Dashboard Confessional: What Makes for Good Reporting?

There are different schools of thought on how much financial information pest management company executives should share with their team members, but one thing is certain, according to Triangle Pest Control owner Donnie Shelton: “We can’t ask people to play a game if they don’t know the score.” 

PCO Bookkeepers’ own Dan Gordon agrees that putting the right information in the right people’s hands with financial dashboards is essential to a pest control company’s success.

A good dashboard is like a baseball box score, he says, concisely communicating key information “so any reader can understand who won and how they won.”

For example, not all employees will understand the full P&L, so Gordon recommends providing them with the key performance indicators they need to do their jobs better in an easy-to-read format, such as a table or meter that compares actual results to prior results or industry averages.

“What I advocate is if you’re an employee and you can affect a line item on the P&L, then you get access to that information,” Gordon says. 

At Triangle Pest Control, Shelton says successfully sharing “the score” means keeping things simple, automating reports and ensuring accountability.

“Everything comes down to, ‘Are we growing the business and how’s our profitability doing?’” he says. “All our dashboards are designed for that.”

Keep it simple

Before delving into dashboards, Shelton recommends PCOs clean up their financial and marketing systems first to ensure they’re working with good information.

“Then I’d start with the basics—get the fundamentals down and then start fine tuning,” he says. Companywide, he considers “the basics” to be revenue growth, profit, callbacks, customer experience and team experience metrics. As the owner, he also keeps an eye on collections, but he calls everything else “noise.”

“People say, ‘We have great click rates on our website,’ but if they’re not good leads who cares?” Shelton says. “Simplify and get the basics down first, then worry about the other metrics.”

At Triangle, an individual team member has access to key statistics about his or her department that can affect the company’s bottom line. For example, all technicians get reports with production results every day at 9 a.m. 

“We incentivize based on profit, but we measure individual performance based on whatever they’re in charge of, whether that’s sales, route completion, callback percentages, etc.,” Shelton says. 

Deciding which key performance indicators to track and report on a dashboard depends on your company’s individual goals, Gordon says. He notes a good place to start is with revenue, profitability and the three factors you can control in pest management:  labor, materials and marketing. “If you have those three things under control, you’re going to make money,” he says.

Automate reports

Consistency is key, and for Shelton that means setting up automated reports so the onus isn’t on team members to look up how they’re doing. Employees receive a daily report related to their department’s performance automatically via email thanks to a report-writing function in PestPac, their software program.

“It’s a push, not a pull,” he says.

Depending on your role, you will see various companywide figures weekly or monthly. To keep things simple, these numbers are shared in the context of percentages compared to goals.

For instance, a key metric Triangle focuses on is the company’s revenue growth plus profit composite—aka the “rule of 23.”

“Our targeted floor is 30 percent,” Shelton says. “We communicate where we are monthly.”

Similarly, PCO Bookkeepers pushes out a dashboard report to its clients as a monthly deliverable that includes vital metrics like a revenue and profitability snapshot and the “rule of 23” in various graphic representations—tables, meters, charts, etc.—to appeal to owners and managers who respond to information in different ways.   

Ensure accountability

Shelton doesn’t want employees to get “lost in data” or to spend a lot of time reviewing this information; he’d like them to “glance and move on”—or better yet glance and follow through with improving their behaviors. 

“The technology piece is the easy part of dashboards,” says Shelton, noting his company has taken two years to get to where it is in terms of reporting. “Dashboards are just the start. It’s one thing to measure something. It’s something else to enforce it.”

For example, Triangle uses Forgely, a people management software to track employee training progress.

“If employees have courses past due or reviews that haven’t been done, there will be repercussions,” he says.

Friendly competition also can play a role. Triangle team members see the dashboard for their whole department, not just their individual performance.

“You want to have a little bit of competition,” Shelton says. “It works well. If I’m behind, everyone will know.”

Remember, the purpose of management reporting is to identify where you can improve, Shelton says. “It’s a launch pad for other things—what do we start focusing on as a business?”

Author: Marisa Palmieri Shugrue