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Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You: Painting with Numbers by Randall Bolten

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CHAPTER 10

53 . . . Uh, Is That a Lot?

. . . so I buy things for $1.00 and then I sell them for $3.00, and I'm fine as long as that 2% return keeps rolling in.

—Punchline of an old joke about a very successful but innumerate businessman explaining the secret of his financial success

Numbers by themselves don't tell us very much. For example, #403 may have been the number of your dorm room in college, and the 14th might have been the day that you met your spouse, but aside from triggering memories or connoting value, numbers by themselves aren't packed with meaning. To understand the importance of a number, we need a context for understanding it. We need something to compare it to. With respect to your quantation, this means that your audience won't understand the significance of the numbers in your reports unless they have other numbers for comparison. (We talked about this in Chapter 4 as well.)

Your quantation paints a picture and tells a story about your organization. But even if you have all the right numbers laid out in an easy-to-read manner, you may need to boil things down even further and help your audience understand the meaning of the story (or at least make it extremely obvious). This is where key indicators (KIs) come in.

All organizations run on key indicators, whether it's a business trying to turn a profit, a hospital evaluating different medical treatments, a government agency deliberating over whether to fund schools or better roads, or a baseball team deciding ...

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