Business Math

Business Math

My favorite book is the Bible, but sometimes I enjoy reading business books. Many times, the books have taught me important principles that I was able to put to use in our operations here at HUB. Of course, there’s also been many times when I read a book that fascinated me at the time, but a year goes by and I forgot I even read it.

I was thinking about this the other day when I called to mind a book I read several years ago entitled Copy This, by Paul Orfalea. He is the guy behind Kinko’s Copies, a chain that he co-owned with a hodgepodge of partnerships that he managed to package up and sell to FedEx for a lot of money.

From what I remember about that book, Orfalea was a rule breaker and an independent thinker. Even though it’s been years since I read that book, one anecdote has always stuck with me.

He talked about the fateful decision to keep the copy stores open 24 hours a day. He fought tooth and nail to get one of his managers to try it out, and when they did, the results were so amazing that even the most independent-minded branches adopted the policy in short order.

The increase in revenue far exceeded the added overhead. But the most interesting part of the story was that hardly anyone came into the store during the new graveyard hours. The increased traffic was taking place during the hours they had always been open!

What? This makes absolutely no sense to a linear-minded thinker. Open your store during the hours when nobody wants to go there in order to increase the traffic during the hours that you had always been open? Why? How does that work?

The best answer I can think of is to think of customers as being always teetering on the fence, looking for reasons not to do something. One of those reasons could be: “I don’t know how late they are open. I don’t want to go there to find out they are closed.” If you take away that one reason (by never being closed), that’s one less excuse not to act. Net result: more traffic to your store.

I like that story because it’s a good illustration of the business rule that sometimes 1 + 1 equals 5. When you add human behavior into the equation, simple math can lose all its relevance. I’m not saying to fire your accountants; I’m saying to keep in mind that sometimes the difference between meager success and wild success comes down to a willingness to be innovative, intuitive and able to connect dots that nobody else seems to notice.


Speaking of books, I’ve recently reprinted my own business book called The Sailor’s Daughter. If you haven’t read it, let us know, and we’ll send you a copy for free!

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