What’s Your Number?


“What gets measured gets managed.”

 It’s hard to argue with that piece of wisdom. That said, here’s another old saw to consider:

“If everything is important, then nothing is important.”

Between these two valuable quotes is a balance and a guideline for business owners.

All businesses have certain numbers that define success. Some, like profit, are universal. Every business must take in more than it spends, so an argument could be made that this number – profit – is a definition of success for every business.

But what about other numbers? There’s certainly no shortage of other things to measure – sales, costs, margins, cash … the list goes on and on.

They’re all important. But don’t forget: “If everything is important, then nothing is important.”

Focusing on a small, carefully-selected handful of numbers and actually doing things to improve them is much more likely to lead to overall success than scattershot oversight of dozens of different numbers.

Some business owners create a scoreboard or “dashboard” of metrics – to pull selected numbers out of the blizzard of income statements, balance sheets and other reports – and single them out for an appropriate amount of attention.

This is how the “What gets measured gets managed” piece comes into play.

So, how do you cut through the scads of potential metrics which might be worthy of your undivided attention, and discover the select few which will truly make a difference?

Think about your business. Two questions:

1)    Are there things related to your specific business model that are absolutely critical to ongoing success? For instance, if you are the low price leader, then cost of sales is likely a primary area of focus.

2)    Are there things going on in your business right now that deserve attention? Examples might include things like declining quality, too much dependence on one customer, or high employee turnover.

If you find that there are specific things that warrant a permanent place on your scoreboard, then add them and leave them there. Or, perhaps you’ll discover that a temporary issue needs attention – so it gets a spot, only until it is resolved.

In most cases, these big-picture, corporate-level “critical numbers” will have underlying “drivers” – activities which must be done to move the number in the right direction. A simple example: weight loss. If your critical number is pounds, the drivers would be calories in (eating) and calories burned (exercise.)

The best drivers measure activities and behaviors, as in this weight loss example. If you want to change a number, you’ve got to change someone’s activities or behaviors.

These are the numbers that deserve a significant amount of time and attention. That’s not to say other numbers aren’t important. They’re just not as important.

Identify and break out your critical numbers and drivers. Get them on a scoreboard for all to see. Talk about them. Teach and learn about them. Assign responsibility for them. Track them. Most importantly, be sure to move them in the right direction.

Your business will be more successful for the effort.

Day 8 in Australia and the Trip Home! Saturday Oct. 22

I wanted to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb this morning but just flat ran out of time, so this was probably my only disappointment of this terrific trip (well, plus the fact that my wife Joy had to stay home and help our daughter Katie who is pregnant & on bedrest). I still had a few souvenirs to buy and then had to figure out a way to get all this stuff into my bags. On top of that, my hotel has an 11 am checkout time. I got it extended to 12:00 but it was clear that I had to get packed and ready. No bridge climb this time.

So, I grabbed some breakfast at an outdoor cafe near the hotel and got all my stuff packed up. I headed to the airport plenty early to allow shopping at the airport for last-minute souvenirs and gifts for back home.

At the airport, I had time for a quick beer so I went to the “Botany Bar” and met some Americans waiting for the same flight. One guy had a stuffed Koala with a sign on the bar: “Will Sell Cheap.” Somehow he had more stuffed koalas than he needed. I bought him a beer for it and made a trade. He, the koala and I were all happy. It barely fit in my bag.

On the flight, I met a fellow entrepreneur sitting next to me – Lynne Brick. She and her husband Victor are co-founders and co-owners of Brick Bodies, a chain of fitness centers in the Baltimore area. They have 2 women-only centers and 5 co-ed. She had just flown to Sydney from Baltimore on Wednesday for a meeting of an industry roundtable group that she is a member of and was now flying back to Baltimore on Saturday – grueling! (And I thought my 8 days was too short a time between long flights.) We struck up a conversation and started talking business. She showed me a people assessment they are considering using, which measures the “Grit” someone has … determination, persistence, etc. It’s a simple 12 question self-test. Looks interesting.

