This is a very common question. “How do I know what to track? How many stats is too many stats? How many stats is too few?”
It’s sort of a Goldilocks issue. You don’t want to track too many or the important ones get lost in the unimportant. You end up wasting time entering data and reviewing the graphs of stats that don’t matter. On the other hand, you don’t want too few stats, or it’s really hard to have enough data to “steer” things well enough.
So how do you know the number of stats that is “just right”? Unfortunately, I have an answer that people aren’t going to like – you have to try out different variations and combinations. Goldilocks had to test the various bowls of oatmeal, and it’s the same with stats. Experience is the best guide.
But all is not lost! Here are a few guiding principles to help you pick which ones to start with:
- What do you produce? If you are a farmer and you sell apples, it makes sense to (and I hope that you do) track how many apples you sell.
- From there, break down how you get that product to sell. Sticking with the apples example, you would probably want to track the number of trees planted, the number of apples picked, and the number of apples that were no good (as a negative stat).
- Then come at it from the other direction. If you are going to sell your apples, you’ll need some customers to buy them. Some things you can track: How many customers visited you and where your apples are sold? How many sales did you make? What marketing costs were accrued to make those sales?
- Then there are the basic behind-the-scenes items to track that make it possible to sell your apples and have customers: how many people were hired to pick apples? How much money came in? How much money went out (expenses)? And so on.
- At a minimum, each person should have at least one stat that they can use to watch and control their actions. This allows them to see how they are doing by making them aware.
- In most cases, you probably don’t need to go so far as to count the number of rolls of toilet paper used or cups of water people drank while picking apples. If your business is big enough that those things make a difference, this little intro isn’t going to help you too much!
If you are just a one person show, those stats above are probably more than you need at first. Or if you are a major grower of apples, for example, you can take each one of those and break it down even further. Hopefully this gives you a little guidance in keeping the stats relevant.
This is a series of blog posts so I’ll cover this same general topic from another angle soon. I hope that from this one you have a little better grasp on how to keep your stats from becoming overcrowded. When that happens, it can cause you to lose interest and you may not be able to see the important changes because they become lost in the mix.
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