Further Than You Think

On Friday, I met with a friend (A) whose background is in finance to get some better tracking in place for revenue and expenses at The Meteor Chef. My perennial excuse for not having something set up already is being distracted by a million other things. That’s not entirely false, but the real truth is that I hate numbers. They make me nervous. Not only that, the numbers don’t lie: they are the truth. Sitting down to our call on Friday, I was a bit anxious.

As A pulled up the spreadsheet he’d organized ahead of our chat, I started to squirm. He’d populated the spreadsheet with some test data and was walking me through how all of the numbers were calculated. While doing so on his screen, I started to pull up our (disorganized) revenue and expense data on my own. While I didn’t say anything to him, internally, I was bracing for embarrassment.

We decided to focus on just the past month of data so I could understand how everything worked. I filtered down my lists to November and we started to add things up. First starting with expenses and after those were done, we moved over to revenue. By request so I could see how each part of the business is performing, A had separated the revenue and expense sheets by product or service (we have three lines of business: memberships, mentorship, and sponsorships).

Focusing on our mentorship service, I started to read off charges for the past month. At first apprehensive, as I read off numbers the total kept growing. When I hit the end of the list, A ran the sum and out popped a number that was far better than expected. I knew I’d been busy lately, but I didn’t realize how busy. Without any real tracking in place, all I knew is that stuff was coming in (and going out) but how much and to where was ambiguous at best.

In that moment, not only did I realize the importance of measuring your progress, but I saw our actual progress. Just a year ago, that number would have read zero. It’s far from covering everything it needs to, but to realize that in just a year’s time things have grown—however modestly—was really motivating. It illuminated a point that’s hard to understand when you’re just getting started with something: you don’t know unless you try.

Twelve months ago, I started to mentor folks on the back of a suggestion/observation and a year later it’s grown into a decent business. In about a week, we’ll hopefully see that growth tick up, too, as we’re launching a new version of the site (finally, after six months of work) that powers everything.

Walking away on Friday, I felt a sense of optimism that I haven’t in awhile. When you have your head down, working away, it can be really hard to see your progress. Even worse, if you’re not measuring anything, you don’t really know where you’re headed or what’s possible. A perhaps obvious but important reminder: track your progress and pay attention to how things improve over time. If you do, you might just realize that you’re further along than you think.