What Gets Measured Gets Done


Perfectionism can be the antithesis of good business. That fixation of doing things right, rather than doing the right things, can move us away from the goals that matter.

I think there’s a lot of talk on KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), but it’s hard for many people to slow down, think, and identify the core things that matter. It’s even harder to quantify what does matter. We tend to talk in qualitative terms:

That’s a nice person.

I like their work.

We are making progress.

How nice?

Did the work produce a return on investment?

What percentage of progress?

If you can step back and think about numbers that matter so you can hit your goals, then there’s an accountability, focus and output that keeps the focus where it needs to be without ambiguity. What gets measured gets done. And those metrics have to be thoughtfully created, tested and transparent so everyone knows whether the right things are being done.

There are many attributes our intuition can take into account, but good measurement focuses the bottom line around what truly matters to you.

Want more revenue? How much? What actions consistently done contribute to that goal?

Want a better reputation in the marketplace? How about setting the goal front and center of getting four star plus ratings on Google and Yelp? Let your customers score you and keep the current score front and center to see how you are doing today. If you’re low, it forces you to make adjustments based on feedback.

Yes, we can bury ourselves in the many things we want to consider. But it’s hard enough to get any goal when everything is working against you. But you can get one or a few that truly matter and put all your energy into closing the gap.

Pick a goal. Design the way to measure progress towards the goal. Then work relentlessly to stay honest with yourself and others that contribute towards that metric.

Value is Perishable

J. Money’s Work History from BudgetsAreSexy.com

I keep up with a lot of blogs in my reader and I came across this article from a fun, candid article at Budgets Are Sexy. I like reading articles from bloggers that put the raw truth of their journey out there. It’s bold and courageous of them. This article was a reflection and a great reminder that value is perishable.

We are not working in an economy where we will be doing the same thing in five years. Here’s a guy that lists 36 jobs in his journey and how he rounded back to his core, but he was always exploring new options and opportunities.

It’s a strange thing when we run across friends 10 or 20 years later. They are usually doing something totally different.

And often, we have been doing something far from the path we were once on as well.

What you consider value today does tend to have a half-life. Automation, competition and efficiencies change the value equation all the time. You might have charged a premium before, but then the world gets smarter and everyone can do what you are doing. That’s when you have to change course or reinvent yourself.

I think there’s sectors where you can hide out for sure. It’s one strategy to combat innovation. I’m not sure it’s that safe or secure. It’s simply defense and fear.

If you simply operate with the security that today is a snapshot of what you may be doing or offering, you can stay relevant, fresh and engaged. You can keep observing and pushing into new areas where your value can be recognized and compensated for.

I don’t think there’s this job out there that will make you feel secure. Nor is there a product that will be a hit for the next 10 years guaranteed.

I do think you are a living, breathing person that can be continually valuable. You are only perishable if you bank on some kind of false staying power rather than increasing your abilities over time. Keep moving and embrace that journey of doing many other things yet to come.

Be Productive With Others To Get What You Want


It can feel harsh to accept the common maxims you hear:

There is no free lunch.

Noone owes you anything.

Value for value.

However, if you observe these statements happening in reality with human nature, it can be extremely empowering for you personally. You are not spending all your time trying to change the world or insisting on something that is elusive at best.

Instead, you can be productive towards your goals and participating in an exchange. Appealing to someone’s self-interest is the first place to start. And that takes insight, empathy and caring. You have to figure out what another person truly values and deliver it in exchange for what you want.

It’s a much more fruitful use of your time and energy than insisting that people do what you want.

You might start the process with, “What do I want?”

Then you have to ask, “What do my customers or friends want?”

Lastly, get clear on, “How do we make a trade so they get what they want and I get what I want?”

Trade, don’t insist.

All You Have to Think About

decision making, age of speed, productivity

The next thing. Isn’t that it? It sounds simple. It is simple. But it’s hard. It’s simple and hard.

The ability to be clear about the next thing is not common. Most people you encounter dialogue or procrastinate around decisions and actions that could be made quickly. In other words, there’s not a lot of difference between the decisions and actions taken a few days or weeks from now than right now. And that inaction and indecision does not match today’s reality of speed. If you hold onto information that doesn’t move to the next step, a backlog quickly develops.

Formerly, executives were the ones burdened to be able to make decisions. Now, everyone has to make decisions because work and information flows in a more matrixed, horizontal fashion. You have to be better to be valuable. To be better comes down to your ability to think quickly, clearly and decisively about the next thing.

Remember those word problems we had to solve in school? I was talking with my daughter the other day about how I approached those in grade school, high school and engineering school.

The goal of those word problems is to obfuscate the things that really matter. Most of the words or points in a word problem do not matter. However, there are a few key facts, stats or data points that are extremely relevant. This is how real life and work actually operate in reality. Most of what is coming at you does not matter. Clarity is about recognizing what does matter and solving problems with decisions and actions around those vital few factors that you can identify.

Some people are much better at getting to the next step because they can make meaning from information efficiently. This is a skill you can develop over time by paying attention and trusting yourself. Yes, you can fail at making wrong decisions and actions. But that is part of building the skill. You have to risk being wrong so you can get better at being right.

