Singles and Doubles: Using metrics to grow your business

Written by Paul on November 11th, 2008

In Profitable Growth is Everyone’s Business, Ram Charan puts it perfectly:

Focus on hitting singles and doubles. Home runs don’t happen every day or even every decade.

Everyone knows Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer ever and most people attribute that success to something vague and intangible, like talent or sheer luck. But, did you know that Tiger works out every day, runs for miles and wins less than 50% of the time? Did you also know that he started golfing when he was 3 years old?

Tiger learned to swing the club consistently — he had to learn to connect with the ball and make it go where he wanted before he could win any tournaments. These were his “singles and doubles.”

The things your business does on a day-to-day basis are your singles and doubles. Use metrics to incrementally improve them.

I don’t blame people for ignoring metrics — it’s only natural to push this stuff to the end of your task list when you’ve got a million other things to do. A few years ago, I did the same thing.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the numbers, but the key to successfully taking your business to the next level is understanding how to prioritize the metrics that directly impact your success. At the end of the day, you only need to build the metrics that enable you to grow your offering, whether it’s a product or service, by hitting a number of singles and doubles.

Two types of business metrics

  1. Operational Metrics. These reflect the things that your business cares about on a day-to-day basis. Inventory, cash flow, net new customer counts, etc. You alone are the expert at your business, take a minute to write down the numbers that are important to you.
  2. Investigative Metrics. These are the numbers that you’re curious about. Which product/service do most of my customers buy? Where do my customers typically come from? You get the idea.

Metrics: Where to start

When it comes to metrics within the context of the small business, the general rule of thumb is that you only measure what you intend to improve upon. So, ask yourself some of these questions:

  1. What are your current goals for the business?
  2. What assumptions are you making?
  3. What key metrics will help you track the progress towards the business’ goals?

For most of you, the best place to start is by setting up your operational metrics. This gives you a handle on where your business is on a day-to-day basis and, more importantly, helps you start hitting singles and doubles.

Breaking News: No one can create the perfect plan to get ahead.

If I could tell you the specific steps you need to take in order to get ahead and promise that you could succeed 100% of the time, you’d love me. But, I can’t. The specific road map to successfully (and consistently) grow your business just doesn’t exist. You can’t predict the future; otherwise, psychics would be billionaires.

So what can you actually control?

Your odds.

Most people succeed because they hit “singles and doubles.” These people understand that this is the single best way to make your odds of success better — you can’t hit a home run without first learning how to hit the ball in the first place.

Rather than looking for the next idea that’s going to make them an overnight success, the best entrepreneurs spend their time improving the fundamentals of their business using metrics. By learning how to consistently hit these singles and doubles, these entrepreneurs set themselves up to knock a home run out of the park.

The bottom line

Don’t waste your time or money by searching for home runs. Use the right business metrics to focus your efforts on your business’ singles and doubles — this will inevitably improve your odds of knocking one out of the park.

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