Successfully Driving the Bus

A business is a “vehicle” in a very real sense, in that it was probably built at the outset to get to a “desired destination”, whether that destination was (or still is) financial security, the freedom of being your own boss, or creative self-expression. It is fascinating how far you can stretch the analogy, and still draw useful lessons from it.

The dashboard is a collection of indicators designed to feed you a range of important information about your vehicle. In your business, do you have an old-fashioned fuel gauge (current bank statement) that tells you how much is left in the tank? Or a more sophisticated trip computer that provides information on remaining fuel (account balance); distance to the next three fuel stations (aged debtor analysis); current and expected fuel consumption (cashflow analysis and projection); and reserve tank reading (additional funds available for business use? Do you have a map in the glove box that provides some indication on the territory you are planning to cover (basic business plan) or are you just driving around hoping that you will stumble on a good place to settle down?

Or have you upgraded to a GPS system for pin-point accurate information about your present position and an up to the minute picture of what lies ahead?

When Dashboards Go Bad

Enron was in the news because its principal officers engaged “creative accounting” that drove their business onto the rocks. Their folly was thinking that if you rigged the dials on the dash to say otherwise, no one would notice that the engine had run out of fuel. What sort of fumes were leaking into the cabin for them to lose that much contact with reality?

Another public company issued information to investors that had little bearing on the company’s true position. The CEO proclaimed, “We grew the business quicker than our back office systems could handle – they stopped giving us accurate, timely information about just where we were, and it took us a while to realize that things were going wrong.”

Have Your Outgrown Your Dashboard?

Now a lot of Small to Medium Enterprises face similar challenges: A lousy dashboard – an absence of accurate, timely information about the key indicators of their business health; outdated systems.

Michael Gerber (The E-Myth Revisited) says that “most small business owners are technicians who’ve suffered an entrepreneurial seizure,” but one suspects that many, eventually go beyond their ability to fly by the seat of their pants.

You then come across them in various situations: Hitching a ride with an empty gas can or flat tire in hand; or lying in the mud trying to do a repair on old parts that have long since ceased to work; or scattered spectacularly across the countryside, having taken a chunk out of their suppliers in the crash. Or you encounter the ones who realized in time the need to invest in upgrading the dashboard of their business – and to take a few advanced driving lessons while they’re at it (management training, coaching, business advice from a trusted advisor).

They’re the ones who tend to pull out into the fast lane, looking very relaxed, and pass their competition as though standing still.

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© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

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