Pulling the Right Levers

I've never been a big gamer, but I've always liked the Sim City series.

The game gives you a lot of choices over what to build, how to configure your city, and how to distribute your resources. Unlike side-scrollers or racing games, simulation games aren't linear. While some configurations are more optimal than others, there are virtually unlimited ways to build your city.

I've recently started to feel like running my business is a bit like a larger, higher-stakes version of Sim City.

Now that I've got key people running all the primary roles in the business, my job is to keep track of the key metrics and move levers accordingly to keep us headed in the right direction.

For example, if I see fewer leads coming in each week, I dive into our marketing channels and see what's not working anymore.

If we have a higher revision rate than normal, I can push the team to re-assess our processes and add resources accordingly.

It didn't feel like this in the first few months though.

I was just another Sim on the street, unable to zoom out and pay attention to metrics because my whole world was the job in front of me and the next one on the horizon. I was essentially operating the business from a to-do list.

Getting your business to a point where you feel more like you're watching numbers and pulling levers instead of fixing all the machines yourself is a really good place to be. It's what professional entrepreneurs do, and it allows you to make more objective, data-driven decisions rather than running on feelings alone.

You don't need to get lost in these things when you're just trying to make your first sale, but eventually dashboards, metrics, financial projections, and modeling are your whole job as a leader.

PS: I don't want to downplay the seriousness of the decisions I have to make as a business owner!

My livelihood is on the line just like my employees', so unlike Sim City, every decision is made with group input and serious consideration of the consequences. I know the analogy isn't perfect, but it's an interesting way to think about it.

Karl Hughes