Purpose, accountability and transparency, the key to a data driven culture

Making a sale is great, right? Of course it is! There’s nothing more exhilarating than seeing a product you helped build, come to life. Many businesses, particularly startups fail because they fail to generate sales, don’t look at how they made a sale, or worse, their focus is solely sales, without looking at cost of acquisition. Fortunately there are ways to mitigate risk and to ensure that your entire team is focused on the key metrics that will help you succeed. As an advisor and someone who has helped build small and large businesses, I have come to learn that if you only focus on the last part of the puzzle, you’ll likely fail.

That being said, how do you create a culture that’s data driven and focused on the right KPI’s? There are plenty of awesome articles out there on this topic, namely Pirate Metrics by Dave McClure. The point of this post is to discuss culture rather than the actual application of these metrics, I’ll save application for another time. Here are a few tips to ensure your team is on-board.

Purpose: Not all data is created equally. You’ll lose your mind trying to track absolutely everything your users are doing. You’ll likely read too much into things and get distracted. Focus on the key items. When I talk with startups about tracking user behavior, I usually force them to focus on the funnel before anything else. Track the funnel that relates to the one important metric your company is concerned about, and optimize that before you do anything else.

user behavior analytics

Accountability: You’ve got people working for you, but how can someone be truly accountable if you don’t have concrete evidence that something they did works? Each person that works for you needs to own some portion of the metrics. A prime example is email marketing. Your marketer should be accountable to open rates, click rates, shares. Your job as a business owner, CEO or manager is to set goals and ensure that decisions are being made based on data.

Transparency: This is by far the most important of all the points. If you are cagey about your data with team members, they won’t trust you. At the rate startups fail, you can’t afford to not be transparent with your metrics. I’m not saying that all data should be shared, but data surrounding your KPI’s should be. If everyone in your company is focused on a few key metrics and knows how their role can bring the numbers up, you’ll have a much more engaged staff. This is easy to do.

At Breather we have a company dashboard that has our KPI’s. This dashboard is always up and running on a screen in our office. You can’t avoid it! If you walk to the kitchen, bathroom or to a meeting, it’s there, staring you right in the face.

It’s one of the tools we use in decision making and it’s always top of mind. There’s one caveat though, this only works if step 2, accountability is adhered to. There needs to be consequence and reward for actions. If the team collectively hits the numbers, we grab drinks on Thursday, if we don’t, we discuss why and take steps to rectify.

There’s one very important thing to remember throughout all of this. Once you start implementing a data driven culture with purpose, accountability and transparency; you need to be able to prevent decision paralysis. This is when you refuse to make changes due to the fact that you don’t have enough data or you’re scared that the change you’ll make will hurt the numbers, and you’ll look bad. You need to keep you’re team thinking creatively and know that even though they’re accountable to the numbers, they still need to stay creative, take risks and try new things.

At Breather we always say, ask for forgiveness, not permission.

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