Numbers – Real, Make-Believe and Silly

Numbers are the fuel that runs business. They let you know when you’re on track and when you’re off track. They highlight areas of opportunity – and poten­tial black holes. They can even inspire and motivate.

But numbers can cripple too, or at the very least they can distract you and rob you of your enjoyment of your business.

‘Enjoyment’ is a crucial aspect of busi­ness-building because if, at the end of the day, the process is not satisfying, you’ll never put in the work required to make it really work.

Make-believe numbers


For years, people in the legitimate energy industry were scratching their heads over Enron’s numbers.  “How are they doing that? Why can’t we do that?” I’m sure Enron’s ‘success’ agitated many inferiority com­plexes and inspired a lot of boardroom screaming matches.

Then Enron’s chief executives were taken away in handcuffs. They were lying about their numbers.

We’ve got a bit of that in the Internet marketing guru world too.

It can range from things as simple as inflating the number of people on a tele-seminar to claiming sales figures and visitor numbers that bear no relation to reality.

Why do they do it? It’s easy. They want sales now and they don’t care how they get them.  Rather than earn a reputation by making real contributions and real accomplishments, they choose to steal one instead.

Silly numbers hurt too

You’ve seen the formula: “I made X dollars in just one (day, week, month!!!)”

I stay away from this myself. I report success stories in terms of repeating monthly or annual revenue, not one-time, ‘special circumstance’ sales spikes.

Person­ally, I am far more impressed by someone who is regularly bringing in $5,000 a month than someone who once made $50,000 in a day.  The $5,000 a month person has a solid base to build on.  The ‘$50,000 in a day’ windfall guy may or may not be able to repeat it.

Sure, windfalls and huge sales spikes are ‘cool.’ We should all work towards them and enjoy them fully when they take place, but real business is not a fireworks display.

Big pay ‘days’ are invariably the result of lots of behind-the-scenes work, taking care of business day in and day out, for months and years on end, not “magic” or “genius.”

I’ve said before that there is no Great Bean Counter in the sky who decides who can and who cannot make money and how much everyone is ‘allowed’ to make.

Money comes from ‘wiring.’  It’s a matter of put­ting attractive offers in front of receptive buyers and then delivering on your promises.

How to make that happen is really the only thing we should think about.  While we can learn much from the success of others, it’s NOT their reported numbers that is instructive, it’s the reality of what it took to generate those numbers.

Look behind the curtain. Don’t get dazzled by the stage show.

Take pride and satisfaction in your consistent daily efforts and ignore silly numbers.  The real numbers you’ll generate by building a real business will be far more interesting and satisfying – and maybe even bigger too.

**This article was originally published in 2005 and is now available along with fifty-six other articles in the book “The System Club Letters”

For more information:

– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.

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