Data-Driven Business Decisions
We give out a great deal of advice to small start-ups and owners of existing small businesses here at Sareen and Associates. We also provide a lot of hand-holding and/or business coaching to our clients. It’s part of our service template; we’ve been doing these things since the company started over 20 years ago. In fact, that was the plan right from the start when Sareen and Associates was started – to not just crunch the numbers for small business owners, but to give them the knowledge and tools to do something about the numbers. In this way, we’re much different than most accounting firms.
We tell prospective clients when we go out on the first get-to-know business development call that if they want to talk to their accounting firm twice a year, then we’re not their best choice. Because our folks will be in your ear about anything that looks weird, or seems like a rash plan of action, or, late payments to government entities. We do what we can to help our clients prosper.
Within this construct of providing assistance to our clients, it’s an ongoing struggle to convince them to use the mounds of quantitative and qualitative data now available to them in this inter-connected world in order to make better decisions about their business and business strategy. They prefer to “wing it”, or “trust their gut” or “free-form as they go along” because they’re smart people, they’re used to being successful because they work hard at being successful, and they’re used to being mostly right most of the time. And since gathering data and then sorting through it takes both time and a certain set of competencies, a fair amount of these clients just stick with what they are familiar with. That is, trusting their gut instinct.
As I mentioned previously, it’s an ongoing struggle to get these clients to utilize data to help in their decision-making process, but that’s what we’re here for, and we try to be as persuasive as we can in pointing out the benefits of data-driven decisions.
All right, that’s one side of the coin. On the other side of the coin, we have a much smaller, but still significant amount of highly educated (and they are also usually younger) clients, generally with MBA degrees or M.S. degrees, that want to base all of their decisions on data and nothing else. Things that have value to the organization and/or its long-term goals, but are not so easily quantified or measured, get either short shrift by these clients, or, get ignored completely.
We are not unique in this regard. It’s happening to other organizations that work with small businesses as well.
For over two decades, the mantra in business circles has been, “If you can’t measure it, then it doesn’t exist”. Skills like TQM (Total Quality Management) and Six Sigma (Process and Quality) and others have transformed the face of business, business operations and strategic planning. I myself have been through those training programs and used that knowledge in operations and process management for years. And as the head of marketing for some very large divisions of some very large corporations in the past, as well as a marketing “hired gun” consultant, I know firsthand the immense value of good market data. I love data, whether its big or small.
But, just as it is unwise to always “go with your gut”, it is also reckless to rely on data alone in terms of tactical business decisions. And it is supremely imprudent to count on data points to set the vision and strategy for your small company.
Use a blend. You’ll get a better overall picture of where your company needs to be from both a real-time point of view, and a long-term perspective.
If you’re having trouble with this balance, hire us. Or, someone like us. There is help available. If you do it right, then you won’t have to do it again.