I'm often asked what the most important thing in small business. This question comes from both established businesses and people about to start up. I always answer with the same response.....DATA

Now data is meaningless unless you combine it with action but it's still the most important tool in any business owners toolbox. Commonly termed Business Intelligence and once so costly only the big boys could afford it with advances in technology just about any business owner can have everything they need on a few dashboards. Gone are the days where you needed someone to analyse and collate all of your data. With tools like Xero, GeoOP, Deputy, Unleashed, Vend etc you can have everything you need at your fingertips. Combine that with tools like Informly (more on Informly and other automation tools on Friday ) and you have a big picture and detail about your business with just a few clicks.

That's really the reason Growthwise go searching for best of breed solutions. It's not only the time savings and control you have with your business but it's the information you can get out to help you make those informed decisions. You can then test and measure, tweak, then test and measure some more. I often hear people say it's a chore and a burden on small business to have to complete things like a Quarterly Business Activity Statement and Financial Statements. In fact looking at certain figures should be compulsory for small business on a weekly and monthly basis. The truth is this should be standard practice for all small businesses. I've said this many times before but without clear knowledge you may as well just go to the casino and put everything on black!

Data is critical if you want to make informed decisions. It also needs to be timely. So you should be looking at up to date figures not something that is 3 or 6 or worse more than 12 months old. And I'm not just talking about a Profit and Loss or Balance Sheet here. Yes they are great at showing you profitability and some trends but they make up only a small portion of the entire picture.

So what are some of the things data can provide in your business? If your sales are based on an hourly rate have you ever stopped to look at your average hourly rate? This includes all of the hours worked not just the hours you charge for? Have you looked at which clients are profitable, what products are profitable? Have you tracked where your customers come from therefore what rate of return you have on your marketing spend? Have you looked at your conversion rate for new enquiries? Your retention rate? Have you compared your sales staff or production output between team members? Have you looked at the capacity in your business and compared that to your results? Do you compare the before and after results if you implement change in your business?

What do you currently measure in your weekly report on your business? What do you measure on a monthly basis?

All of these things and more are just the tip of the iceberg on things you should be tracking in your business. Without it you are just flying blind.

Implementing tools to provide you with this data and streamline your business make such a huge difference. We have seen businesses who start monitoring data complete on average another job per day, increase average hourly rate by 35%, increase the overall margins on products and reduce staff wages as a % of sales. See what you measure improves. It becomes a focus and you look for ways of improving.

So how well do you know your data....the best tool in your business?