The flight was “only” 13 hours, compared with 14.5 going the other way due to the jet stream and prevailing winds. Still a long time to sit still. I got some work done this time, unlike the trip over. I started writing these blog posts for posting online when I get home.

Here are the 4 legs of this journey:

  1. St. Louis – San Francisco 4.5 hours Airbus A319
  2. San Francisco – Sydney 14.5 hours 747   7500 miles  lose a day
  3. Sydney – San Francisco 13 hours 747  7500 miles  gain a day
  4. San Francisco – St. Louis 4 hours Airbus A319

The trip home is like being in a time machine. I left Sydney on Saturday 10/22 at 3 pm and arrived in San Fransisco the same day at 1pm (2 hours before I left Sydney!) There was about a 90 minute layover in SanFran, then change planes and head home to St. Louis and arrived there the same day about 9 pm. In real time, the entire trip from Sydney to St. Louis took about 19 hours but on the clock it was as if it only took 6 hours. Hard to wrap my brain around that.

I got a little sleep on the trip from San Fran to STL and was very glad to see my wife Joy waiting for me at the airport! Australia was great but there’s no place like home!

Day 7 in Australia – GOLF! Fri. Oct. 21

My Aussie friend & business colleague Paul Lawrence from Sydney and I had planned to play, and I left it up to him to pick the course and make the arrangements. But I didn’t know we’d be playing one of the top courses in Australia – New South Wales Golf Club, right on the Pacific Ocean! It occupies the northern headland of Botany Bay (which Captain Cook originally named “Stingray Harbour.”)

His friend Dean is a member, so he got us on the course and played the first 2 holes with us and then left. (Thanks, Dean!) We didn’t get to play all 18 as several holes are under major rework. Paul suspects NSW is getting ready to host a major next year – maybe the Australian Open. The 2009 Australian Open was played there, won by Adam Scott.

Hole #1 is a short par 4, 244 meters. (About 266 yards.) We had to hit over some tall rough to get to the fairway. Paul brought a set of Callaways for me to use and advised a 5 iron for a safe shot, so that’s what I did. All 3 of us hit safely to the landing area. I pitched onto the green and got down in 2 to par my first hole on NSW! This was a relief and set the tone for some decent golf, despite being intimidated by being on a pro-level course and using unfamiliar equipment.

In all, we played 11 holes and avoided the construction areas. This was fine with me – I wasn’t concerned about playing all 18 and was there mainly for the experience.

Here are the holes we played and my scores:

Hole #     Par     My Strokes
1               4               4
3               4               5
5               5               5
6               3               5  * See note below
7               4               4
13             4               4
15             4               6
16             4               4
17             3               3
18             5               5
19             3               3  Temporary Hole during construction
Total:     43            48  for 11 holes

* Hole #6 is NSW’s signature hole – par 3 and an over-the-ocean carry. I sissied out and played for a safe landing area, as the green was small and right by the cliff. Paul hit the green and parred it. If I go back I’ll try better on this hole next time.
1 bogey, 2 double bogeys and 8 pars – I was very happy with this score. What a golf experience!

We each had a couple of beers in the club house. I tried a Victoria Bitter and a Resch’s. Both great but I liked the Resch’s better. I bought a few souvenirs in the pro shop and then off to lunch.

We took lunch to Paul’s family who was enjoying the surf at a nearby beach. After meeting his wife and two of his three kids who were there, we headed to Paul’s office so I could see his Great Game scoreboards.

I had met Wendy from his office when they were both in the US for the Great Game conference in May 2011, so I got to visit with her again. She and I walked down the street to get coffees for a few folks in the office and I got to meet some of Paul’s colleagues.

Paul was nice enough to help me find and take me to a “Supercheap Auto” store to find some Aussie souvenirs for my son-in-law Tony who is a racing nut and who I noticed was watching Aussie racing on TV recently. We stopped for a couple of his errands and then back to his house so he could show me his miniature golf course on the roof of his 2 story house! Yep – it’s a flat roof and he has the cups built into the roof surface and the roof is covered with SmartGrass artificial turf! Incredible!

