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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

Three Nuns

The policeman stopped a slowly moving car. As he walked up to the window, he saw it had three nuns, one driving and two in the rear seat, shaking uncontrollably. When the driver rolled down the window, the officer said “Sister, I’m sorry, but when you drive this slowly you create a road hazard, especially when someone behind you comes around a blind corner. You must get up to speed.”

“But,” the driver protested, “I was going the speed limit,” pointing to the sign off the shoulder that said “Route 15.” The officer replied, “That’s not the speed limit, that’s the road number. The speed limit here is 45.”

He turned to the two women still shaking uncontrollably in the back seat. “Don’t worry, sisters. I can see it’s all a harmless misunderstanding and I am not going to arrest you.” “Thank Goodness,” said one of the nuns. “We just got off Route 175.”

As you can see from the nun’s example, not knowing what the numbers actually mean can get us in trouble, big trouble – this is especially true when it comes to business. Knowing what the numbers mean is critical.

Numbers are a basic principle of business – before you can build anything you have to determine the practicality and viability of what you want to create. Knowing the numbers and what they mean are the key way to help you turn your dreams for business success into reality. Numbers show you the market opportunity and growth potential.

After your business is established, the dependence on numbers continues. It is vital to know how much revenue you need to keep your business growing — or at least afloat. By committing these numbers to paper, your chances of succeeding are helped by anticipating future needs, spending, profits and cash flow. It also may let you spot problems before they mushroom, so that you can switch gears.

Conversely, if you don’t have the discipline to sit down and assemble the numbers, you will not have the insight you need to get to where you want to go. It is very much like trying to find a new address without a map or directions. I know there have been plenty of jokes and stories about men being too proud to stop and ask for directions. I guess I am the exception, because it does not bother me to ask someone for help. Perhaps it is because I was in sales before cell phones, GPS and OnStar (I’ve been lost far too many times).

It is time for Tama County to quit aimlessly driving our economy around lost and stop and ask for directions. Where do we get the numbers roadmap to understand where we are going?  I mentioned it a couple weeks ago – Iowa State University has an economic development tool called CD-DIAL. It would collect information from ALL the communities within Tama County by conducting surveys through mail, online and telephone. After gathering the data the ISU team analyzes the data, writes the report, and presents the results.

We all need to learn from the nun’s brush with the law. Not knowing what the numbers actually mean can get us in trouble, and knowing what the numbers mean will be the map we need to successfully grow our economy.

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