In the game we call business, numbers are the way we keep score. Whether it is through financial statements, metrics or other benchmarks, numbers are a critical tool to evaluate business successes (and failures) and areas for improvement. This wouldn’t be a problem if so many people weren’t so incredibly scared of numbers.
I have called b.s. on this “numbers fear” a number of times. I constantly hear from entrepreneurs and business people that they are, “not good with numbers”. Yet, virtually every woman I know can walk into a department store, find a shoe sale and immediately calculate the discount they will receive and how many pairs of shoes they can buy with their budget. And almost every guy I know can explain the intricacies of their fantasy football scoring system. Stereotypes and hyperbole aside, do you catch my drift here?
These same people shun numbers in their business and professional life. These are the same entrepreneurs who struggle putting together financial projections for their business. These are the same CEOs who can’t evaluate the return on investment of various projects they are evaluating. They are the same salespeople who don’t want to evaluate any financial benchmark (other than perhaps how much commission they are receiving). But if you can calculate a sales discount or keep score in your sports pool, then you have no reason to think you are not adept with numbers (unless you are one of those people who whips out a tip app to calculate a tip in a restaurant).
Why the fear of numbers? Just like anything you do, if it is new to you, it is hard. Once you take the time to learn it, it isn’t so hard. Maybe the fear is generated because we spent so much time taking generally useless math classes like Calculus and Trigonometry. Don’t worry, you don’t need that. Just about 6th grade math (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions/percentages) and some good old logic will get you by; you certainly should be able to master that.
The bottom line is that everyone in business (and in fact, throughout your organization) needs to be a numbers person. If you are going to be playing the game of business professionally, you have to know how to keep score.