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Dashboards to Drive Your Small Business

  • A dashboard offers an easy way to track key metrics related to your business
  • Tracking sales, return on investment, employee performance, and more
  • Factors to consider when creating your dashboards

By Denis Jakuc

A dashboard is a display of various data reports organized graphically to be easy to digest. It’s a great way to monitor and share all kinds of vital information about your business, such as revenue, costs, expenses, sales, and key performance indicators (KPIs) for marketing channels (like your website, social media, advertising, emails, and mailers).

Dashboards help you stay on top of finances, manage projects, and keep track of sales. They can also spot trends and provide fresh insights. Here are some of the many things you can use dashboards to measure:

  • Weeks to close a sale per sales person
  • Sales calls per day and per week
  • Gross margin per sale
  • Sales closing rate
  • Leads per ad
  • Click through rates
  • Percentage ROI (return on investment)
  • Digital promotion results—length of time on message, closed sales rate
  • 800 number performance
  • Site referrals from digital affiliates
  • Time spent and cost per sale or service activity
  • Gross revenue and pretax margin per product or service
  • Employee absences and tardiness
  • Inventory turnover
  • Cost increases and decreases
  • Yield of production processes

This data is readily available through software applications, database systems, and on the internet, from sources such as:

  • Quicken and other accounting programs
  • SaaS “pay-as-you-use” data acquisition programs
  • CRM (customer relationship management) services, such as and industry specific offerings
  • Google and Facebook analytics
  • Sales, financial, machine usage, and energy consumption reports
  • Government and industry data

With this information available to the people who need it on a quick and easy to comprehend dashboard, you can make more effective decisions and dramatically improve business performance. For example, a dashboard can:

  • Help define and decide which business activities are most important
  • Set goals for individuals and groups
  • Give you greater confidence about how the business is performing
  • Support decisions and actions in a timely manner
  • Educate everyone about things that matter
  • Highlight exceptions
  • Create alerts when problems occur
  • Communicate progress
  • Provide a common interface for accessing and analyzing key business data

Factors to Consider

You can put together dashboards to monitor different aspects of your business. Financial dashboards are important for tracking cash flow and profits. But dashboards can also track marketing campaigns, sales results, inventory levels, operating costs, and more.

To create a dashboard, define the metrics to track, agree on the goals for those metrics, and determine how to present all the data in a single view. Work with everyone involved with generating and reviewing the different types of data to make sure the data is relevant and meaningful. When deciding what data to put on a dashboard, focus on useful, productive information and avoid including data that’s interesting but extraneous.

For each dashboard, focus on the audience and the information they need to aid their decision making. Determine how the dashboard should look—numbers, graphics, tables, charts, gauges. Factors to consider in the dashboard design:

  • How frequently to update the information
  • Ability to access on a mobile device
  • Real time connectivity to data sources
  • How much data to show, how much to drill down to
  • Ability for users to interact with the data, share and collaborate with others

The goal of a dashboard is to help you make better decisions. You don’t want to waste time, so only track data that’s actionable and related to your success. The focus is on creating lean reports with the information you need to propel your business in the right direction.

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