I can talk metrics til the cows come home. Metrics are vital. They empower you with the ability to improve overall results or target a particular area of your business for change. They can also help you align your systems and people with your business goals.
With measurement comes the DISCIPLINE element of being an entrepreneur. We must consistently measure numbers of clients, revenue per client, time taken to service a client, marketing ROIs, staff productivity, conversion rates, return on investment for clients, website traffic and so on. Without them you can never be aware of your progress.
Whilst a fundamental pillar of the entrepreneurial mindset is being prepared to measure everything you can in your business, it is also critical to understand that not everything that is important is measurable. For example, according to their metrics Lehman Brothers was in great shape on September 10th, 2008. Their tier 1 capital ratio – a measure of a bank’s ability to endure loss – was 11.7%. That was higher than the previous quarter. Higher than Goldman Sachs. Higher than Bank of America. Higher than Wells Fargo. They looked rock solid on paper.
Just days later, Lehman was bankrupt.
The most critical metric to Lehman during this time was confidence and trust among short-term bond lenders who fed its balance sheet with capital and yet that was also one of the hardest things to measure. In hindsight we know bond investors were losing faith throughout 2008 but without a trigger they kept lending. Until they didn't.
You can’t measure what’s going on inside people’s heads to know when or why thinking changes. There are some things in your business that you just can't put a figure on but your understanding of where those things are at will be critical to your success.
What are they?
The stickiness of support from your clients for one.
And the loyalty of your employees.
Why they feel the way they do and when they’ll start feeling something different.
So many things in life are here today, gone tomorrow. There's a reason why most men don't wear polyester safari suits anymore. And there's a reason why we've all moved from cash to cards to bitcoin. Things change in both fashion and finance. Taste is not a science and predicting when or why it will change is like gazing in to a crystal ball. Being an entrepreneur requires a level of CREATIVITY which enables you to make connections between seemingly unrelated events or situations.
Why will a loyal employee of 4 years suddenly decide to up and move on?
Why will clients get bored of the way you deliver your advice?
Why don't clients 'click' with one of your advisers.
You can measure everything about the effectiveness of a financial plan except the most important part: when clients will lose enthusiasm for it. Enthusiasm isn’t a measurable statistic. It’s a feeling that owes nothing to the logic of your data.
The point here is that running a business is both art and science. Some things are measurable. Others you have to just feel out. Richard Branson intuitively understood that looking for leaders who are eager to have fun at work will pass that on enthusiasm on to other employees in the company, supporting a positive work environment. That's a hard thing to measure - but its been hugely important to the success of Virgin.
Many of the most remarkable achievers in human history followed their intuition. Steve Jobs is a shining example.
Gathering client data is a science. Understanding what will motivate them to act on your financial plan is an art.
Identifying net present value is a science. Identifying the level of trust you've gained from your client is an art.
Measuring past returns is a science. Understanding why things are different now is an art.
Which boils down to this. As an entrepreneur you need to be analytical as well as openminded and intuitive. You need to be on top of all figures and acutely aware of what is going on in the relationships and dynamics that drive your business. Toggling between the two can be challenging but it is something that the best financial advisers pay attention to in order to build a successful business.