When I get in a car my goal is typically to get from where I am to where I want to be as fast as safely possible. To do that, I primarily use one gauge on the dashboard: the speedometer. Sure every few days I have to pay attention to the gas gauge and, if the car doesn’t seem to be behaving as it should I glance at the other gauges but the majority of the time it is all about the speedometer. WIth my goal being to get to my destination as fast as possible I try to keep that speedometer at (or slightly above) the speed limit.
I rented a car the other day with a new feedback mechanism that completely changed the way I drive. The car was the Nissan Altima Hybrid. I don’t own the car ( the car I own is more of a truck—it has a V10 and can easily pull up the mountain into Flagstaff at 85 mph—but that’s a post for another day and perhaps a different blog). I ended up driving the Altima because the rental car company gave me a free upgrade. I drove it for 4 days in the bay area. The hybrid Altima is rated at 42 mpg. It’s got all kinds of high tech stuff under the hood that switches back and forth between and electric power and the combustion engine and delivers great efficiency. All that stuff is very cool and seemed to work very well, but the thing that saved the most gas for me was a new gauge they added to the dashboard. The gauge was a real time mpg indicator. It was cool. I could always see exactly what kind of mileage I was getting. If I pushed the pedal down to pass, the mpg indicator would drop down into the the 8 to 9 range. When I coasted down a hill it would shoot up to 80 to 90 mpg. I found if I kept it steady I could get to a nice cruising speed and still be getting over 40 mpg.
That one additional bit of information completely changed the way I, the proud owner of a V10, drove. Yes, I still wanted to get there as quick as I could but I found myself balancing that goal with the goal of maximizing my mileage. Now I know that each time I fill up I could do the little calculation and figure out what kind of mileage I got, but the fact is I don’t. Why? Because by that time, the decisions have already been made. I admit it, I am short sighted, but I have never filled my tank with gas, calculated my mileage and said, “Hmmm, I better drive slower.” On the other hand, the real time mgp gauge on the Altima had me driving slower—not always, but certainly more often,
How does that apply to your small business? What feedback mechanisms do you use to monitor the success of your business? Traditional accounting measures are like calculating your mpg after the fact. Everything is history. Sure it is a good number to know, but by the time you know it, it may be too late to influence the behaviors that need to be changed to improve it. Forward looking indicators like sales forecasts and other budgets are more like the speedometer, but even these indicators don’t give what you really need to run your business. What you really need to run your business (in conjunction with the other measures) is a realtime indicator of how your customers feel about your business. You need realtime customer feedback. You may think you know what your customers feel, want and need, but I can guarantee you that unless you are asking your customers and listening, what you think you know is wrong. I can also guarantee you that, just like the realtime mpg gauge changed my driving behavior, realtime customer feedback will change your behavior and the behavior of your staff for the better. Give it a try, you will never go back.
Anybody know where I can get an aftermarket mgp gauge for a V10?