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Missing your numbers: the good, the bad, and the ugly

missing your numbersMost job boards and recruitment platforms are privately held. Missing your numbers – assuming that you have targets, that is – can be scary. But at least you don’t have angry shareholders to deal with, right?

Well, sort of.

First of all, why do you have ‘numbers’, such as revenues, margins, renewals, growth year-over-year, and so on? Because: a) you’re running a business, so you need to have metrics that tell you how you’re doing, and b) because you need to be profitable enough to continue paying your employees, conduct your marketing, service your clients, and so on. Thus, you set your numbers for each metric, and then once a month or quarter or whatever, you compare reality to your numbers.

It’s the rare business that consistently beats its numbers (and sometimes if they do, it’s because they were low-balling the metrics to begin with!). Maybe – like ZipRecruiter or Indeed – you have a good initial run before you stumble. Maybe your initial run even lasts for years. But at some point, you will be sitting at your computer, wondering why you are missing your numbers. It’s not a pleasant feeling!

But there are many degrees of missing your numbers. I was chatting with a client recently, and he was unhappy that he had missed his sales goals – by 5%. Sure, it would have been nicer to get that extra 5% – but the reality is that many parts of the labor market are in a period of retrenchment – in other words, companies aren’t hiring at the same pace as last year. So, to put his miss in perspective, being down by 5% in a contracting  marketing actually isn’t too bad. Missing by 5% isn’t going to cause this client to lay off any employees, or delay any major objectives. It just hurt the margin a bit.

The key to living with missing your numbers is understanding. Why did you miss your numbers? What were the factors that kept you from achieving them? Were these factors something you could control – or something that you could have no effect on? If you missed your sales goals because you didn’t reach out to an adequate number of prospects, or you failed to staff your sales team fully – well, that makes missing your numbers your fault. Don’t beat yourself up – instead, change what you are doing!

But if you missed your sales goals because – like the client mentioned earlier – hiring in your sector has lessened, you may still need to make some tactical changes, such as providing additional services beyond the traditional job posting. These may be changes you hadn’t anticipated during your yearly planning; however, the smart business owner recognizes that some of the fundamentals have changed, and thus the business needs to adjust.

Finally, remember that no matter what your numbers turn out to be in ‘the real world’, they are always telling you something about your job board. Sometimes what they tell you is something you don’t necessarily want to hear – but that’s ok. In my opinion, it’s always better to understand the reality of your business, instead of spending your time making excuses for the things you don’t understand. If you miss your numbers, find out why – and let that knowledge drive your actions.

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