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Edition 274 – Reading The Signs

My unblemished 31 year driving record is no more! My wife was opening the mail on a Monday morning when she calls out to me in the next office, “you’ve got a speeding fine”. Happy Monday!

She places the love letter from the NSW Government on my desk and I glance at it. Pinged for 68kmh in a 60kmh zone in the Eastern Distributor tunnel in the heart of Sydney. My first thought was about the size of the fine – $650 for a company owned vehicle. Wow!

My second thought was about the fact that I was only 8 kmh over the limit. 8 kmh!

My third thought is “it’s the 140kw Ford Territory Turbo Diesel that I was driving, not the 345kw Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint”. Imagine being picked up for speeding in the lackadaisical, foot to the floor and go nowhere fast diesel and not the stonking supercharged 5.0 litre V8? I’m almost embarrassed!

Then, it hits me. “Hang on, the Eastern Distributor is an 80 kmh piece of roadway!”. Something’s wrong here.

I go online to search the photos which are available for your viewing pleasure. And there, plain as day, is my car and, at the top of the photo, a 60kmh speed limit sign. It was one of the electronic signs which changes to suit road conditions. The speed limit had changed, but I reverted to what I thought I knew. Driving this piece of roadway two to four times each month, I’d become complacent and now, was paying the price.

The same thing happens in business. We get complacent. Sales start to slow, but not enough to notice. Cash gets a little tighter, but we massage it by stretching out our suppliers. Your team is not as engaged in their work, but we put it down to the fatigue of COVID or that we’re in the middle of a bumpy patch. All the time, the signs are changing. It’s just that we choose not to notice.

My speeding fine is a one off. The changing signs in business generally are not. They form a pattern and before too long, you’ve lost a big customer, you’re renegotiating bank debt and your suppliers place you on stop credit.

Financial statements tell you what has happened in your business, often well after the fact. Yet, a daily dashboard gives you today’s numbers, today. What has happened in your business, in real time, is right in front of you. The amazing thing is that I work with family business owners and managers that send me their numbers daily and it’s often not until I point things out to them that:

  1. They notice what is happening in their business – as they’re too close to the action; and,
  2. They do something about it.

The number of times that I’ve questioned a client as to why the week’s numbers to Wednesday are lousy, only for them to put the foot to the floor, motivate their team and turn an awful week into a great week, I’ve lost count of. I’m like an unseen warning sign in front of the speed sign – watch out, the speed limit is changing and you need to drive accordingly.

When you open up today, what are you monitoring in your business? How are you measuring your performance in real time? What changes are you able to make in your business, today, that will impact this week and create a different financial outcome for your business.

Complacency is the enemy of enduring business success.