If you simply punt and allow someone else to make decisions and actions and tell you what to do next, that may alleviate your fear of failure, but you are falling behind from the flow and pace of business.

Practice one thing relentlessly for the next 30 days. Define the next step and move to action quickly. Don’t let things sit or pile up. Get good at this one skill. Your survival and relevance depend on it.

Don’t Be the Bottleneck


It’s hard to do business with people that are disorganized. And the truth is that we have an enormous amount of options in this economy to find alternatives. Everyone is trying to get something done and we rely on others in communications and actions to move along the projects we are pursuing, whether that is with co-workers, partners, vendors or customers.

When a bottleneck breaks the momentum in various ways,

  • Not returning calls
  • Slowness to respond to emails
  • Not fulfilling an order
  • Slow with using technology
  • Always in a crisis of some sort

it affects our delivery, reputation and desire to make customers happy. We live in a world of on-time delivery, apps and instant gratification. Bureaucracy and friction may be tolerable, but that is not the standard we are experiencing on a daily consumer level.

Speed is a differentiator and you can ensure first and foremost that you are fast. You don’t want to be the bottleneck, especially on a team or within projects. It can kill your brand and cash flow.

Here’s a simple focal point to make sure you can increase your value by getting things done: Convert information to actionability quickly.

That’s where most people lose it. They read a bunch of emails but there’s no clarity on a next step. Voicemails are there for listening, but you don’t take the next step on calling back or getting a result.

That moment where you absorb something from your inbox, conversations, or many other inputs, has to funnel to some list. That list has to be accessible and convenient.

Then you have to turn your brain on for a second and think. This is the hardest part. Think about what the next step is. Then use a verb, an imperative, to clarify what the action is so you don’t have to think about it again. You simply have to execute.

You are transforming raw information into actionability. You are making it easy to act. Again, here are the steps:

  1. Read or listen
  2. Think about what you read or heard
  3. Turn that into an action starting with a verb. i.e., “Decide on platform to use and respond.”
  4. Act

Few people do step 3. But that’s the crux of information flowing efficiently into action for yourself if you can practice it. You’ll certainly have that opportunity today with all the inputs that relentlessly bombard you.

By the way, if you are a Gmail user, SHIFT+K can become your friend in this process.

A little upfront focus can give you a lot of peace of mind managing all the inputs. Become an action machine, a person known to get things done. You will have made yourself more valuable to others.

Leveling Up

overgrown house

Nothing lasts forever. And today, that’s especially true. It can be unsettling to always be on the move when the temptation is to rest on your laurels.

Noone cares about you more than you. And it’s important to take complete ownership of your own personal growth, development and opportunities. You have to continually be leveling up.

When you look at nature, stasis is not natural. It is highly unnatural. A house left alone will be overgrown by forests, vines and plants. Living and dying is part of the cycle of life.

We want things to be the same and maintain some level of security, sanity and comfort. But, I would say that real security is trusting in yourself. That happens when you do hard things are choose to level up continually.

What are some ways to do this?

  • Pursue and make friends that make you better. In the same vein, shed those that hold you back.
  • Try your hand at a new upswing industry related to what you are doing. Perhaps maintain what you are doing while pushing yourself in what is new.
  • Make yourself do hard things. See if you can overcome the fear and get more comfortable with exposing yourself to new endeavors and audiences.
  • Remove your dependencies and habits that don’t make sense any more. Free yourself up. See what space you create.
  • Forgive and move on. See what space you create.
  • Take action on something you keep talking about and not doing.

You are giving yourself a promotion when you choose to level up your standards, choices and commitments. We are not here forever and you don’t want to get caught without a seat when the music stops in what you are doing.

Yes, things you did used to work. But if that is what you are continually banking on and secretly hoping will continue, well, that story tends to have the same predictable tragic outcome. Better to get a fitting mindset for the times and keep leveling up.

It Used to Work and Now It Doesn’t


If you haven’t read business biographies like Derek Sivers of CD Baby or Elon Musk of PayPal fame, it’s well worth the time. There’s a bit of nostalgia as I think back to the 90’s and early 2000’s and what life was like just a short time ago. We didn’t have a world of iPhones, apps, Wi-fi, video streaming, or social networks. The ecosystems were being built into what we see today.

Going back in time and hearing the backstories of entrepreneurial success messes with my mind as I get to take advantage of all these wonderful tools without any thought to how I move in and out of workflow, systems, entertainment and transportation. Life is so much easier in a connected world.

And over the years, I remember so many types of projects and work that used to have demand and people paid a lot of money for. Websites were hard and expensive to build and now they’re easy and cheap. Payment systems were custom and expensive also, but now they’re integrated features.

There are so many things that used to work as a business model and now they don’t. And it is always so tempting to sit on a pipeline of demand when things are flowing. What you may miss is that you are enjoying the cash flow from an innovation that has yet to be commoditized. Someone will eventually build a platform and make what is difficult easy. It happens too often that it should be part of the conscience forefront of your business planning.

Expect that disruption will come.

Expect prices will come down and efficiency and automation will prevail.

Expect competition to push on your position.

Expect things will end.

