Numbers Game

June 30, 2017
A simple phrase, a lot of metrics, and our annual survey.

If I had to place a bet on it, I would be pretty confident in saying that the phrase “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” (or some slight variation) has been quoted in our magazine by more shop operators, consultants and columnists than any other single set of words. I mean, it’s a safe bet; it’s very likely that this oft-cited cliche is just as common in every business-focused magazine, regardless of the industry.

I can’t remember the first time I heard it, nor who said it. But in the roughly five years I’ve worked at FenderBender, the amount of times I’ve had it recited to me while conducting an interview is well into the triple digits. (If you’re curious, the cliche is actually a loosely paraphrased quote from 19th century Scots-Irish mathematical physicist and engineer Lord Kelvin, who is better known for formulating the first and second laws of thermodynamics (and if you’re curious, I googled that; journalism at work).)

Now, I bring all of this up only to drive home a point here: Internally at FenderBender, we hear this phrase so often that it’s easy to assume that all of our readers are just as familiar with it—or, more importantly, the concept behind it. Being able to tangibly measure progress in a business is absolutely critical to strategic planning and decision-making. We write about this every month, and for many of you, if you don’t hear it enough here, you’re also hearing it in 20 Groups or from business coaches or from any number of sources.

Yet, for each of the last five years, our annual KPI Survey reminds us that this concept isn’t quite as universal as many of us sometimes think.

You can find our overview of the results, put together by associate editor Travis Bean and one of the very first numbers you will see is that 73 percent of respondents regularly track KPIs in their businesses. That’s actually the highest total in the five years of the survey, but still likely lower than many might expect.

But here’s a result that is far, far less surprising: For the fifth straight year, the shops that track and measure KPIs outperform those that don’t.

You’ll find a slew of interesting takeaways in our eight-page feature in this month’s magazine, and you might notice that we took a slightly different approach to it this time around. Our goal was to provide a more comprehensive overview of those takeaways and hammer home some of the key points that can be extrapolated from the data. And we are offering even more data in our for-purchase KPI Survey: Complete Report, which is available online. That includes the full slate of responses, demographic data and even more comparisons and takeaways. It’s all more than worth your time to check it out.

Overall, the goal of our KPI Survey each year is to provide you with data to see where your operation stacks up—where the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities lie in your business. And hopefully, for the 27 percent who do not regularly track KPIs, it can provide some motivation to do so. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

About the Author

Bryce Evans

Bryce Evans is the former vice president of content at 10 Missions Media, overseeing an award-winning team that produces FenderBender, Ratchet+Wrench and NOLN.

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