Your Business Language is Numbers

Become fluent and your company will fly

Despite what many business owners might fear, numbers don’t need to be complicated. So why do so many start-ups founders shy away from this area? It can sometimes start here, with…

Fractions, equations, variables, trigonometry, Pythagoras theorem, algebra, probability – not to mention mean, median and mode…

During school years, the mathematics sh*t gets real and many kids are real confused. If you don’t get it, you just don’t get it. Importantly, this isn’t something to be ashamed of. But the experience in formative life is enough to make many UK entrepreneurs pin a label on themselves in capital letters that says: “I’M NO GOOD WITH NUMBERS!”

It’s usually followed up promptly with the confident qualifier:

“But I do have what it takes to breathe life into a business.”

As a business consultant, I hear this all the time. It’s in the top five self-talk phrases in the Business Owners’ Handbook (alongside “I like working hundred-hour weeks, honest!” and “I live for tackling the same problems day in, day out” or the less positive “I’ve no idea if I’ll make any money this year, me.”)

Whatever your self-talk, numbers is the language your company uses to communicate with you. You speak English, your business speaks numbers. You need to start listening, fast.

Your SME is never going to walk into your office and say: “Gee, bud! If you just upped the marketing spend a touch I’d really be happy and you would be too.”

Or:

“I’ve noticed an uphill trend in this product! It’s low-key but consistent. Let’s invest.”

Understand What Your Business is Saying: Learn the Language of Numbers

Yup, the only way your business can communicate with you is through the digits. It makes sense, then, for everyone to take the time to learn this language. Saying you’re no good with numbers is no excuse. You owe it to your hard work and passion to nail it down, no matter how painful it feels. Want an analogy? Okay, then.

Nobody becomes a French-speaker in a day but pretty much anyone can learn how to say “Hello!”, order a beer and then say “Thank you”.

Just like with any language, you’ve gotta to take the time to learn the numbers basics. From the ground up, your knowledge and confidence will slowly grow.

Where to start? By answering a simple question:

“What is the most important thing (or things) going on in the business right now?”

Here’s some examples of what you might find important: phone-calls in, footfall, website visits, coffees served, fair-weather days, tickets sold, loaves of bread not sold, houses cleaned, complaints filed.

Whatever it is that keeps you awake at night (or allows you to sleep easy), scribble it down and see what simple numbers you can apply. Get some KPIs in place.

As world-class business consultant Peter Drucker once said: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

Start applying numbers to the work and you can track, evaluate and make plans to improve / mitigate. Whatever the actions, you’ll gain valuable knowledge and insights.The business will talk and you can listen and react. Start small; let the numbers grow and lead you to new heights.

The positive knock-on effect of organising your numbers? These key KPIs will become a major component of your business plan and strategy: the next step to taking control of your business and creating future success.

So be brave. Take the plunge, buy a good calculator and give your business the opportunity to tell you what’s happening – and with practise, what it needs. Bonne chance, mes amis!