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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 16

Now, What's the First Thing You Do?

Well begun is half done.

—Aristotle

As we conclude this review of the craft (and art) of quantation, I'd like to share a personal anecdote: Early in my career as a CFO at a software startup company, I participated in a large meeting where we were addressing a pressing and complex financial issue. All of us around the table were looking at a rather elaborate spreadsheet intended to analyze and summarize the issue we were discussing. At one point in the discussion, I started to provide an explanation of the spreadsheet logic, remarking that I was the one who had built the spreadsheet. One of the participants, an investor and a partner at a venture capital firm, looked across the table at me and said, “I know you did, Randy. I recognize the work.” The remark stunned me. I didn't interpret the partner's comment as praise for the spreadsheet—although I hope he thought it was good work! No, what struck me was that he was observing that he could tell who had prepared a report by looking at it.

When we read a few paragraphs of an article or hear a few bars of a song, we can often tell who the writer or the artist was. But what is it that makes the work so recognizable? The style? The delivery? The attention to detail? The technical skill? The creativity of expression? The answer could be a combination of any of those factors, but having your work of art be recognizable as yours is usually a good thing and something to be proud of. Until this ...

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