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A Dangerous Groove

Racing drivers call it “the line”. It’s the fastest way around the track. Each driver might have a slightly different line that works for them, and that’s okay. Finding it can be difficult, but the payoff is massive when you do.

Running a business is a lot like motor racing. You must constantly push your machine to the limits. You want the best parts on your car, and every one of them to perform at it’s best. You can’t afford to take it easy. The competition is in your mirrors and victory awaits.

If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.

Mario Andretti

It feels great when things are going well and business is smooth, consistent, and predictable. You’re in a groove.

You settle in and push the throttle. Lap after lap, things are working. The machine is running beautifully. Business is doing well.

It’s easy to stay in a groove. It’s comfortable. And dangerous.

Dangerous?

Like everything else, grooves change over time. It’s gradual, but they start to deteriorate. Before you know it, the groove has deepened to the point it’s difficult to get out of. It’s become a rut. And at that point it’s too late. You’ve lost performance, or worse, crashed.

The most damaging phrase in business is “We’ve always done it this way!”

Grace Hopper

Just like in racing, if you stay committed to one way of doing things — one groove — for too long you risk getting trapped in a rut that slows you down.

Sector Times

Racing drivers measure the time of every lap around the track. Then they break the lap down into sectors of the track to understand their performance with even greater precision. The sector time is a metric. A racing driver looks at many data points, their KPIs, to determine where performance can be found (or lost).

ferrari-telemetry
Telemetry from a Ferrari F1 car at the Hungaroring

This chart shows throttle, braking, steering angle, speed, and several other KPIs. Drivers and teams analyze this data on a lap-by-lap basis to understand where they can improve performance. This steady and ongoing analysis is how they ensure they’re not falling into a rut.

Watch Your Metrics

You must constantly analyze your metrics to make sure your groove is still performing. Otherwise, you risk settling into a rut. Maybe it’s resource utilization, sales pipeline efficiency, shopping cart abandonment, or click-through rates. Your metrics might be on-boarding rates, search rankings, or any other of myriad ways to measure the performance of your business. It’s important to identify which metrics matter, and keep a close eye on them.

The only way to improve your business is to measure the right things and monitor those measurements closely. Things might feel great in the groove, and they are. Stay in that groove as long as it’s working for you. Just make sure you’re not digging a rut in the process.