What Do I Look at to Manage My Company in its Early Stages?

“Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night I can see paradise by the dashboard light”

Lyrics from “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” – Meat Loaf

A standard tool we develop for companies at all stages is a “dashboard.”  The concept is simple – assemble in one place data which is critical to running your business – like a dashboard, it should be easy to see and understand and not too cluttered.  A dashboard is a tailored piece as the critical information can vary by business – especially depending on your stage of development.  So, if you are an early stage company, here are some key components that should be on your dashboard:

  1. Financial data – while there is a lot that can go on here, my three favorites are cash, trailing 12 months revenue and burn rate (how much cash you are going through each month.)  The latter will give you a view of when you have to hit that old fundraising trail again. If you are generating cash, better yet.
  2. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) – usually tailored to each specific business.  The often include items such as unique visitors to your site, churn rates and similar non financial statistics.  As a guide, think of the key metrics you told investors were milestones you wanted to accomplish.
  3. Product development status – key milestones, latest timelines and spend versus budget.  If investors are expecting a mobile app in three months, how close are you?
  4. Organization chart –  this is both a status of filling open positions as well as a brief accountability review to make sure hires are delivering on what you need to move the business forward.
  5. Competition – where are they in product development, funding and in attracting the talent they need?  What message are they sending on social media?  Are they laying out their plans on AngelList or another “crowdfunding” site?  In addition to understanding their position, this will give you a better read of the market (customer acceptance of product; investor’s appetite for your type of company.)  In addition to the information this type of data tells you about your business, sharing it with your board or advisory board displays a level of discipline and increases their confidence in your ability to execute on your plan.  A dashboard is also an evolving tool; as you realize the critical data you need for your decisions, you should feel comfortable changing its components to meet your needs.  It is not a checklist that has to be completed; it is a tool to help you focus on what really matters.
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