February 22, 2006

Numbers are your friends

Welcome to my blog, Numbers Are Your Friends! This is a forum for me to share ideas and topics that may be financial in nature, but will be lighthearted and geared to non-financial friends, colleagues and future acquaintances.

I have spent the past 15 years working at some blue chip organizations including the National Basketball Association, Polo Ralph Lauren and my current home MWW Group. Many of my coworkers across these organizations are some of the most incredible creative minds I have ever met in their respective fields; both from presentation skill set as well as from business content perspective. However, in certain cases, feelings of fear, apprehension and sometimes just pure dislike for dealing in my world of accounting and financial reporting overwhelms them. I am here to let all my creative friends know that NUMBERS ARE YOUR FRIENDS and should be embraced!

If I throw out numbers in certain orders in a vacuum and without identifying the reference, many people would know what I am referring to without even a hesitation or second thought.

Some examples…

For baseball fans, if I use the numbers 300, 30 and 100, they would know that I was referring to a .300 Batting Average, 30 Home Runs and 100 RBI’s, all benchmarks that gauge an offensive players statistics over the course of a season. Of course, now in the world of BALCO and ANDRO, it is more like .325, 40 and 125!

Basketball fans know that the numbers 20 and 10; usually refer to a player that scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds, or otherwise commonly referred to a “Double-Double”.

If I threw out the numbers 20 at 350, many stay at home moms/dads know that to cook a turkey, standard time and temperature is 20 minutes a pound at 350 degrees!

Numbers are all around us in some facet of life, at home and at work, and in the right context, albeit not as complex as computing your personal income taxes or reading and understanding a balance sheet, but in our personal and work lives in environments where we excel!

Another example is that most of us use numbers to mark time and milestones in people’s lives, sometimes the birth of a child, a wedding or even a death of a close relative or friend.

If I say the following numbers to my own mother and people from her generation, 11-22-63 or 2-9-64, these are some pretty significant dates. The first was a tragic event (JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963) and the other a monumental event in the world of entertainment (The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964). Both had global impacts in one way, shape or form and both simplistically referred to by using Numbers!

My recommendation for those of us in accounting and/or financial leadership positions is that when you are interacting with “creative” coworkers is to have patience and understanding. Try to be flexible and sympathetic to those who do not perform accounting or financial tasks a on a daily basis. Try to be as simplistic as possible and not use “big” words when articulating concepts of accruals, deferrals and amortization to those people that may have heard the words once or twice, while you may be dealing with those issues everyday.

A coworker called me and asked about calculating percentages to produce a variance from one year to the other. While I explained the formula, I used the terms numerator and denominator. I was not surprised when her response to me was “which one is which?” My response to her was the same as the one to my second grade son who is first learning to calculate basic percentages, I said, “the little one goes on top and the big one goes on the bottom!”

Keep responses simple and easy to understand and your coworkers who used to be afraid of numbers will soon find out that Numbers are their Friends TOO!