Constructing a Compelling Math Story
Your math story is the driving narrative of your business, defining what you are attempting to build and how, with numbers attached. A good math story cuts through the window dressing attached to most business plans and homes in on issues and variables that should be kept front-of-mind. It connects your story line with your bottom line, setting your intended trajectory and identifying the factors most likely to impact it. Your math story is also a mechanism for bringing the best of your passion, what you care most deeply about, together with planning and logic in the right measure.
During D1’s explosive growth years, J. C. Faulkner often referred to his math story, which brought together the key elements of his vision, strategy, and business plan in a simple, coherent narrative. It served as a focusing mechanism and an anchor for every significant decision and action. “Even before launching, I spent a year fine-tuning my math story of what the new business would look like,” he said. “It’s like I did dress rehearsals for this new marriage for twelve months.”
As an added benefit, J. C.’s math story helped him skillfully recruit key team members, investors, and other partners. “The one thing that created trust,” he said, “was that people could see that I had a tremendous amount of confidence in what I was talking about. I had figured out the math story so well, and could explain it in such a logical fashion, people clearly understood why this business would be successful. The more they understood it, the more they wanted to be a part of it.” Like many entrepreneurs, J. C. is naturally optimistic, but his deep confidence in D1 came from rigorous preparation and immersion in the right numbers, an area in which he thinks many fellow founders fall short. “Everybody wants their idea to work,” he said. “And a lot of people try to sell their idea in vague terms, but they don’t take the time to ground it, to operationalize it. The more you can make it granular to the point where it’s irrefutable, or at least grounded in logic, the more people will get excited about it, both intellectually and emotionally.”
Constructing a useful math story involves bringing together interlocking puzzle pieces from two sides of a single coin. The first side is your core concept, the organizing logic and rough shape of the business you want to create. Tim Berry, whose 2008 book The Plan-As - You-Go Business Plan I highly recommend, likens this conceptual core to the heart of an artichoke. It is the centerpiece around which all of your key decisions and week-to-week tactics are attached.3 On the other side of the coin are financial keys that represent critical ratios or variables that will drive the early viability and health of your venture.