Let’s discuss something I could have done better during MFF’s first 9+ years.
You see, I will forever identify as an artist. I want MFF to be the most human business possible. I don’t want to overly constrict our operations by forcing people into the straight jack of systems that leave no room for humanity.
And when it comes to our processes, we’ve actually done a pretty good job overall. Our standard operating procedures have evolved. And of course we have some holes we’re working to fill. But many of our core systems have been bearing fruit for years. For instance, our Snatched in Six Weeks program is super dialed in and reliably gets amazing feedback and consistent results. Every time. For TEN YEARS.
But you know where we/ I have been shitting the bed?
Running our business by the numbers.
In retrospect, we got away with a lot of bullshit because we were so good at fulfillment. And because of that, I didn’t have the complete mastery of data and numbers that is now my daily obsession.
Sure, I knew we were making a profit. And I knew we had lots of happy Ninjas and our survey scores were great. But most of my attention was on the mission, the values, and the culture.
You see, pretty much every book I read said this was the important thing. After all, I didn’t want to be an evil corporate person. I mean, I read Simon Sinek books for feck’s sake… I stand for the LIBERATION OF HUMANITY. I rage against your soulless capitalism-as-cancer approach to business!!!
What I didn’t realize is I was over-correcting for a problem I didn’t personally have.
I didn’t realize Simon Sinek writes for a mid-level manager at a Fortune 500 company who really does want to extract every dollar possible out of every professional interaction.
In other words, Simon Sinek was NOT writing for a musical theatre actor turned entrepreneur who was prone to anxiety if anyone on his team or among his clients was anything other than existentially fulfilled by their relationship with business he founded.
Say what you like about the many imperfections of MFF or yours truly. But you definitely can’t say we were focused on the bottom line above all else. (I mean… you could say that, but I’d laugh my ass off). Nor were we uncaring when it came to our team’s feelings or desires. And every time we got a negative piece of feedback from a Ninja, I took it to heart, seeing what we could change.
And from this vantage point, I see we lacked balance. We were TOO focused on the feelings and the art and the soft stuff.
Yes, this stuff absolutely matters. And if I have to choose, I’m always going to bias towards humanity and generosity.
And if you ONLY focus on your Costs of Good Sold? Or week-over-week increase in conversion percentage, or cost per lead, or lifetime customer value, or customer acquisition costs? Also bad. No heart = bad.
You need both.
And I can honestly say I’ve learned more about running a numbers-based organization in the last year than I did in my previous nine years combined.
While we’re still not perfect, every single person on our team has 1-3 numbers we track for performance. We are very transparent about what we’re tracking and make it clear that hitting minimums is required to stick around. Pay raises are based on consistently exceeding expectations. They do not automatically happen. Sure, we’ll consider more subjective stuff too. Numbers can be gamed. And not everything that matters can be (easily) measured. Values-in-action still matter too.
But having no numbers for your team performance = bad. Performance assessment becomes entirely subjective. This means it’s easier to get tricked by bad actors and politics and miss who is producing real results in your business
Furthermore, I keep a careful eye on the percentage of revenue going towards various expenses. And all those fancy numbers up there? COGS, CPL, LTV, CAC, KFC, etc. etc.? I’m looking at them pretty much every single day.
Because if you REALLY care about the feelings and experiences of your team and your clients, you HAVE to know this stuff.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t like numbers. This isn’t hard math. You have to learn to like it, or at the very least, tolerate it. If you don’t, you’re committing malpractice.
You can’t tend to the spiritual and emotional needs of your team and your clients if you burn out because your margins are so bad you’re making $7 per hour for your 80 hour workweek, all the while not seeing your kids grow up.
And you sure as hell can’t help anyone if you close your doors because you’re not tracking even basic numbers for your business’s health and an unexpected expense leaves you choosing between rent and payroll for your team.
I’m very passionate about this because I know how much order and piece of mind — and fun! — it can bring to your business when you break it down to trackable behaviors and outcomes.
If you’re not sure where to start, keep it simple.
For a high level overview of tracking numbers, go HERE.
You can do this,
PS Today was a semi- rant, so thanks for reading my tough love.
I want you to know I believe in you.
And I want you to be a massive success.
Because I know firsthand how hard this is. You’re putting your blood, and sweat, and tears into this. You deserve to succeed. But it’s only going to happen if you spend your time getting real about where you lack skills, and working on the right stuff.