The Non-Financial Side of Business

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The Non-Financial Side of Business
A call with an industry colleague last week set in motion, thoughts on how we measure individual or business success.
As a kid growing up in India in the 80’s, studies used to be quite a tricky part of life. Studying history, for instance. We had a ton of dates to remember, and it somehow never made sense. The pointlessness of remembering precise dates of events ranging from a few decades to a few centuries gone by. Instead of, perhaps evaluating people gone by, on the basis of their actions, or the sum of their actions. Perhaps we would have learnt more about values. About actions and consequences. But they would not have it any other way. Events and dates of their occurrence was clearly more important to them.
Then came interesting subjects like physics, and a few deeper questions around it. [Link]
Subsequently, there was the ’Must. Read. Newspapers’ phase. Not just that, I guess people also expected you to remember current events. For someone who is not a keen quiz player, I felt it was pointless beyond just having a fair sense of what was happening. Somewhere I believed storing irrelevant information wouldn’t really matter someday.
Then, thankfully, the internet came to our rescue.
In my adult life, all around, businesses seem obsessed with numbers. Financials. Be it sales and profitability, or costs, or more complicated ones. Cost of acquiring a customer. Shopping cart abandonment. Customer churn rate. Average profit per visitor or Product conversion rate. Among others.
The world became, and continues to be increasingly obsessed with numbers and ratios. And that’s all most businesses focus on. The employee or customer can be at the receiving end of the bare minimum that a tight-margin allowance to appease a ratio will allow. But not more.
The day machines take over a business function, efficiency will jump up dramatically, as will profitability.
But where would that leave us? Put differently, have we always been missing a bigger point?
What will matter when machines take over (finally!), is what customers really want. Because then we won’t be obsessing over the numbers. Hopefully not at least.
And hopefully then, we’ll start to see that it is not a numbers game. That business is about relevance. If it’s useful or good, they will buy. If a process is well designed as per them, they will use it.
Numbers, as I’ve always held, are an incidental, intermittent aftereffect of a non-numerical, ongoing end-user pleasing process.
I’m not saying that top and bottom lines and all those in-between are irrelevant. Sure they help as indicators. But they perhaps help more when we are doing the more important job. Of ensuring the main objective of our business is met. Once you focus on the non-financial aspects that really run your business, you’ll see how the financials catch up. Automatically!

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Chip Off the Old Block

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Chip Off the Old Block

Renaissance artist Michelangelo claimed that his job was to free the human form trapped inside the block. His words, apparently were:

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and in action.  I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

Moses by Michelangelo

Moses by Michelangelo

I see a great similarity between sculpting and writing. In both, you start with a thought or purpose in mind that must be conveyed to a particular audience. Then begins the task of writing and chipping away to make a final piece that then gets the reaction that is often proportional to the clarity of the initial ‘thought’ of what had to be conveyed, and the efforts taken to ‘chip away’ to arrive at it. A slightly different move with the chisel [or pen] can create something completely different from what was planned, sometimes better, sometimes worse.

Blaise Pascal beautifully captured some of that in a sentence when he said “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” A very interesting contradiction, where one would normally assume that longer or bigger looking tasks and thoughts would automatically take more time and effort, where as it is usually the most simple ones that take much longer and way more effort.

Let’s get back to the profound yet simple perspective of Michelangelo’s. I believe it finds application in any area of work or life too. It is about seeing clearly, things as you want them to be, or as they should ideally be. It could be about initiating a change in culture at work. Or about conceptualizing and developing of a product.Maybe even about how you’d like your career or an important relationship to shape out in the long run. 

Once you can visualize that, then comes the simple part of chipping away the extra bits. Everything unnecessary that stands between how things are and how they should be. If you are not seeing the objective or destination first, you are not really going anywhere.

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