Even though I haven’t watched the show in years, and even though I know it’s not really real, I enjoyed Dragons’ Den for a time. My American readers may be more familiar with Shark Tank, which is basically the same thing. And regardless of what you might think of Kevin O’Leary, he pounded home at least one key business lesson: know your numbers.

Over and over again, we’d see these would-be entrepreneurs pitch their product to these “dragons” (and “sharks”). They’d talk about how their product is unique and how it addresses a particular need in the market. But when pressed for sales figures and per-unit costs, many pitchers fumbled and bumbled. They didn’t know their numbers.

I’ve really taken this lesson to heart, not only as it applies to dollars and cents, but also to all the other metrics and analytics that go along with running an online business. It may be soul-sucking, but it almost feels mandatory. You know what they say…

What gets measured gets done.

And oh boy do I do a lot of measuring. I track tasks, productivity, and actual time spent on tasks using Kanban boards. While I haven’t investing in dedicated accounting or invoicing software (maybe I should), I do maintain a few detailed spreadsheets. And I can’t help but to create bar graphs and pie charts to visualize that data too.

I recently created a new tab in my main spreadsheet where I compared the income earned from each freelance writing client against how much time I spend working on projects for that client. This results in a ratio. If I’m spending 10% of my time working for client X, and client X is responsible for 10% of my total income, that makes sense.

If I’m spending 10% of my time working for client X, and client X is only responsible for 5% of my total income, then it might be time to reconsider that relationship. The problem with getting bogged down in such detail is that it can miss the point entirely.

Perhaps the best example is Beyond the Rhetoric (and its related activities). It may or may not surprise you to learn that this blog does take up a significant portion of my time, especially when you factor in the vlog on YouTube and all the social media stuff. On the flip side, it may or may not surprise you that this blog really doesn’t earn much money. Like at all.

The cash-to-hours ratio is way off, and yet I keep dedicating more and more hours to this endeavor. Why? Because I would continue “working” on this blog (and vlog) even if it made no money at all. The “ROI” goes far beyond dollars and cents, but I’ve got to do something to keep the lights on. And they say that if you want to succeed in business, you need to treat it like a business.

So, I’ll keep measuring and I’ll keep getting things done. Just don’t get me started on how I feel about tracking my numbers of social media. Until next time, remember to like, comment and subscribe?