What Gets Measured Gets Improved

Written by Stephen Bullard, Marine Consultant and Sales Director at PierVantage

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.” – William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin – June 1824 – December 1907

One of the problems I often encounter when I consult with many marine businesses is that they don’t know why they are truly successful or in some cases, simply lucky to be surviving because they struggle to find metrics that appropriately indicate success (or lack thereof) in their line of business.

I have spent thousands of hours in the last 12 years consulting with leadership in boat yards and boat building companies about their businesses and how to improve their bottom line. Those conversations revealed to me that a startlingly large number of companies look at their business performance through a wide angle lens instead of a magnifying glass.

I usually start these conversations by discussing what is currently being measured and end up working with business owners to create additional business metrics that they can start regularly reviewing. A classic example of this is the extreme focus they put on reports. In my view, reports are a dumping ground for all the raw data that is available, whether it’s useful or not. Reports do not contain the motivational metrics and measures that increase performance or drive meaningful conversations.

I often hear “But Steve, we wrote up 360 new work orders last month” to which I respond “Great!” “So, would you consider last month successful?” And then, I get nothing but a blank stare in return.

Most people assume that selling more of anything, equates to success. But, in my view, the puzzle piece that they’re missing is defining a clear and measurable goal. Sell more stuff – is not a goal. However, an Effective Billing Rate of $XX.xx next month is a great example of a measurable goal that you can use to determine success.

Always start with your goal. You can’t create a good plan until you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve. Then, measure, measure, measure. Some useful metrics might be:

  • Billable hours to total hours worked
  • Gross margin analysis for labor, materials and charges
  • Cost per billable hour
  • Billable hours written off by department and/or project manager

In the end, just remember that setting goals and measuring progress towards them is the best way to eliminate time and energy wasters.

About the Author:

Stephen Bullard, Senior Sales Director, PierVantage

Steve BullardStephen Bullard is Senior Sales Director for CorVant, primarily responsible for PierVantage™ sales and marketing efforts. Stephen brings to bear his considerable marine industry experience to provide insights on new features and functionality to our development team. He is also actively engaged in providing advisory services to our boatyard customers. Stephen has over thirty years of marine industry experience, with over twenty years directly related to the management of well-known marine service facilities in New England and the Pacific Northwest. Prior to joining CorVant, Stephen spent six years providing professional services and promoting marine operational software to boat yards, boat builders, dealerships and marinas throughout North America. These positions have led Stephen to a high level of understanding in the marine services arena in the following areas: project management, yard operations, business process & procedures, service management, customer account management, financial analysis, forensic accounting, inventory set up and inventory management. Stephen completed a 12 month course in boat design at the Landing School in Maine and has spent his entire life on the water logging more than 15,000 miles sailing in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He also enjoys offshore fishing and is licensed to handle power and sailing vessels up to 100 tons.