Let The Numbers Be Your Guide (March 2012)

Business is based upon facts. Or at least it should be. Anecdotal evidence is fine in order to add some color commentary and improve the depth of understanding but it is no substitute for dealing with the cold hard facts.

I started my career at Burroughs Corporation (now Unisys). It was filled with hardware and software engineers from around the world. Despite the company’s troubles (or perhaps because of them) it was a great training ground. It was a fact based organization and the engineering culture extended throughout the company.

The finance team was more buttoned up than the average numbers crunchers because they ultimately reported to engineers who would call them out if their numbers were wrong by even a little bit. In turn, the finance team wouldn’t hesitate to call out an engineer. Part of my tenure with the company was in the marketing department – market research to be precise. This team knew market history and trends (perhaps to a fault); the company wasn’t known for its foresight and forward thinking on the marketing side. That said, the entire company culture focused on facts and solving problems which it did extraordinarily well.

Whenever you’re dealing with a business problem, it’s important to start with the facts. Whether it is a sales problem, marketing problem, finance problem, operations problem, or human resources problem facts are key. It is impossible to make progress and develop a solution unless one has a firm grasp on the situation . . . and that is not possible when one is dealing only with anecdotal evidence.

Too often, people site a few examples (which are pieces of the puzzle) and try to draw conclusions about the whole picture. The problem is that they might get it right, but it is more likely that they will not. Basing business decisions on a few stories or examples leads to conclusions based upon faulty assumptions.

Get the whole story. Make sure that you understand all of the facts Many probably remember the story about the three blind men walking around the elephant each feeling different parts of it and coming to different conclusions about what they were touching. It can often feel like this when trying to herd facts (often as difficult as herding cats) in order to have sufficient data to perform analysis.

Gathering good facts is 80-90% of problem solving. Last week, the president of one of my clients asked an excellent question during a meeting. The financial manager spent four hours gathering the data and assembling it in a way that made it easy to analyze. Frankly, the analysis part took me about 20 minutes (and over 20 years of experience) but that was only because we had assembled all of the data first.

Determine what facts you need to assess the situation. Gather and organize them. Solid analysis and the solution will flow from there.

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to

your cash is flowing. know where.®

Ken Homza
Copyright @ 2012 Homza Consulting, Inc.

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