Although I was happy to take the rail back to my hotel, Paul and Louise insisted I stay for dinner. (I bet Louise thought she had seen the last of me at the beach.) We had a delicious dinner and the kids were great.

Getting to see their house and spending time with them, I was amazed at how much like America things are in Australia. Same concerns, family life, home styles – I really felt at home.

Thanks a million to Paul for a great day of golf, and thanks to his family for opening their home to me and making me feel welcome.

Days 4-6 in Australia – The Great Game of Business Conference – Tues. Oct. 18 – Thurs. Oct. 20

Well, this is after all the reason I came to Australia … to speak and help conduct Great Game Australia. So back to work.

My friend and counterpart in Sydney, Ilan Kogus, did a terrific job of planning and executing the conference. We had over 100 people on day 1, and just under 100 for days 2 & 3.

The other two guys who came over from the US were Jack Stack and Rich Armstrong. Jack is CEO of SRC Holdings, author of the book “The Great Game of Business” and the “father” of the entire Open Book Management movement. Rich Armstrong is the president & GM of the GGOB division of SRC. Jack and Rich arrived on Monday. In addition to the 3 of us, the other presenters include Ilan and Eddie Geller, CEO of Unique World, an IT consultancy in Sydney with about 80 employees. Eddie and his company won the “Rookie of the Year” All-Star Award at the 2011 GGOB Gathering Conference in St. Louis, so I got to know Eddie then.

Agenda – Day 1 “Get in The Game” 

  • “The Great Game of Business”, introduction and overview – Jack Stack
  • “The Critical Number” Workshop – Rich Armstrong
  • “90 Day Mini Game Challenge” – Bill Collier
  • “Getting in the Game – the way we do it in Australia”, Ilan Kogus
  • “Practitioners Panel” – Jack, Bill, Rich, Ilan and Great game practitioners

Agenda – Day 2 “Gathering”

  • “Provide a Stake in the Outcome” – Rich Armstrong and Bill Collier
  • “The Secret of Champions” – Ilan Kogus
  • “An All-star Case Study” – Eddie Geller, CEO, Unique World
  • “Follow the Action & Keep Score” (Huddle Simulation) – Bill Collier
  • “Practitioners Panel” – Jack, Bill, Rich, Ilan and Great game practitioners

Agenda – Day 3   AM

  •  High Involvement Planning – Formulating the “Annual Game Plan”Jack Stack and Rich Armstrong

Agenda – Day 3  PM

  • Roundtable meeting with Ilan, his Mastermind group, Jack, Bill, and Rich

All in all, the conference went great. The attendees were enthusiastic and eager to learn. There were plenty of Q&A sessions with Jack and the other presenters.

In May 2011, Ilan and 12 Aussies came to St. Louis for our annual international conference, the Gathering of Games. Their target is to have 20+ in STL for the 20th Annual conference May 9-11, 2012.

Many thanks to Ilan, all his Mastermind members and all the attendees for the warm welcome and hospitality and for a successful conference!

Day 3 in Australia – Monday Oct. 17

A big day – I signed up for a group tour of the Blue Mountains. After doing lots of online research I bought the Blue Mountains Day Tour package from Anderson Tours. My plans all along had been to go on my own but when I saw how much was packed into this one day tour I knew there was no way I could do all of it on my own.

Here’s what out tour included:
•    Free bus pick up. Maximum 20 people.
•    Entry to Featherdale Wildlife Park
•    Boomerang throwing lessons at Nurringingy Natural Reserve
•    Guided walks both at the cliff tops and down in the valley
•    A gourmet lunch at the Award Winning Country Club Restaurant offering superb food and views in the Blue Mountains
•    View Historic Katoomba and stop at Leura with its Victorian charm
•    Enjoy a ride on Blue Mountains Scenic Railway the worlds steepest railway, and take a trip on the cable rides
•    Travel through Sydney’s 2000 Olympic Park
•    Relax on a Rivercat Cruise back into Sydney Harbour, where our Blue Mountains tour concludes

Their driver and tour guide picked each of us up at our hotels. Making the rounds to get all 14 of us took almost an hour, and then we hit the road.

