My last two posts in this series have dealt with things that will help any business person stay on top of their game. This next topic is the one that can really set you apart. The third thing you need to know is NUMBERS.
We can talk about customer service and people being our greatest asset but at the end of the day, numbers drive what we do. Years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream fame) speak about social responsibility – long before it was ever a corporate buzzword. One of the things I walked away with was, while social responsibility was important to them and important to the community, the bottom line was it just made good business sense.
So it’s important to know the numbers. And, it’s equally important to know how to read, use, and evaluate them.
I’m totally amazed at the number of people in the business world who can’t read financial documents. But even more incredible are the ones who don’t even try. So, the next time you’re preparing to go to a meeting where financial information will be the topic of discussion, think about the following:
- Did I actually review the document before walking into the room? Or did I just stare at the numbers until my eyes glazed over thinking it was some kind of puzzle that might turn into a mermaid?
- Do I have any questions? Did anything look out of the ordinary? (NOTE: Even if you decide not to ask your questions for fear of public humiliation, write them down and see if anyone else asks the same thing. You might be surprised to discover that you are not alone.)
- Is there someone in the group that I can follow-up with after the meeting and ask questions about the financial discussion? I’ve sat in board meetings where the financial conversation turned very complicated. If you weren’t in the financial field, you would never be expected to know this stuff. But I always try to have an off-line conversation afterward to understand the issue…at a 30,000-foot level of course.
Honestly, you can find the answer to almost every problem in the numbers. Be a problem-solver.