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The Perfect Dashboard for Consulting Firms

You can create the perfect dashboard for your consulting firm by combining two ideas we’ve explored previously.

Specifically, when you apply the 3 Rocks evaluation approach to your consulting firm’s Vital Signs, you’ll have yourself a nifty, simple, action-oriented tool that instantly tells you where you stand and prioritizes your consulting firm’s efforts.

Setting Up Your Perfect, Consulting Firm Dashboard

1. Select Your Metrics

Your consulting firm’s three Vital Signs (discussed here) are Cash Flow, Pipeline Health and Delivery Capacity. A number of other useful metrics are mentioned in that same article and in the comments from readers.

You can focus on just the three Vital Signs, or expand your dashboard to include up to 10 metrics. Beyond 10 metrics, the marginal utility of your information typically plummets.

2. Plan Your Data Collection

Meters and dials are only useful if you know how and when you’ll collect your data.

Plan to collect and review your consulting firm’s performance data at least once per quarter. If you’re into daily or weekly dashboard updates, that’s peachy too.

With a solid plan in place, you can automate much of your data collection and you won’t ask questions like, “Hmm, how should I measure Partnership Effectiveness” every time you decide to evaluate your consulting firm’s progress.

3. Describe Your 3 Rocks for Each Metric

This is the hardest step and will take a bit of elbow grease: You must describe three levels of performance for each metric you’re tracking.

3 Rocks (described here) was originally designed to guide and evaluate the personnel at your consulting firm. However, you’ll achieve excellent results when you apply the tool to your consulting firm as a whole.

For each metric in your dashboard, what performance level will you consider “Rock Solid” and indicate that no changes to your approach are needed?

What signals your consulting firm’s performance is “Rock Bottom” and demands immediate corrective action?

What “Rock Star” level of achievement warrants recognition, double-dipped chocolate celebration and, perhaps, additional investments to build on your strengths?

The 3 Rocks approach is akin to the useful, but hopelessly boring evaluation scheme of “Below expectations; Meets expectations; Exceeds expectations.”

Hard, numerical metrics such as cash flow are easy because you can set Rock Bottom as any performance below “X”, Rock Star as any performance above “Y”, and Rock Solid as performance between X and Y.

However, softer metrics such as Relationship Strength, Personal Satisfaction and Plan Completion require you to craft descriptive language that you will use to evaluate the status of your consulting firm and guide your actions.

4. Collect, Observe and Act

Start collecting the data according to your plan, monitor your consulting firm’s performance, and let the dashboard direct your priorities. The 3 Rocks will instantly tell you how to gauge your performance and where investment and/or changes in approach are needed.

You can set up your perfect consulting firm dashboard in a simple spreadsheet or you can utilize fancy dashboarding software.

Use whatever platform works for you, that you can implement quickly¸ and that you’ll actually look at according to the schedule you set in Step 2.

Do you think a dashboard will help you run your consulting firm?

  1. Terry Pappy
    September 16, 2020 at 6:13 am Reply

    I like this, David. It inspired an idea, “Hey, I can design my own dashboard!” instead of the endless searching for a software solution and trying to squeeze into someone else’s idea of which metrics should be measured. Designing my own dashboard also puts ownership in my hands so I can choose what metrics are important to ME for measurements of success. Such as EMPATHY and RELATIONSHIP QUALITY which are all subjective. Let’s automated the more quantitative such as cashflow, pipeline health and delivery capacity, and find ways to measure the “soft skills” and qualitative data that REALLY MATTERS to our business health. THAT to me is a balanced dashboard.

    • David A. Fields
      September 16, 2020 at 6:45 am Reply

      You’re exactly right, Terry. It’s your business and you get to decide on the metrics that are important to you. (I’d suggest you add them to the Vital Signs that will keep your consulting practice healthy.)

      When you write out descriptions of metrics like Empathy and Relationship quality on the 3 Rocks, you’ll create for yourself a much clearer picture of how to succeed and how your practice is faring.

      Thank you for sharing the outstanding example of customizing a dashboard’s contents, Terry.

  2. Jay Arthur
    September 16, 2020 at 9:52 am Reply

    We track weekly sales using a QI Macros XmR control chart template. Control charts tell us if sales are stable, rising or falling. If stable, no action necessary. If rising, cool, how are we doing that? If falling, bummer, what is not working?
    We also use dashboards to track email autoresponders open and click through rates. We can tell if changes in email headlines and content have changed our open and clickthrough rates. Are our various sales funnels working, improving, or declining? What should we do about it?
    Control charts make sure that we spend time on the “vital few” important things and little or no time on the “trival many.”

    • David A. Fields
      September 16, 2020 at 10:16 am Reply

      Good on you for automating some of your dashboarding, Jay. That’s an excellent example. Of course, for most boutique and solo consulting practices, tracking revenue and cash flow monthly is probably frequent enough (consulting tends not to be about weekly sales, though if you’re working variable time and materials projects, then weekly billing can be important). I like the idea of the control charts.
      I’m glad you contributed your example, Jay. It helps.

  3. Dan Markovitz
    September 16, 2020 at 10:46 am Reply

    Good ideas, sure, but you missed “School of Rock,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and of course, “The Rock.” (Although the last has Nicholas Cage chewing scenery, so maybe not.)

    • David A. Fields
      September 16, 2020 at 11:26 am Reply

      Rock on, Dan! We also cut out Rock of Ages, 3rd Rock from the Sun and… well, the list keeps going. Thanks for posting you reaction, Dan–it’s always appreciated.

  4. Michelle Holmes
    September 16, 2020 at 11:31 am Reply

    Thanks, David. We implemented performance dashboards a couple of years ago and update and review them monthly. They include four components: key initiatives (from our annual operating plan), people and culture, financial drivers, and business development. Plus a ‘trends and highlights’ section for a narrative summary of what’s going on.

    • David A. Fields
      September 16, 2020 at 11:47 am Reply

      Michelle, thank you for the terrific example. Your firm’s tremendous success makes your experience and practices a good model for many readers. Particularly noteworthy is that your dashboards capture the strategic and the tactical, hard metrics and soft metrics.

      Very impressive. I’m grateful you shared, Michelle.

  5. Catherine Mattice Zundel
    September 17, 2020 at 1:29 pm Reply

    We use the “5 Ways” from Action Coach, which is leads, conversions, average # of transactions (projects) per client, average $ transaction, and net profit. There’s much more to track, but I do this equation every quarter.

    • David A. Fields
      September 17, 2020 at 2:46 pm Reply

      Part of what you just laid out is your “Revenue Truth.” Revenue Truth = # clients x projects/client x fee/project. Good for you for examining that every quarter, Catherine!

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