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What the Statistics on this Pandemic Can Teach Us About Business

I'm a numbers guy, so it's hard for me not to keep an eye on the alarming statistics on the Coronavirus outbreak. Before I get into how this relates to your business, let's take a look at the numbers for this outbreak.

1,067,324 cases worldwide. That's a scary number.

Closed cases that had an outcome: 282,833. Of those, 56,794 died. That's a 20% death rate.

But there are currently 7.8 BILLION people on the planet. That's a nearly incomprehensibly massive number. To put it into perspective, if you met a million people a day and there were no more births or deaths, it would take you 7,800 days to meet everyone. That's over 21 years visiting with 12 new people a second.

If you take the number of cases or deaths and compare them to the total world population, it's an insignificant percentage. You've currently got about a 7 in 1 million chance of dying from the coronavirus, compared to the odds of dying in a car wreck, which is 1 in 103.

Exponential growth is what the professionals are scared of because it means we're doubling cases every few days, and doubling means 2 million, 4 million, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, a billion. It also means that left unchecked, our hospital systems will rapidly be overrun.

Total projected cases compared to hospital beds available is the key statistic that the government is using to make decisions at the moment, and I agree that we needed to do something drastic to slow this down.

But it won't continue doubling forever. Even the calculations which predicted we'd hit a million cases by the 30th that I made last week are inaccurate. It took two extra days to hit that number because the shutdowns are slowing this down.

So what does any of this have to do with business?

It is essential that you are looking at the right numbers for your business and not getting bogged down with things that don't matter.

For example, if you run an online site and are looking at total visits, those numbers are meaningless unless you are comparing them to another significant metric.

You could have a million visits a month to your site, but if no one buys anything, you don't have a business.

If you only look at your revenue, that number is meaningless as well without some additional information. You could have made a billion dollars, which looks fantastic from a revenue standpoint, but if you had two billion in costs, your business is in trouble.

Maybe you check the number of calls your sales reps are making. Activities produce results, so that's a good thought. But call volume is meaningless unless compared to the outcomes of those calls. I could make a million dials a day and immediately hang up, but that activity would have no positive impact on my business.

Think about your KPIs (key performance indicators). Can you make better decisions by looking at your numbers?

Can you see when Gary needs additional training? Or what actions your top performers are taking that your non-performers are not?

Do you know when to expand to new territories?

Those are the types of questions your data needs to answer.

Just like looking at the outbreak numbers in a vacuum, your statistics are meaningless if you don't look at other factors. If your statistics aren't serving a business need, it may be time to go back to the drawing board to find more meaningful stats.


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Don Smith

Don Smith is a business coach with decades of experience who helps owners and leaders achieve a better work-life balance while improving results. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois. To work with Don, please click here.