Expect that you will have to reinvent yourself.

You see a lot of entrepreneurs that hit that one success. They built credibility and started leveraging other people’s money with their credentials. However, seeing repeat successes is less common.

A lot of the play is about getting lucky or having an instinct for timing. That’s part of the requirement for good entrepreneurship.

When we look at history, it’s important to heed that lesson we see repeatedly; know you are within a phase. What you are offering is valuable but will decline in value as the world gets more efficient. Know where you are in the lifecycle and think about what you will do when what you enjoyed profitably doesn’t work as well as it used to anymore.

Obsolescence can be painful if you haven’t planned for it.


An Important Thought to Have


I think a lot about how to make someone’s experience world-class. It’s fun. I’ve had a lot of meetings, calls and project work in the last week with clients, team members and partners. It’s important to me that I add a little bit more in my interactions and experiences. I think life and business are too vast for settling for the mundane and simply going through the motions.

Thinking this way does take intentionality and a care for other people. For the people I like, I tend to keep asking a simple question, “How can I be valuable and add more value?”

I like pushing on that question. It could be as simple as sending a note. Or it could be thinking deeply about the problems or issues that I hear in my friends’ worlds and offering a resource, connection or idea. A lot of it is listening and caring.

Most of it is the habit of being uncomfortable. I like thinking about improvement and making things better. I don’t know, perhaps it was always my nature. But the gaps, the opportunities, the connections – these intrigue me. Finding where to make an impact and an improvement for someone is fun and motivating. The helping makes me happy and keeps my creativity fresh. The great thing is that there is no shortage of opportunities to help people.





I walk through this process daily. And it keeps me growing, rather than fixed in my mindset. The fun of creating value for someone else where an idea or connection did not exist keeps my eyes wide open to do something that creates increase.

Simple thought,

“How can I add more value?

Big impact.

Focus on the Deal First, Then the Details


I have done many types of deals over the years. I have sold services, created venture opportunities for myself and clients, partnered, started businesses, launched new products and have helped people along the way who needed a little more vision or strategy. I can see deals that others can’t see and can see the myriad of steps and obstacles along the way to make the deal happen. It’s been fun, and I look at the world as a giant playground of opportunities.

It does take great intentionality and vision to make deals happen. Putting deals together is unnatural. Human nature enjoys the status quo too much and rarely chooses to rise above the noise to create more for themselves. Why change anything, even if it is better, when what you are accustomed to has an illusion of safety from its perceived comfort and familiarity? Everything in life and reality is working against you.

That’s why deal making has to center around the ideas first. Focusing on the possibilities and opportunities. Help someone to see what you see. Do they align? Do they trust you and your conviction?

The details are second. Yes, there’s likely a ton of work, cost and failure once you get a deal done. And it’s good to sketch out some of those back-of-napkin style to enhance the communication and experience around the deal. But obsessing about details that may or may not happen can kill a deal. Quickly. To a lesser degree, bringing in the details can overwhelm customers or partners. You are setting up the other party to extend the buying cycle or to simply say no.

I like to focus on the deal first. The ideas, upside opportunity, and possibilities are what catalyze deals. It’s why I insist on “Deals first, then details.” Otherwise, you end up killing deals that don’t get to see the light of day.

Much of this is because the ramp up and overhead are so low today to be able to test an idea. You don’t often have to go and buy brick and mortar real estate or hire a bunch of people first. You can see if your idea has viability with experimentation. You can test the demand or even the business relationship to see if it will even work. That’s the creative part of deal making. Take out the risk and find the essence of whether the idea has legs by prototyping.

Most people are sitting around waiting for something to happen. A few people are out there making things happen. Focus on deal making. Details come second.

The Goal of Your System


If you are sitting comfortably, there’s not much incentive to improve your systems. However, disruptors such as technology, competition and atrophy (i.e., Groupon), may force your hand to get your systems more efficient.

I’ve been sharing out various books around the area of business growth and efficiency lately. A classic I would recommend if you are serious about getting your business systems working optimally is The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. You get an insightful and packed story that illuminates the complexities, sensitivities and systemic relationships of complex systems.

You also learn about what the goal of a system is: throughput. Your challenge is to drive throughput in the midst of dealing with natural forces including statistical fluctuations, dependencies, inventory, operational expense and bottlenecks.

It’s tricky business, and if you are not careful, you can damage your systems in the pursuit of efficiencies and make throughput worse, not better.

If you get myopic around local maximums, for example, you can cause your system’s throughput to suffer overall.

Systems with their dependencies and obedience to natural laws have to be respected, analyzed and refined carefully to avoid unintended consequences.

I have seen so many businesses with good intentions that violate the principles of The Goal and see negative impacts on their cash flow. It’s not pretty, and sometimes it’s hard to understand.

There are undoubtedly higher efficiencies that would make life easier, make customers happier and put more money in your pocket.

What if you could increase your throughput and your cash by 50%? Does it appeal to you to move the needle? All that lost opportunity and money could be a fantastic motivator to keep growing so you are not vulnerable when change comes to force your hand.

Get ahead of that inevitable decrease and drive the throughput. That is the goal of your system.