From the May 2006 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Reading Your Dials

To succeed, identify then monitor the mission-critical measurements of your practice

Over the years, a curious coincidence has emerged when Investment Advisor profiles successful advisors in its pages--many of those advisors appear to have at least one thing, or rather one person, in common: Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach* Program. Sullivan graciously agreed to share some of the tools and techniques of his program with all our readers on a quarterly basis. Look for the next Dan Sullivan column in the August issue, when he will address ways to attract and retain employees.--Editor

A few years ago, I flew on a 747 from Toronto to Vancouver. The passenger sitting next to me turned out to be the Air Canada captain who was going to fly the plane on the further leg of the trip from Vancouver to Osaka. I struck up a conversation with him, mainly because I have always been fascinated with the 747, and I wanted to know what it was like to fly this remarkable machine.

I was particularly interested in knowing about the dials in the cockpit. I'd always been amazed how many different instruments and dials there were. There seemed to be hundreds of them!

I asked him, "During a normal flight, when everything goes according to plan, how many of the dials do you actually have to consult?"

"Probably five," he replied.

"Then what are all of the other ones for?," I asked.

"Well," he said, "if one of the main five dials isn't right, there are back-up dials that tell me what's wrong so I can take corrective action."

So all of the dozens of other dials in the 747 cockpit merely provide back-up information to the principal five dials.

A lesson for entrepreneurs

This conversation stayed with me because of the lesson it contains for entrepreneurs like investment advisors. Owning and growing an entrepreneurial business certainly requires as much skill and awareness as flying a 747. In fact, it's more unpredictable, so it's as important to have great "dials" in a business as it is in a jetliner.

  • What are the five dials that you continually monitor in running your business?
  • What are the five daily, weekly, and monthly measurements that tell you your business is heading in the right direction?
  • What are the five crucial areas of knowledge about your company's performance you need to be on top of at all times?

Many entrepreneurs can't answer these questions. They're flying their entrepreneurial "747" without any instruments. There's a phrase for this in aviation: "flying blind." You wouldn't want to be a passenger on a jet plane where the pilot was flying blind. You'd be in a constant state of anxiety. That also describes how a lot of entrepreneurs spend their days and nights, even when they're successful. Because they don't know their dials, they can never feel comfortable and confident with their entrepreneurial performance and success.

Here's an exercise that will change your anxiety to confidence:

  1. Divide a sheet of paper into four columns.
  2. At the top of the first column write the title: "Confident and Motivated." Underneath, list all the different things that these two words mean for you, as an entrepreneur, on a daily basis.
  3. At the top of the second column, write "Anxious and Uncertain," and underneath write all the things you don't know about your business that make you feel these two emotions.
  4. The title at the top of the third column is "Crucial Knowledge." Write all of the information you'd need to have on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to eliminate the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty, so that you can feel constantly confident and motivated.
  5. Finally, at the top of the fourth column write "My Five Dials." Below, list the five areas of your company's performance--with specific measurements--you need to be aware of on a continual basis to achieve a state of confidence and motivation.

Once you have these dials, make them the first thing you look at each day. Share this information with your team members so that they understand that all of their activities and results need to be in support of these five dials. Over a period of months, you'll notice that the confidence and performance of your entire business will take a quantum leap.

*TM & ?? 1/2 2006 The Strategic Coach Inc. All rights reserved. Article reprinted with written permission of The Strategic Coach Inc. Dan Sullivan's Strategic Coach Program outfits successful entrepreneurs with the direction, confidence, capability, and focus to get to the next level in their business. For more information, call 800-387-3206, or e-mail info@strategiccoach.com.

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