Drowning in data

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If you need to make a tough decision in your business then having enough information is probably not the problem.

In fact, these days, we are all drowning in data.

Whether you plan to change premises, invest in a new website, hire more staff, or take out a business loan, there will be reams of data to trawl through to inform your decision across a myriad of software tools and platforms.

But the paradox of having so much information at our disposal is that it can obscure what really matters.

So it is refreshing to see the approach taken by James Timpson, CEO of Timpson Shoe Repairs.

“Every night at 7pm, I get an email listing that day’s sales,” Timpson told the Times recently.

“This data isn’t collected by an ‘Epos’ (electronic point of sale) till system, but by colleagues filling out a form online. They also write the sales numbers on a piece of paper and keep it on a bulldog clip. This takes five minutes a day. It sounds old-fashioned, but when people physically write things down they seem to take more notice. If you ask our colleagues what their sales are so far today, I bet they’ll know to within the nearest £50.”

Many highly paid management consultants will think Timpson has gone mad. And it is true this back-to-basics approach will not work for every business. But I strongly suspect it will work very well for more businesses than you might think.

Many directors and managers are so focused on implementing systems and processes to accurately measure data that they do not have the time, energy or skillset to interpret.

“One piece of data beats everything else,” Timpson explains.

“A quarter of a century ago, my dad taught me the best way to measure the health of our business was to look at the cash figure every day. Each morning at 10am, I get an email from Caroline in the finance team showing the cash we have in the bank compared to with the same day last year. This fact offers no hiding place.”

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column by Guy Cookson on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette, Lancashire Post and other titles. See our brand, web design and marketing recent projects.
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