Day 2 in Australia – Sunday Oct. 16, 2011

Today is shopping day – I need to get souvenirs for the folks back home. Before my trip, I had been advised to check out Paddy’s Markets in downtown Sydney, so that’s my first stop.

After negotiating the fairly confusing diagram of what trains run where and asking for help, I determined I’d go to the Martin Place rail station and walk from there. I could have gotten closer to the market using other stations but this gave me a chance to see more of downtown.

That’s when I stumbled on the “Occupy Sydney” crowd, modeled after the equally obnoxious and useless “Occupy Wall Street” bunch that, sadly, is taking up space and wasting resources in various cities around the world. Sad. Pathetic. No more comment needed.

So, off to Paddy’s Markets. This is a busy place and they sell almost everything. Lots of cheap imported stuff and lots to eat – their food court is huge. I found a few things for back home but Paddy’s fell a little short of my expectations.

Then I headed to the Queen Victoria Building – called the QVB by locals. This is at the extreme other end of the spectrum from Paddy’s – super upscale, big-name stores. All in all, I found enough stores downtown to get most of the souvenirs I needed.

Pieface is a great place with several locations, including downtown. Small pies – both meal and dessert types. A fellow entrepreneur, Matthew Porter, CEO of Contegix, was in Sydney this summer and tipped me off about Pieface and the QVB.

Lots of walking but I really got to know downtown Sydney pretty well. In fact, twice people walked up to me to ask directions and I was able to help them!

After taking the train back, I walked around near the hotel a bit more and then went back to my room to finalize my plans for tomorrow – seeing the real Australia including some animals.

Day 1 in Australia – Sat. Oct. 15, 2011

I got off the plane – finally – and went thru Australian Customs and also the various routines arriving travelers are put thru. I grabbed my luggage, got a cab and headed to my hotel … a 20 minute ride. My first impressions of Australia: The general look and feel of things is not much different than America. I’m not talking about the climate/plants/animals – I mean the buildings, homes and businesses. Car dealers and other businesses are instantly recognizable, as are restaurants including many brand names. The vehicles are a bit different, though. Driving on the left is the most obvious difference but in general cars and SUVs are smaller. I found out gasoline is about $1.50 per liter, or roughly $6.00 a gallon so that’s a contributing factor. My cab driver was a pleasant fellow from Lebanon who has been in Australia off and on for 15 years. He gave me some additional info about sights and attractions.

I got to Vibe Hotel at Rushcutters Bay about 8:30 am Saturday. I’m still on STL time and without thinking announced that I’d like to check in. Of course they had no rooms ready at that time of day, so they locked my luggage away safely while I went off for a look around, after having them convert $100 into Aussie money. (They use dollars and cents, and at the time of my trip the values were about the same.) My hotel is in the “Kings Cross” area just outside the eastern Sydney city limits. Little did I know that just a few blocks from my hotel was a pretty seedy area complete with strip clubs. Interestingly, this area is frequented by the types you’d expect but also families and young professionals. Quite a mix. Internet cafes were all around so I found one and went in to check email and to finalize my plans for the day. Amazingly, after the long trip I was wide awake and energized – no jet lag.

My hotel at Rushcutter's Bay

My hotel at Rushcutter’s Bay

I went back to the hotel about 11am and they were ready to let me check in. Then I visited with front desk staff for advice on getting started with my sightseeing. They gave me good advice on using Metro Light Rail and getting around in general.

My first destination: downtown Sydney and the Sydney Harbor.

The first person I met is a fellow St. Louisan! His Cardinals shirt gave him away. (This was before our World Series win.)

