it for 48 hours, then dig right in to improving those metrics this month. Remember, you’re always 6-18 months away from realizing the benefit of decisions made today – so delays in calibrating your strategy are costly.
Create Time for Strategy
When we ask design entrepreneurs about their Utopia, passion seeps from their every word. However when we ask how much time they spend working with specific purpose towards that Utopia each week, the answer is often zip, zero. The right calibration process takes time; every week and every month. As it should: it’s your fundamental business strategy we’re talking about here…how you’re going to reach a better version of your business and life. Leaders must allocate time for strategy: block a half day per week where you can think clearly about your business metrics and action items to improve. We recommend Monday morning before checking emails – a great time to set-up a week full of purposeful work.
Fundamentally what we’re advocating here is moving from reactionary workflow to a process of working with purpose towards your goals. What might feel like an onerous first step into this process – will eventually be empowering and freeing. Said one Measure client who, after 3 months of embracing the calibration process: “for 8 years I had no idea what was around the corner for our business and now I feel like I can finally breathe”. If you sit back and feel like you’re not progressing towards the fundamental goals for both your business and lifestyle – like you work for your business rather than you’re business working for you – carve out your next Monday morning and start working on your business with purpose. Embrace diligence to create freedom, drive to create ease, consistency to create flexibility and habit to create flow.