Valued at about $50 billion, it’s undisputed that Uber’s business was a great idea. Except, they weren’t the first to think of it. Ever hear of Taxi Magic? It did basically the same thing as Uber, but they didn’t execute as well. Uber didn’t win just because it was a genius idea. It won on effective execution.
In 2010, while their competition was thriving, Dominos—having experienced years of negative sales—was failing. Why? For one, their competition was putting out a better product. People didn’t like the taste of Dominos pizza. In what sounds like a suicidal move, Dominos publically shared customer complaints that described their food as “void of flavor,” “cardboard,” and even “worst excuse for pizza I’ve ever had.” Dominos had to execute a change, and fast. They changed their sauce, the flavor and melt of their cheese, and their crust—basically, the whole pie. They redesigned their stores so that customers could watch their pizzas being made right in front of them. They built new technologies, including an app where one can see where his/her pizza is in the prep and delivery process (called the Dominos Tracker®). Today, you can order Dominos by talking to Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or by tapping your smartwatch. You can even order by texting a pizza emoji. The result: Over the last 7 years, Dominos stock has moved from $9 to over $180 outperforming Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Not bad for a 57-year-old pizza company.
Both Uber and Dominos are examples of good execution that resulted in a winning business. In contrast, many companies fall short of excellence. They don’t set out to be sub-par, it just happens despite their best intentions (e.g., Dominos before their reinvention). A hotel wants to impress their guests, but can’t seem to get a great person at the front desk. A restaurant wants to put out great food, but keeps getting plates sent back. A counseling practice wants to have the best reputation in town, but they just got another negative online review.
This month, I present 3 simple directives for using metrics to improve execution in your practice.
Step 1: Focus on the Practice
Execution is about creating processes that will get you to your goal, and then managing those processes on an ongoing basis using sound metrics. This takes focused time and energy.
Business owners let things slide when their focus is split in too many directions. In the counseling industry, persons might try to run a counseling practice as a part-time gig—one is also an adjunct professor, or has a 9-5 job, or works contract
hours at another agency, or is too busy seeing clients to focus on managing the practice (this last one, entrepreneur-guru Michael Gerber calls ‘working in the business, not on the business’).
This step, to dedicate ample focus, is a prelude to the next two steps.
Step 2: Create Performance Metrics
What is the maximum acceptable number of clients whose sessions can start late?
How quickly should phone calls be answered, on average?
What is the maximum acceptable time to get reimbursed from insurance companies?
What level of customer service is acceptable, or remarkable?
Creating performance metrics, measuring them, and continual monitoring isn’t easy. It takes both creativity and commitment. For example, if you run a group practice, how can you know if clients are seen on time? While you can’t verify this for every session, perhaps you can observe a cross section of 5 sessions for each counselor per week. Of those 5 sessions, did any begin late?
For customer service, perhaps create a matrix of desirable behaviors like “customer greeted with enthusiasm” and “representative provided complete and accurate information to the customer” and so on. The customer service representative is observed once per week, or per day, conducted at random, and receives immediate feedback on his/her performance.
Identifying important performance metrics, and developing methods for observing/measuring them will take time. But it’s important, and effective.
3: Chart and Share Data Monthly, Weekly, or Daily
At many companies, performance data sits in a spreadsheet (if it exists at all). The data is collected, but not reviewed. It certainly isn’t shared with the team.
At my company, we’ve found that for performance data to have significant impact, we need to pull it out of the spreadsheet and chart it in a more visual way. Today, we use a line or bar graphs with a black background and neon colors that show our progress (or lack thereof) of a performance metric over time. It has impact. And that impact is doubled when we print it, and post it on the wall. And that impact is doubled again when top performers get bonuses (and bottom performers get coaching). And that impact is doubled again if the data is for short intervals. Weekly data is more powerful that monthly, because team members can modify their performance and see a result in just a few days. For the same reason, monthly data is better than quarterly, or yearly, and so on.
From Job to Joy
In this column I mentioned how developing, monitoring, and charting performance metrics is important for effective business execution. While both time consuming and challenging, in time keeping performance metrics might transition from a job, to a joy. For team members, having metrics means that they have clear performance expectations, and timely feedback on how they’re doing (and ideally rewards for good performance). For the solo-practice, it feels good to see one’s metrics improve, and it’s a confirmation that you’re executing well.