How to fall in love with the numbers

Hello entrepreneurs,

Look at that flower-shop owner, now look at me.
Look at that engineering consultant, now back at me.
Look at that restauranteur, now back to me.

Sadly, they aren’t me, but if they got into their numbers, they could be.
Look down, look back up, where are you? You’re with a person who loves numbers.

What’s in your hand? The keys to your new car — tickets to that thing you love — look again, the tickets are now a juicy bank account and a sweet, sweet spreadsheet that makes you *wanted*.

< end of parody >

Do you give your business’s finances the good loving they deserve? You’re not alone, if not. People go into business because they love horticulture, they love designing bridges, they love serving up a beefy steak but not many are drawn to business because they love the tending of finances. And yet we all know healthy finances are the life blood of business.

Here are three simple ways to start falling in love with numbers:

  1. Start reading financial pages of newspapers.  Don’t force it;  just find some juicy headline that attracts you and read the article (remember when Martha Stewart was going to jail?)
  2. Start reading Warren Buffett’s shareholder letters.  He takes complex subjects and makes them accessible to the yous-and-me’s of the world, and famously includes at least one gem per year, like this one:   Managerial intellect wilted in competition with managerial adrenaline. The thrill of the chase blinded pursuers to the consequences of the catch. Pascal’s observation seems apt: ‘It has struck me that all men’s misfortunes spring from the single cause that they are unable to stay quietly in one room’   How can we resist reading financial documents cast in those terms?
  3. Start reading annual reports of other businesses.  Make it easy on yourself.  Choose companies that genuinely interest you.   I like the Starbucks reports.
Over time, here’s what will unfold.  You will become familiar with lingo, concepts and ways of thinking about your business finances.  You will be able to situate your own good work in a larger context.  You will look at your own numbers with new eyes and start to fall in love with your spreadsheets.

One thought on “How to fall in love with the numbers

  1. Nancy, I loved how you took a topic that can be very challenging for some and gave people some small steps that they can take to become more engaged with numbers again. In my career, I’ve met many small business owners who were so focused on growing the business that they lost track of the financial end and ended up in tough situations.

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