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Maggie Harlow

This Excel Spreadsheet Can Be Used as a “Dashboard” for Your Signshop

Checking daily, quarterly and annual stats will keep your business engine in tune.




I GREW UP IN the car business — I have “gas in my blood” as they say. From the time I was old enough to look over a fender, my father would preach the habit of opening the hood of a car and getting familiar with it. He would say, “If you know what ‘normal’ looks like, you’re more likely to notice something out of place.” After a few years, I could easily check fluids, notice when the battery had corrosion, or see where oil was leaking and burning off the hot engine.

Sometimes we’re driving our sign businesses so fast every day, we don’t take time to look under the hood to get familiar with what’s “normal,” so we may not notice when something isn’t.

I recommend building “dashboards” for you to glance at daily, quarterly and annually. If you get in the habit of tracking numbers and paying attention, you’ll notice anomalies and unusual trends, then be able to investigate and react.

Daily Dashboard

I love a simple way to take a daily glance and see what’s happening now. Hopefully your point-of-sale system can generate this with a click of a button, but if not, it’s worth the quick hunt to gather these three things:

  1. How much did you write in estimates yesterday? (Good predictor of the future, as well as productivity.)
  2. How much did you win in new orders placed yesterday? (For me, the most critical number. Turn your annual goal into a daily one and this number becomes super interesting.)
  3. How much did you invoice in completed work yesterday? (Not just to compare to your goal, but watching new orders vs. closed invoices gives you a sense of how balanced your sales and production teams are.)

When you see these daily, you will begin to notice outliers. Then you can go directly to the team to answer, “What was happening here?”


Quarterly Dashboard

Here I like to look at the overall results in estimates, orders and invoices, but it’s also a great time to inspect each sales rep’s performance. Sometimes you might find that a brand new receptionist wrote more new estimates than your sales superhero! You can more easily identify who is carrying the load, who is not, and put your focus where the impact is greatest.

Annual Dashboard

A yearly look is a great way to assess what to do more and less of, and what to stop doing altogether. Here are key things you can look at annually to guide your path toward the work you want.

  1. Assess employees, candidly! Even if you don’t make time to do face-to-face assessments (which I believe are critical) you should sit down and give each employee an honest grade. Give thought to what behaviors would improve each score. This could be the step you need to have a tough conversation or promote someone to more responsibility.
  2. Sales trends! What’s changing in your business? What client segments are you growing? Does this point to investing in equipment? Adding capabilities? Improving ordering experiences for those customers and finding more like them?
  3. What projects would you like fewer of? Are you doing a lot of electrical signs, but find them difficult to fabricate? Are monument signs a headache? Are there customers you dread dealing with because they’re so difficult? Maybe it’s time to focus more on the customers and projects you do want!

Sometimes we let the urgent get in the way of the important. Don’t let the busy nature of this industry stall you so completely that you forget to “check under the hood” and make sure you’re set for the journey ahead.

want an excel dashboard?

Download a sample spreadsheet from Maggie with tabs for daily, quarterly and annual dashboards at


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