Constantly monitor performance

Crystal-Pierz Marine (Ranked 5 in 2006) has adopted a dashboard management system, which allows its decision makers to closely monitor the organization’s operations and take action based on the most up-to-date information possible.

Luke Kujawa – the former vice president of sales and marketing at Crystal-Pierz who was promoted this year to the positions of president and chief operating officer – says the company has begun to really rely on the information that dashboards are able to provide.

“The dashboard is quickly becoming a very integral part of our day-to-day operations,” he says. “This is a ‘one-stop’ for store managers and department heads for an ever-growing list of information.”

Defined as a graphical interface that delivers information via several visual formats that can include gauges, charts, tables and spreadsheets, Crystal-Pierz uses dashboards for a variety of functions within the company.

Internal documents like checklists or job descriptions are available to employees via the system, as is human resources information. There is also an opportunity management portion that the business has been using for the past two years, which the company describes as a “vital part” of its customer service and boat delivery processes. It is able to automatically create actions for salespeople to follow through on or reminders to be sent to customers about service or delivery appointments.

But the most important function Crystal-Pierz’ dashboards serve is to keep management constantly informed about the innermost workings of the business. Key performance indicators such as profit margins in different areas, or information on labor hours and work orders, tracked in different ways, are updated weekly – soon to be daily – by the system, and displayed for department heads and store managers on their computers in a format that resembles an automobile dashboard.

Gauges that look a lot like speedometers and tachometers display results, along with charts and graphs, both for individual locations and the company as a whole. This format allows supervisors to monitor any number of operations and fine tune their adjustments much more surgically and frequently than a business that monitors those same KPIs on a less regular or rigorous basis and doesn’t provide the information so clearly.

Working hand in hand with the close dashboard monitoring is a belief in inter-store benchmarking, which continually ranks each of Crystal-Pierz’ 11 locations in relation to one another. The company sets goals based on the average results of its top-three stores in a given KPI category and they then become the target numbers for the other stores. The results are posted weekly in all the locations.

“The most immediate benefit of [benchmarking] was creating a strong sense of accountability,” Kujawa says. “As the job descriptions outlined what people were to be measured on and the dashboard showed where they stood relative to their peers, the mark has been moved and is still moving.”

Crystal-Pierz’ commitment to such close monitoring allowed it to close two of its locations recently, which it had determined were not going to perform up to expectations in the future, and to undergo a corporate reorganization that included Kujawa’s promotion.

“We are especially proud of our results this year in a market and economy that has softened,” the company wrote in its Top 100 application. “We boldly closed two locations that were not anticipated to perform well and redeployed our team members to ensure that their expertise was still available to the company and customers. The measure of a company’s strength and mettle is best seen in challenging times and we feel that 2007 will be a strong year built in the solid foundation of 2006.”

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