The first person I met is a fellow St. Louisan! His Cardinals shirt gave him away. (This was before our World Series win.)

In the crowd, I saw a guy wearing a STL Cardinals shirt so I stopped him. Turns out he lives right around the corner from my business. What a coincidence. He’s there on business and like me is out to see the sights.

Beth from the UK, myself and Dan from Katoomba, NSW, AU

Sydney Opera House viewed from Circular Quay
Sydney Opera House viewed from Circular Quay



Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge

I had been advised before coming over to ride the ferries across Sydney Harbor and explore both Darling Harbor and Manly Beach, so I was off to get a ticket. In line I met Beth and Dan, a nice young couple also getting on board. They were headed to Manly Beach for some ocean time and I tagged along on the ferry ride. Beth’s a school teacher from Yorkshire, England who came to Australia but stayed when she met Dan. Dan’s an over the road trucker from Katoomba, about an hour west of Sydney. Beth told me that Yorkshire is way up north in England, next to Scotland. (I told her she sounded Scottish and both of them told me all American accents sound alike – all in the ear of the listener, I guess.) We made it to the town of Manly Beach where we parted company after exchanging email addresses. Manly is northeast of Sydney on the other side of the harbor and is about a 5 mile ferry ride.

Manly Beach is a great place – very commercialized with lots of surf & T shirt shops, restaurants and overall a very casual atmosphere – almost like a small town from years ago. The ocean is a short 3 minute walk from the ferry dock, so I went there to take some photos.

Manly Beach - street view

Manly Beach – street view

Manly Beach – street view
Manly Wharf - where the ferries dock

Manly Wharf – where the ferries dock

Manly Wharf – where the ferries dock
Manly Beach - Pacific ocean view

Manly Beach – Pacific ocean view

Manly Beach – Pacific ocean view

After spending some time in Manly, I jumped on a ferry headed back to Sydney Harbor and bought tickets for the ferry to Darling Harbor, just around the corner from the Circular Quay. Darling Harbor is a big, busy place with tourist attractions, restaurants and nightlife. Here is their convention center, casino, visitor’s center and plenty more.

Underneath view of Sydney Harbor Bridge

Underneath view of Sydney Harbor Bridge

Underneath view of Sydney Harbor Bridge from the ferry.
The Bridge Climb www.bridgeclimb.com is popular. You can see the groups of climbers in this photo.

The Bridge Climb www.bridgeclimb.com is popular. You can see the groups of climbers in this photo.

The Bridge Climb www.bridgeclimb.com is popular. You can see the groups of climbers in this photo. For about $275 you can get suited up and join a group of 12 folks to actually climb the bridge to the top. I planned to do this on my last day in Sydney and ran out of time.
Sydney Monorail has a stop at Darling Harbor

Sydney Monorail has a stop at Darling Harbor

Sydney Monorail has a stop at Darling Harbor
Maritime Museum - warships and more at Darling Harbor

Maritime Museum – warships and more at Darling Harbor

Maritime Museum – warships and more at Darling Harbor

Enough sightseeing for one day – back to the Vibe Hotel to check email, get settled in and plan tomorrow.

On my way to Sydney!

They show our progress from San Fran to Sydney on GPS screen but it is slow!

They show our progress between the continents on a GPS screen but it is slow!


Here are the 4 legs of this journey:

