Numbers WITHOUT Meaning

When I was 25 yrs old, a wise businessman – my boss and mentor, said to me –

‘The numbers have got to MEAN something to you.’

We had been looking at all kinds of spreadsheets, reporting all kinds of figures – including sales, taxes and expenses.

He would push me to REALLY understand what each figure shown REALLY meant.

Was the amount ‘gross or net’?

Was the cost ‘direct or indirect’?

Was something calculated as a % of cost or sales?

The figure, amount or percentage was of little value – without understanding what it actually MEANT.

Finding out what different terms REALLY mean – is hard, but important.

Learning how things are REALLY calculated – is hard, but important.

Understanding what measures like ROI, turnover and overhead REALLY mean – is hard, but important.

In reading posts on cleaning discussion boards you can see people confidently ‘throwing out’ numbers, ratios and percentages in explaining – how things should be calculated; everything from overhead to cleaning time/hrs.

The interesting part is how often the calculations show in their explanation are, well simply, wrong.

Some may be interested in learning how and where they went ‘off track’ – but, not most.

People get convinced of something, and trying to persuade them differently is simply too difficult or embarrassing.

It’s understandable. None of us likes to be wrong.

But, the willingness to stay open to constructive criticism has never been more valuable than it is now – in today’s increasingly complex world.

A commercial cleaning business owner may say you should charge 15 cents/sq. ft. – but, when asked, ‘Will multiplying .15 times the size of the building give you a one, three or five time per week program price???…

– don’t be surprised to hear nothing but crickets.

The truth is, generally, they are either confused or simply don’t know the answer.

There’s no shame in that. None.

The problem comes – in not being willing to admit our mistakes or misunderstandings and then not being wiling to seek out the right answers. The ones that ‘do work’.

My boss was right – the numbers have got to mean something to us.

The challenge is – in being willing to seek out new, different – better answers.

You Can Do This, You REALLY Can!


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Santiago Rosas

How do you calculate the cost on a 15,000 sq. ft. building. My customer felt that he was paying a lot for the cleaning at this building, yet he felt that we were doing a good job. I tried explaining to him that the cost for supplies have gone up and due to the labor shortage, we needed to pay our workers a bit higher wages. So, how much do you charge a 15,000 sq. ft. building with two bathrooms, one upstairs and one downstairs, the traffic has increase. He believes that due to the pandemic, they are still recovering and claims that he pays a lot for cleaning. Please advise. Thank you. Santiago Rosas