In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Mark Hurd, the Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard was asked to recall the best advice he every received. Mr. Hurd tells a great story of listening to a presentation where someone was trying to get his boss at the time to invest in a deal. At the conclusion of the presentation, his boss said, “Great presentation. Great slides. Very nice delivery. Good story. But it’s hard to look smart with bad numbers.” That one comment over twenty years ago has stayed with Mark Hurd and has been a signpost for his career, which has obviously been very successful.
The reality is this: There is just no way to disguise poor performance if you know how to read and understand the numbers, I don’t care how good the story is. The problem most people have is they don’t understand the numbers and so they continue to deliver poor performance.
A couple of weeks ago, Sandi and I were in Italy on vacation. While we were in Florence, we decided to rest our weary feet, drink a cup of coffee and people watch. We picked a spot on a piazza and ordered our coffee. Across the square from us was a carousel with hobby horses. A long line of people were queued up for a ride. After a few minutes, I turned to Sandi and said, “See that carousel? That reminds me of most people’s lives. They go up and down, up and down… always in a circle. There is a lot of movement, but no real progress. Most people end up right back where they started.”
When you stop to think about it, it’s true. If you think that a higher financial performance is possible for you or your business, wouldn’t it make sense that you would need to learn new strategies, skills and tools to be able to deliver those results? If you don’t learn the skills and tools, you will end up right back where you started.
Bottom line: Mark Hurd said, “Deliver good numbers and you will earn the right for people to listen to you!”
Keith J. Cunningham