Being in business means you are making a lot of decisions a lot of the time. The more money you make the more decisions you make. Many decisions need to be made on the hop in order to keep things moving and get to the next steps.
Decision making can be hard sometimes but it is a lot easier with data at your fingertips. The ability to test assumptions and niggles allows you to make the best possible decision you can at the time with the information in front of you. Gut only gets you so far and data is your next best thing to help you at all stages of the business journey.
Not all of us have a finance or business degrees so those of us who don’t need to teach ourselves the basics and spend time learning how to read our data.
Here are 5 strategies to help make data work for you.
1 Collecting data
Collect as much data, numbers, financials and information as you can. You don’t have to use it or dive into it all the time but ensure you know what is out there and what it can offer. You can analyse it when you need it but get what you can from your suppliers and those around you as often as you can. With data coming in from multiple sources, think about how to automate it to deliver directly to you and have it filed away for when you need it.
2 Sorting, filtering and pivot tables
It is essential for you to learn how to work with the data so you can read it and understand it. Do “counts” and “sums” to give you overviews of the data. Learn to use excel or google sheets – not like a pro but enough to get yourself by. Google things when you can work it out yourself – your questions won’t be novel on the Internet. Also, there are always plenty of excel courses out there that you can take to upskill yourself – all from the comfort of your own home these days. Ensure you know how to sort, sum and count your data and how to use filters. Learn how to use pivot tables to deep dive into the details too.
3 Comparing month by month, year on year
You don’t need to look at data every day to be data-driven. Pencil in some time once a month to spend some time on it though. Grab yourself a coffee and commit to reading the data. Update your own spreadsheet and check in how things are going month to month, and year on year. If you are a visual and creative person, create some graphs for yourself to see this data represented visually to make sense of it all. This will allow you to really understand how things are tracking and help you rely less on impulsive decisions from day to day.
4 Using the data
Write up short one-page snapshots and summaries of key information or data sets. Show a few numbers and a few graphs and let it be a high-level overview for yourself and others. Using data is an ongoing process and it takes time to see trends and distinctive metrics. Don’t be afraid to jump into the data when you are needing to make a key decision. This will help inform a decision, especially a key one when resources and money are about to be spent. Exploring the data or asking for extra information can also help you way up the risks involved.
5 Empowering others
Now you are a data queen, equip those around you to make use of the data around you all. Look at the data and numbers and those snapshots you have created with them and help them understand it too. Those you employ or work with might not be data-driven so show them what you see and how you see it. Empowering those around you will not only ensure everyone makes good decisions but also raise the bar on the conversations and the input that everyone can have.
Having better data knowledge and understanding really means you train your gut to become data-driven too. You will learn to know the business and you know how to make the right choice for it and for you.
Data is not a dirty word. Make it work for you.