Oops – that time of year again! It’s time to start planning for “the year ahead”. Is there something the company should have done differently? Were business goals met? What is the plan for 2013? None of this can be answered unless “you got your numbers”.Numbers are never really that much fun to deal with. After all, who has time for that stuff? Everyone is too busy to deal with reports and analysis. It’s one of those things that you do someday when you have time. Or is it?How many orders did you get last year? What was the average order worth? How much profit margin after costs? Were there many orders lost? Of the lost orders how many were filled by competitors? Filled by the client? Cancelled? What were order ratios? How many job refusals by people currently on unemployment? How many orders were contract and how many direct hire? How many direct hire fall-offs were there? How long do orders take to fill? Who are your top performers?It’s also helpful to think in terms of lines of business. Which types of orders were the most profitable? You may even like to know which contract workers were the most profitable and certainly which customers were the most profitable. Which are the top 10 clients and what % of business can be attributed to the top 10? Is this percentage too high? What would happen if some of that business was lost?Part of the problem with answering such questions is getting reliable data quickly and easily. Unfortunately, such data is only available if it has been accumulated throughout the year. It is important to have been analyzed periodically throughout the year so that the end of the year doesn’t produce any big surprises. End of year reporting should simply represent a “wind-up” of the year – not a huge revelation.Numbers can only be produced if operations are documented in an automated system. Orders should be entered as soon as they are procured. Fill attempts and fills must be immediately recorded as they happen. How many interviews are required on average to fill a particular type of job? To get this information, interviews for jobs have to be recorded. How much marketing effort and what type of marketing effort produces the best results? In order to know the answer, events must be documented real-time. Notes are great for supportive information, but in order to see what and why things happen, data has to be detailed in a format that will allow one to accumulate numbers.The other very important element to all of this is the necessary procedures and processes that must be defined for the organization. Information cannot be entered in a software system as a “free-for-all”. There has to be a defined way of documenting and a selected toolset that allows the company to record activities and initiatives. The reporting part is easy. It’s the data gathering part that takes a bit of effort.Some may say that they would rather be making calls than entering information into a software system which will take away time from servicing. Well, it can also be argued that if you are not aware of where you are going and what you need to be doing, you will have a lot of activity but poor overall results. You may not even know results are poor because the reporting of the activity is not there. At the end of the year everyone will wonder why better results were not produced, yet there will be no way of knowing how it happened in the current year and no good way to plan for better results in the next year.There’s a lot to look forward to with the technology available today. Those firms that utilize efficiency applications and offer superior customer service tools to applicants and clients will stay ahead of the pack. With mobile applications on the rise and the availability of technology where ever you may be, there is really no reason not to record events as they happen. Knowing the numbers can change the landscape and the way you approach the business of temporary staffing and direct hire.