“What gets measured, gets managed,” is a quote often attributed to Peter Drucker, but that’s been refuted and the real author is unknown for sure. I’ve heard the proverb mostly used conversationally when talking about losing weight. When you weigh yourself every day, measuring every ounce, considering every indulgence from the days prior, it’s easier to resist an extra cookie if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight. Likewise, if you’re minding your bank balance regularly, you may be more likely to save.
Simply put, paying attention to things is how they change. What metrics are you watching? Is it number of clients, number of projects, or simply dollars in the bank?
It was about the money
When I started my business in 1994 it was only about dollars for me. I needed income and I was therefore not selective about the kinds of clients and projects I took. My anchor was a meaningful role with the Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach assisting four all-volunteer committees coordinating four fundraising events that occurred in the same week prior to the race. My other clients hired me for a variety of tasks including designing flyers (the main mode of promotion in the 90s), résumés, brochures, and some press releases. As a start-up I was doing okay not great. I was working with the clients I wanted, mainly nonprofits and small businesses, but because I was doing a little bit of everything it was not clear to people how to refer me.
The Metrics Changed Over The Years
As time went on, I defined the kind of work I wanted. That started with setting objectives. I divided my objectives by the kind of clients I wanted based on skills: public relations, copywriting, some design work in the beginning years, and later I added training and facilitation. Writing the objectives following the SMART mnemonic (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timed), I set my business intentions.
What really turbo-charged my business was when I created a budget forecast. My objectives were then reflected in that document. It wasn’t just a end of the year target, but I broke down how much money I expected to make in each area of my business, then I monitored that every month. Trends naturally emerged. In economic downturns, the PR takes a dip. In a pandemic, I learned, facilitation takes a dive. Creating a balance is important and some insight into trends is helpful.
Stake it to Make it!
It might sound corny but once you set those stakes and truly believe in them, then you can meet them. I didn’t start out as strategically as I could have, I learned by doing and became more deliberate. The objectives alone were not as powerful as coming up with a monthly budget forecast. Those two tools work together in a winning combination.
How do you measure success? It doesn’t matter what metrics you choose: dollars, hours billed, number of customers, number of projects, etc. What matters is that you set them and measure them. Just by paying attention to them you will better manage them. Know what you want to accomplish from the beginning. Will it change? Of course! But you have to start somewhere. You will see quickly, that what gets measured, gets managed.
Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and small businesses. She recently published Laws of Promotion. The 50-page promotional guide for small businesses and local nonprofits is available now on Amazon. Call her for help with your promotion. If you found this post helpful, please leave a note here and feel free to share it.