PSU Insight

The Importance of "Running the Numbers"

Develop Estimates and Guesses

If you don’t have (or can’t get) reliable numbers, then you need to perform an estimate. Simply put, an estimate is where you develop new numbers from other numbers.

Let’s say you want to do a postcard mailing campaign, but before you start, you want to know if it’s worthwhile doing. You’ve never done it before, so you don’t have your own past experience to draw from; and you can’t get reliable numbers from your friends and associates. What can you do?

You may not have done a postcard mailing before, but maybe you’ve sent a sales-letter. (Or maybe a friend or associate has done it.) Based on those numbers, you can estimate how your postcard mailing will do.

Estimates aren’t as reliable as hard data, but they’re pretty good. Base your estimate on data that’s as close as possible to what you’re attempting to predict.

Of course, sometimes you can’t even develop an estimate. In that case, you need to guess! (Sometimes called a “guesstimate” — making a guesstimate sounds more reliable, but it’s still a guess.)

Now some people look down their noses at guesses. And while I agree that hard data or a reliable estimate is preferable to guessing, the plain truth is — guessing is better than not guessing.

Sadly, that tends to be the number-one reason why people don’t “run the numbers” — they say they didn’t have any numbers to run.

Doing a project without running the numbers — even using bad numbers — is flying blind. It’s just asking for trouble.

Of course, there are good guesses and bad guesses. And good guesses beat bad guesses. So if you’re forced to guess, make as good a guess as you possibly can.

But don’t be afraid of guessing! I repeat — a bad guess is better than no guess at all!

(This sounds pretty basic, but I’ve encountered so many speakers who refused to “guess” because it might make them appear foolish. Wrong! If you can’t develop your numbers any other way, the foolish thing to do is not to guess!)