Do you speak numbers?


We all have an idea of what we’d like to see change in our businesses – more clients, more staff, a stronger service, less IT problems, probably less outsourcing – and anyone who’s ran a business will know that the list is endless.

There’s a blinding amount of advice out there on how to achieve these things (and I am not innocent in contributing – feel free to click ‘Follow’ at the top and check out my other content!). If I could whittle it all down to a digestible idea – use and speak numbers!

The organised of us will have quantified these desires. More clients – how many, and how much are they worth? Less IT problems – how much time are you spending as a result of them and how much would you like to save?

Make them tangible and then you’ve got a target to aim for. Numbers make it all real – but it’s important to state them. The moment that desire turns into an action is when you have something tangible to judge it against and to really work towards.

A numerical target helps a team rally towards a common goal. Small businesses need to find a way of setting good, exciting and inspirational targets through numbers.

Take a look at the UK government for an example of organisations that have traditionally been good at this- some numbers from previous campaigns and some are current:

  • 50% of young people going to universities (Tony Blair)
  • £12bn of welfare cuts
  • 2 million new jobs (1000 jobs a day)
  • 3 million apprentices by 2020
  • Net migration down to ‘the tens of thousands’
  • Eliminating the deficit by 2018

Agree or disagree with these objectives, they are easily understood. And especially in the case of the government, they allow the public to easily judge its performance and decide who to vote for next time.

Internally, they provide objectives which the government as a whole can drive towards.

In the context of austerity and a government agenda seemingly focused on nothing but what a pound coin can do, these numbers have become more important in the recent corporatisation years.

Numbers have enabled accountability (not eliminating the deficit as promised) and a sense of progress (it has visibly fallen).

So what does this mean for us as businesses?

In my business, we have two tangible numerical goals we’re pushing towards. More importantly, the whole team is aware and know what we’re doing to achieve those targets:

Target 1 is to have 200 “live apprentices” on programme by 31 July 2015
Target 2 is to have 2,000 “live apprentices” by 31 July 2016

These numbers have provided a rallying call for the business and are a tangible and easy to understand objectives.

These numbers are not private. They are not for the management to judge the workers by; they are for us all to share in and engage with. Some managers are understandably uncomfortable with sharing their numbers, whether financials or more abstract targets.

But small businesses that don’t share their numbers with the team need to learn to.

Whether that’s turnover targets or otherwise, small business owners that get comfortable sharing their numbers will find their team engaged in achieving those numbers. After all, if you don’t tell people what things you’re trying to achieve, they can’t help you to achieve them.

If you can trust them to get the work done, you should be able to trust them with the why.



p.s Kindly provide your views and comments and if you would like to read my future posts then please click ‘Follow’ at the top of this article and kindly connect via twitter: @SafarazAli

✪ Business Networking Group Founder ✪ SFA Prime Contractor & building a consortia ✪ Supporting businesses with growth

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