Know Your Statistics

How crucial are the day-to-day “numbers” of your business? How often should I spend some time analyzing the data? What should I be looking for? Who should look at this data?

All of these questions are valid, and, given the limited staff resources many historic theatres have to bring to these tasks, it is important to balance our limited time on the most important tasks. Let’s take a look at each one of these questions in turn.

1) The importance of analyzing day-to-day statistics is a crucial element of both managing cash flow and both short-term and long-term strategic planning. If we don’t notice a dip in per cap income, we might miss an opportunity to change some items out before we are left with a lot of un-saleable items on our hands. If we don’t notice a decline in attendance on specific nights of the week, regardless of the program being offered, we may find ourselves with a string of losing dates that will affect our ability to staff for other events. If we fail to analyze our utility bills year to year, we may miss crucial leaks or inefficiencies in our HVAC systems.

2) How often should I be reviewing my data?
It makes sound business sense to compile everything you can and review monthly, quarterly as well as yearly, the key statistics of your operation. By looking closer at these items we find that we can see further in the future.

3) What should I be looking for?
Trends will become apparent with as few as three months of data in some cases, while in other cases, it will take a full year of numbers to see what you can expect. While a newly restored building will need 12 months of utility bills to use as a baseline, small changes in an operating facility, related to one or two degrees at the thermostat, may yield a great return. What happens when we raise the cost of an item at the concession stand? Try it, and track your sales to see if the price had any impact on your bottom line. It will take time to identify the statistics and indicators that are most important to your venue, the sooner you start, the sooner you will have a rich mine of information to draw from.

4) Who should analyze this data?
The Executive Director, Business Manager and/or key senior staff should be brought into the discussion to see if there are any suggestions to improve operational efficiency. Chances are there will be some good suggestions from the people “in the trenches” everyday. Be sure to reward positive change to encourage ongoing vigilance related to a streamlined operation. After all, we all want our venues to be around another 75 years and if we can get through the hard times of today, we should be in good shape for the better days ahead.

Herb’s passion for revitalization and restoration of historic theatres as primary engines in economic development is remarkable. His meticulous work with the Tax Credit program spoke volumes about his patience and perseverance to see the goal come alive.

Molly Fortune
Executive Director, Newberry Opera House, Newberry South Carolina