Seventeen years ago, I was thrust into my first leadership role and given a completely blank sheet of paper to work with. I was hired as a software developer, almost fresh out of college, to help develop software for the Nuclear Power Industry. My company was new, and entering a new service line in which we were starting from scratch. I used this moment of chaos to not only build great tools to support our customers, but to learn how to organize a business for success.

This success came from a need to understand the data behind our business: the performance of my team/services/products and tying this back to our financials, as well as to set growth targets and revenue forecasts. Working with nothing, I’d have to spend countless hours after dinner to understand these business metrics. Here are some of my lessons learned throughout this process:

Lesson 1: Track your customers

In my opinion, customer support is the MOST important aspect of growing your business. You need to support them, solve their challenges, and make them look good. To succeed in this area, you need to track interactions within a customer relationship management (CRM) software tool, especially if you have many customers and many services. You can later use this data to integrate with your projections, as well as costs, and invoicing later on. Track when you turn an opportunity into work.

Lesson 2: Track your employees, projects, and costs

Now that you’ve won the work, you need to ensure you understand what goes into delivering the work. Whatever service you provide, from mowing lawns, to cutting hair, to developing software for the nuclear industry, understand how many employees you have working on a specific task, how long each task takes to deliver, and match that against how long you thought it would take. It’s an understatement to say, “understand your costs”, but that’s basically what you are doing here. Track the data. Track the steps, track how long it takes, and track what goes into it. This will enable you to analyze your processes, steps, costs, and employees to either adjust your pricing, or adjust your products and services to ensure maximum profit.

Lesson 3: Track your financials

This almost goes without saying, but now that you’re tracking your customers, your employees, your products and services, make sure you track it all the way through to understanding cash flow against each job or service, overheads, etc.

Lesson 4: Combine it all

Once you’re tracking all this great information, put it all together and analyze it! There are new tools out there to help you do this, from simple data integration platforms, where you have to build all the integrations and develop your own insights (analytics), to brand new tools available that can do this for you automatically.

In my next article, I’ll dive into the specific tools available to support each lesson, and then how to combine all four lessons in one simple to use tool.

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