The dashboard warning light on my car has read “low tire pressure” for over a week now. And in that week I’ve passed enough gas station air machines to keep the Goodyear blimp afloat until next year’s Super Bowl.
But the voice inside my head urges me to drive past the air machines with various excuses: “You don’t have enough quarters,” “You’ll be late picking up the kids again,” “It’s too frigid outside to turn those little cappy things without gloves” ... .
I so easily cave in to that voice, asking my car to go just a little while longer, forcing the sagging rubber to hit the cold hard pavement and risking a blow-out on the Massachusetts Turnpike. All to avoid a 10-minute break in my flow.
But I never do that with business. There I track and respond to several dashboard reports. During weekly office meetings, we review a cash flow report, a job cost report summary, a “cash board” that tells me exactly where our cash is in relation to our payables, and a production vulnerability report that defines the weakest link in ongoing projects.
All of these are set up to warn of a drop in a point on a projected return or an overdue payable.
Each month we review a work in process (WIP) report, our balance sheet, and our profit and loss statements for any indication of low profits.
For every job we have a task tracker — a document where we update task progress and assignments — and a submittal log that gives architects a chance to review and finalize selections and details one last time.
I pore over these reports and I dissect them. I want them to tell me if catastrophe looms ahead.
I look for subtle hints of change or danger — a job cost report that’s one percentage point down from the previous report is enough to stop me in my tracks. I do not ignore the problems they reveal. I find them and I fix them — even if that interrupts my regular workflow.
Many company owners just follow their existing workflow and, like I tend to do in my personal life, ignore problems. That’s a mistake. A flat tire on your car is a bummer, sure, but you can call a tow truck or a mechanic to fix that. Business problems, on the other hand, are the surface signals to deeper issues.
Build and review dashboard reports and heed any warning signs you see there. In business, you won’t just be waylaid at the side of the road — it could cost you your company. —Allison Iantosca is a partner at F.H. Perry Builder, a Boston-area custom builder focused on building trust, dreams, and relationships. firstname.lastname@example.org