When it comes to running a small business, your management style can have a big impact on your success. One of the most important aspects of your management style is how you gauge and guide your operations.  Do you rely on the intuitive "flow of work" or do you delve into the quantifiable realm of numbers and metrics? Today, let's talk about those two strategies and the preferences, challenges, and potential apprehensions you may face when defining your management style.

The Intuitive Approach: Following the Flow

Many small business owners, particularly in creative or service-oriented fields, often manage based on the "flow of work." This approach involves decisions based on the business's rhythm, customer interactions, and a general sense of how things are going. It's an intuitive, less structured, and more flexible process.


  1. Adaptability: This approach allows for quick adaptation to market or customer preferences changes. There is no need to log into the computer or email your bookkeeper and wait for a response. (Though, please tell me you have a bookkeeper…)
  2. Personal Touch: The intuitive approach often results in a more personalized service or product based on direct customer feedback and interaction. 


  1. Lack of Predictability: Predicting future trends or financial needs can be challenging without concrete data. Guesses seldom lead to profitability.
  2. Inefficiency Risks: Sole reliance on intuition might lead to missed opportunities for optimization or growth. Your observations may be skewed – providing answers you hope for rather than what you're genuinely observing.

The Metrics-Focused Approach: Numbers Don't Lie

On the opposite end are small business owners who heavily rely on metrics and data analysis. This method involves regularly examining financial statements, performance metrics, customer data, and other quantifiable indicators to inform decisions.


  1. Informed Decision Making: Data provides a solid foundation for understanding business performance and making informed decisions.
  2. Growth and Scaling: Metrics can indicate growth areas and help plan scaling efforts. Those metrics can help you take your next steps. For example, once you have "x" sales, you can hire a new employee. 


  1. Complexity and Time Consumption: Gathering and analyzing data requires time and sometimes specialized knowledge.
  2. Possibility of Over-Reliance: A sole focus on numbers can lead to overlooking qualitative aspects like customer relationships or employee morale.

Why Some Business Owners Might Shy Away from Numbers

  1. Lack of Understanding: Some owners may lack formal training in reading and interpreting financial data.
  2. Fear of Negative Realities: There's often a fear that numbers will reveal underlying problems in the business. Check out our blog post, The Fear of Finding Out, to explore some of the issues of avoidance that many small business owners have to overcome.
  3. Perceived Complexity: Setting up systems to collect and analyze data can seem daunting and time-consuming. When you're in a reactive frame of mind, it can feel like you have no time (or energy) to invest in long-term thinking.

A Balanced Approach: Best of Both Worlds?

Could a hybrid approach, leveraging both intuition and metrics, be the key to effective small business management? Combining the adaptability of an intuitive approach with the informed decision-making of a metrics-based approach can offer a comprehensive strategy for small business owners.

As a small business owner, how do you manage your business? Do you lean more toward the intuitive flow of work, or do you rely on hard data and metrics? Or have you found a balance between the two? Leave a comment below – your insights could shed light on this intriguing aspect of small business management and provide valuable lessons for others in the community.

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