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Dashing Looks Want to see your company's latest data? A dashboard puts all the information you need in one clear display.

By Mark Henricks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Lewis Farsedakis wants to know a lot about Blinc Inc., the $5million cosmetics firm he founded in 1999, which has grown morethan 300 percent over the past five years. He wants sales figuresfor the current and previous month and year. He wants to know howmany customer service calls came in and how many are unresolved. Hewants a count of phone orders made and orders filled. He wants toknow website hits, the number of online shopping carts abandonedand more. And he wants to know now, if not sooner.

The 36-year-old Herndon, Virginia, entrepreneur's need toknow was once seriously frustrating. It required as many as a dozenpaper reports. Each report demanded the attention of one or more ofhis 16 employees, and because of the time and trouble it took toprepare the reports, the data was always stale. Then Farsedakisbegan using an online service called NetSuite to generateall the key data he wanted in an easy-to-read, constantly updateddashboard-style readout. "The dashboard enables me to measurethe business on a daily basis," Farsedakis says. "It alsoenables me to catch business problems as they emerge, as opposed tolater."

The dashboard's direct ancestors are the balanced scorecardsintroduced in the early 1990s to help businesses track nonfinancialmeasurements in addition to common accounting measurements, such assales, says Tom Bayer, a Springfield, Illinois, CPA who trainsbusiness leaders in performance measurement. Like the gauges on acar's instrument panel, a business dashboard gives anentrepreneur vital real-time information in a way that makes iteasy to read and react, Bayer says.

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