  1. St. Louis – San Francisco 4.5 hours Airbus A319
  2. San Francisco – Sydney 14.5 hours 747   7500 miles  lose a day
  3. Sydney – San Francisco 13 hours 747  7500 miles  gain a day
  4. San Francisco – St. Louis 4 hours Airbus A319
My wife Joyce dropped me off at the airport about 2-1/2 hours before my flight, which was 7:30 Thursday night. Customs was no problem – check-in went smoothly. I checked one large bag and carried on my briefcase (with both computers) and a smaller gymbag-style bag. This bag had some reading material in it and was left mostly empty so I could bring gifts and souvenirs home in it. Both legs were routine. and on time.
My big plans for getting work done on the long flight to Sydney didn’t work out so well. I spent much of the time visiting with a guy named Eric who was from Oregon but has lived the last 23 years in Sydney. He was travelling with his 12 year old son back to Sydney after a trip to see relatives in the US. They were a wealth of info and I enjoyed the conversation. United showed a movie I`d been wanting to see (Captain America) and I watched that. Then I tried to sleep, which I found difficult. Even with the Economy Plus upgrade, space is at a premium and the seats recline only slightly. Toward the end of the flight I must admit I was miserable … uncomfortable, tired of sitting, tired of listening to the engines … I was ready to get off the plane and on with my Sydney visit. I found the entire long flight less than conducive to working. Lesson learned: For a trip this long GO BUSINESS CLASS!
Despite the grueling challenge of sitting still all went well with the trip. Here’s something worth noting- we left STL Thursday at 7:30 pm and had a total of 19 air hours plus about an hour between planes in San Fran. So about 20 total travel hours. But Sydney is 16 hours ahead of STL so we landed in Sydney Saturday at 7:30 am. Basically Friday didn’t exist for me!

Prepping for my trip to Sydney

Here are the main things I did to get ready for this trip:

  • At home, I use an Android phone and have Sprint service, but it will not work in Australia. Some carriers offer an international option but not Sprint – at least not for my Android. So, I rented an old style Motorola phone thru cellularabroad.com. It was only about $60 plus airtime. The airtime was astonishingly reasonable and includes texting.
  • AC adapters: Australia uses 230 volts – double the US’ 115 volts – and uses a different outlet configuration. So, I bought an AC adapter which also reduced the voltage to run my stuff. More on this later.
  • I took both my HP laptop and my new Asus Eee Pad Transformer, which uses the Android operating system. I seriously considered leaving my laptop at home to see how I could function with just the tablet but got cold feet at the last minute and took both. Since I’m presenting and need PowerPoint in Sydney I didn’t want to chance not having the functionality.
  • Planning on working on the long flight, I charged everything fully before leaving home. I traveled Economy (coach) and there are no power outlets in that section.
  • I put all the files I expected to need in the cloud for easy access Down Under. I use Dropbox and also recently signed up for Sugar Sync so I had plenty of storage space available. I also took a couple of large USB drives for moving files around once I arrived.
  • Normally, my email client is Outlook. Not knowing how much wireless access I’d have, I set up my Gmail account to work with all 3 of my email accounts, so even if I had to resort to using somone else’s computer I could check email.
  • Got my family all set up on Skype so we could have video calls while I’m down under.
  • I’m flying United Airlines for all four legs of my journey, mainly because the Aussies paid for my flight and that’s what they chose. Researching the accomodations on United Airlines, I found out about Economy Plus. For about $400 total, I paid for this upgrade and enjoyed about 3-5 extra inches of legroom for all four of my flights. This may seem like an insignificant gain but especially on the long hauls it made things more pleasant.
  • Since this is my first trip to Australia I didn’t want to fly into town and back out again without seeing the place. So, I arrived 3 days prior to the GGOB conference and stayed 2 days after. It turns out this was still nowhere near enough time for sightseeing but I did pack plenty of quality time into the days I had.
  • I put the word out that I was looking for advice on what to do and see while there and got several people to help with that – some Sydney locals and some Americans who had been there. Additionally, of course, I did some online research. I started a “Things to do and see” list and this helped me stay organized.
  • I got in the habit of checking Sydney temperatures every day so I’d know what clothes to take.They’re headig into spring as we approach fall and as it turns out Sydney and St. Louis temps were virtually identical right up to trip time.
  • Being an avid golfer, I had to play in Australia. So I found a golfer among my Aussie contacts and had him arrange everything including clubs. I took my shoes, a glove and 2 sleeves of balls and planned to rent/buy anything else on the course.