Small Business Dashboard Design Dos And Don’ts

A business success dashboard is a computer based reporting application that displays your key business metrics in gorgeous colourful graphs that all but smack you in the face with startlingly practical insights about how to boost your business success.

No longer do we need to rely on black and white printed sales reports choking with numbers arranged in columns and rows. Ick! You can’t get powerful insights from looking at numbers arranged in tables – it’s scientifically proven, so don’t bother arguing! 😉

The really exciting and cool thing about business success dashboards is that they take the guesswork out of your decision making.

Dashboards put right in front of you the bare facts about show-stopping results like how well your marketing is attracting profitable leads, how easily you can convert a lead into a customer, what your customers like and don’t like, where you’re wasting time in your business and how healthy your cash flow is.

But as a small business owner or entreprenuer, you’ll only give your time to setting up your business success dashboard if it’s fun, fast and profit-building. So here are 7 dos and don’ts to make sure your dashboard is:

1. DO start with just a few business metrics, like profit, revenue, cash flow, new leads, website visitors – whatever you’re measuring and tracking now. DON’T wait until you have worked out all the measures that matter for your business: it will take forever, you’ll get bored with it and you’ll be missing profit pumping opportunities from the measures you already use.

2. DO use basic tools you already have – like Microsoft Excel – until you get into the groove of dashboarding and using your business metrics to manage your business. DON’T invest in flashy software until you know how you want your dashboard to serve you.

3. DO use simple line charts to display your measures so you can see trends over time – the trends are more important than the points. DON’T compare this month to last month, or do any other two-point comparisons like this – you never see the real trends or get any real insights this way.

4. DO include Pareto charts to dig into your data, such as to show you the 20% of marketing campaigns that bring 80% of your customers, or the 20% of sales that bring 80% of the revenue. DON’T ever use pie charts – they absolutely suck when it comes to giving you any kind of useful information from your data.

5. DO let form follow function, and only include the measures that matter to your business, and the graphs that best reveal those measures’ trends and insights. DON’T go all Picasso on it – limit your creativity to choice of colours, not to find out how many forms of bling you can build into it.

6. DO use your dashboard weekly, to look for clues about the best ways to ramp up your business results. DON’T lose the discipline of regularly tracking, testing and tuning your business – sure, the dashboard will only be one input to managing your business but it’s an essential input.

7. DO get help from someone who’s really ofay with Excel and graphs, or someone who is experienced with measuring and tracking. DON’T rely on dashboard software people who can’t demonstrate skills in choosing meaningful measures and displaying them appropriately (they usually get carried away with pretty but useless guages and dials). DON’T freak out trying to do it yourself either – the difference that a business dashboard will make to your success and sanity is too valuable.

If the Dashboard Fairy granted you a wish to instantly dashboard 3 measures of your business success, which 3 measures would you choose? What are the 3 most important results that have the most leverage to increase your profits, and improve your work-life balance? Now set up the world’s simplest dashboard using Excel, to start tracking those measures. And finally, commit to taking at least one action to improve the results those measures reveal to you.