The One Metric That Matters

 

At StartFast we say that a startup can’t outspend its competitors, but it can out-focus them. It’s crucial for a startup to focus on improving one thing at a time, using analytics tools to objectively measure the impact of each improvement.

Early on, it’s easy to choose a focus.

  • Find a customer;
  • Make sure you’re solving a problem the customer cares about;
  • Build a minimum viable product and demonstrate that it solves the problem.

Later, figuring out how to get accurate metrics for your business’s performance is more nuanced and finding reliable ways to improve these metrics is more difficult.

To make the problem tractable, we divide and conquer by focusing on one metric at a time – “The One Metric That Matters.” This reductionist, analytical approach has power in business as it does in science. But it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture. What numbers really matter?

An eloquent answer to this from Josh Elman is that the only metric that matters is a measure of how many people are really using your product. Another good answer is to focus on the one thing that is most broken. Here’s a tight 90-minute course on the topic from Lean Analytics co-author Alistair Croll.

There is also a dark side to the analytics movement to be guarded against. In this video interview Ben Yoskovitz, the other co-author Lean Analytics says,

“You’re going to lie to yourself. You’re going to lie to other people, but temper that with some data so that you can figure out how to get to proving that the lie was true.”

In my humble opinion, this is just plain wrong. Submitted for your approval, I offer a radical alternative I like to call integrity.

Integrity:

1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles;
2. the state of being whole and undivided.

Integrity means doing what you say you’re going to do. Customers buy from companies with integrity; teams follow leaders with integrity; and investors invest in CEOs with integrity. No matter the company’s stage, no matter what problem we’re trying to solve, integrity is truly the one metric that matters most.

Chuck Stormon