You Don’t Need To Be A Creative Genius

“There are three ingredients in the good life — learning, earning, and yearning.” – Christopher Morley

I had lunch with JS today. JS owns and runs a very successful business in South Florida. He sells medium- and discount-priced jewelry directly to customers and through the catalogs of some very large and well-known chain stores.

When I last had lunch with JS, about six years ago, his business was doing about $50 million annually. Today, it is over $140 million, and very profitable. He built his business through hard work and by paying attention to his customers. He credits his current success to a database marketing program that he developed gradually over several years, one piece at a time, testing theories and retesting again and again.

“I’m no genius,” he told me, “and I’m not creative. What I do is look at the numbers and try to understand what they tell me.”

For JS, the numbers are customer-response results: how much and how often certain groups of customers buy. By ignoring common sense and following the numbers, JS has been able to almost triple his business while many of his competitors have closed their doors.

“Sometimes, I feel like I’m the only one left,” he confided with a smile.

JS is a completely likeable guy. He is full of energy, views life optimistically, and is always eager to make a deal. He sponsors all kinds of programs for children and spends weekends drinking, eating, and fishing. “Or just eating and drinking when it rains.”

I know many of JS’s former competitors — the guys who were unable to make their businesses prosper and grow. Some of them are very bright guys. Several were very wealthy. But while they tried and failed at all kinds of creative ventures, JS stuck to what he knew and kept his mind focused on the numbers.

We all like to come up with the creative breakthrough. But over the long haul, the quotidian work is what makes the difference. JS focuses on the numbers. You should too. Every business has a few numbers that are more important than any others. (See Message #364, “Sometimes Success Is a Matter of Numbers.”) To enjoy the kind of success JS now enjoys, you don’t have to be a creative genius. Just figure out which numbers are important in your business and attend to them.