Where do you look when you are driving?  Of course, you are thinking: where else but straight ahead at the road.

You do look other places, don’t you?

You look in the rear view mirror to gauge the traffic activity behind you.  Your heart probably skips a beat and your foot presses the pedal when you see a speeding car closing in.

Occasionally you glance in the side mirrors and through the side windows to make sure you are OK on both sides.

Have you noticed, however, if you look at the 18-wheeler you are passing that you have a tendency to steer across the line and into the truck?

And you know the hazard of doing anything but looking at the road and keeping between the lines as you pass over a narrow bridge meeting an F-350!

Steering a company is very much like driving a car.  Knowing where you have been —looking in the rear view mirror, so to speak — is crucial.  But, what if that is the only direction you look?  If you are driving backwards, looking backwards is a good idea.  However, if you are accelerating forward but looking backwards, a wreck is probably imminent.

Looking sideways helps a business owner scan the environment.  Knowing what is going on around you is crucial for making informed decisions.

Keeping your eyes on the road ahead has a lot going for it.  But, you need to have other information, too.  Going fast straight ahead does not mean you know where you are going.  You are just getting somewhere in a hurry.  Some drivers rely on GPS — information that tells them where they are.  Two other tools are extremely important, however:  a map and a dashboard.

Even with GPS, a driver must know a destination address.  A map offers a preferred route and alternatives.  Having a perspective of the entire trip helps a driver choose alternative routes if a detour is necessary.

The dashboard measures and reports information about the car — fuel, revolutions of the engine, oil pressure, tire pressure, battery ….

As the driver of your company, get out your map and keep an eye on your dashboard.  Having a clear vision of where you are taking your company is selecting your destination — knowing where you want to be.  Strategic thinking and planning create a map for reaching that vision.  Setting key performance indicators gives you a dashboard to monitor the maintenance and adjustments your company needs during the trip.

While we are using this analogy, we could ask:  are you taking better care of your personal vehicle than you are your company?

It is just a thought; but we won’t go there today.

Buckle your seatbelt and get on the road.  You want to beat the traffic.

Arnelle Adcock is a partner and president of Brentwood-based Clover Management Group — a team of seasoned professionals who help business owners.  You can reach her at 615-900-0777, aadcock@clovermg.com, or www.clovermg.com.