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They say what you don’t know won’t hurt you, but nothing could be further from the truth when you run a small business. If you operate based on "gut instinct," or you make assumptions on how your business is performing without knowing the facts, you can run into problems quickly. Fortunately, there is a simple solution. By monitoring a few key business metrics, you can quickly gain a handle on your business and start on the path to improving your profitability.

Business Metrics
Business metrics, or measurements of business activity, have long been seen as the exclusive tool of the pure number cruncher, the bookkeeper, and the statistician. That’s no longer the case. In today’s increasingly flooded marketplace, the mantra must be: "You can’t manage it if you can’t measure it." By defining the metrics that are important to your business and monitoring them closely, you gain three key benefits:

Focus. Defining the metrics that are most important to your business allows you to tune out everything that isn’t related to those key measurements. As a result, you’ll find that you and your business are much more efficient.

Better Vision. Companies that monitor metrics can spot threats and opportunities faster than companies that don’t. Your metrics will give you keen insights into what’s happening within the four walls of your business as well as overall trends in your industry.

Better Decisions. Metrics provide a framework for making business decisions. With the numbers in black and white, you can make well-reasoned decisions on how to proceed. If it improves your key metrics, consider it. If not, move on.

Implementing Metrics
Getting started with metrics is easier than you might think. Many small business owners don’t understand how simple it can be to collect and analyze these important numbers. A simple seven-step process gets you started.
1. Define Your Goals. Make a list of business goals. Goals might include sales objectives, target profit margins, or success at signing up new customers.
2. Define the Metrics. For each business goal on your list, write down a metric that will help you track your progress to success. For example, if your goal is signing up new customers, your metric might involve stating the number of meetings you will have per week with perspective customers.
3. Benchmark Current Status. Now that you established your metrics, you need to measure them. You must determine exactly how your business is doing, even if the truth is hard to swallow. By establishing the current value of each metric, you will be able to track your improvements in the future.
4. Put in Place a System to Monitor and Report Metrics. You may need to add new business processes that will help you calculate and report your metrics. For example, is the number of your customers who view your customer service as being "excellent," then you may want to survey your customers every month and ask them how you are doing.
5. Communicate Metrics with Employees. Once you’ve defined the key metrics that are important to your business, be sure to let your staff know. Then, everyone can make decisions that help improve the metrics.
6. Review the Metrics and Make Decisions. With your metrics in place, you have greater insight into which strategies work and which don’t. Review the metrics and take steps to improve your results.
7. Promote Successes. When your metrics improve, let your staff know and reward everybody that helped make things better.

Effective use of business metrics can have a profound impact on your business. As you gain a better understanding of your business and move closer to achieving important goals, your day-to-day work will become easier and your staff will be more accountable to the metrics that matter. You’ll make better decisions, based on data, and you will have a powerful new tool for managing your business.