Numbers: The Arch-Enemy of Feelings



I currently manage the entire music program for a global brand. As part of my duties, I am responsible for the direction of background music creation for over 30,000 tracks that are cycled monthly across our properties. These tracks are organized in playlists that fire throughout the day to support the experience of each venue. On occasion, we have customers complain that the music is wrong, they would rather hear “their” favorite tunes, etc.


… and this is where the fun starts.


In an experience-based business, employees can become overzealous in meeting the needs of each and every customer, and with that, they occasionally make a decision to impact one customer without thinking about the others in the group. This is where math helps us find an answer.


I was recently in a packed venue of 300 plus. I watched as one customer approached the host demanding they turn the music down “now.” I chose this time to sit back and watch what would unfold. The host turned down the music for this one customer and almost immediately the vibe died. Butts stopped moving in seats and people (including staff) who were dancing around stopped. I decided to step in and offered my take. I started by asking the host how many people were in the room, which was 300. I then explained that we just adjusted the music for less than 1% of the population. You could see the lightbulb go off in their head.


Unfortunately, this happens far too often. Especially in service-based businesses where we are bombarded with the famous “the customer is always right” mantra. In all honesty, that phrase should be “the customer(s) are always right.” Very few of us work in a 1-1 business. More often we work in a 1-many business. Adjusting your business or experience because one person screams the loudest is not a good course of action. Sure, you should weigh their opinion. Even share it with the team afterward for review. However, for every one person complaining. There is likely one who is happy, which was the case in my example where shortly afterward another customer walked up and asked us to turn the music up.


MBA’s – The Mad Scientists Behind the Scenes


I don’t think many get it.


I know I didn’t ten years ago.


Maybe it is because the “MBA” has lost its luster, and in some ways it has. However, for those who have successfully completed the program. We seem to understand just what an MBA entails and the knowledge it provides.


MBA students study leadership, operations, corporate social responsibility, project management,  international business, and marketing among other areas. All subjects you could pick up with a general Bachelor Degree. What sets the MBA, a graduate degree, apart from its predecessor is the depths to which MBA students dive into each subject. And, surprise, it’s not just reading, but a whole lotta’ math folks.


Much like traditional scientific studies, MBA’s collect and categorize information, create their thesis, and try to disprove said thesis through mathematical analysis that includes algebra, calculus, and plotting lines on a graph among other things. Through this information, the MBA trained mind can tell McDonald’s that if they lower the price of fries by 12¢ soft drink sales will rise by 4%. Teach Target leadership how to calculate the optimal order quantities to reduce overhead costs associated with held inventory. Or Amazon executives where to place the best distribution center in Europe based on mileage, load weight, product lead time, taxes and physical coordinates among other data points.


As a society, we like to celebrate great entrepreneurs like Jobs, Page, and Bezos. All are of the genius caliber and have become brand names in their own right. They created something from nothing and rose from the ashes just like any great movie plot, which is probably why we gravitate to their stories.  However, at some point, these great leaders needed to onboard people who understood the science behind doing business to complete the left brain/right brain development of their global entities. Perhaps more importantly, by bringing on leaders to “run their business,” these great minds were able to focus on creating new products, entering new markets, or even exploring their own blue ocean opportunities. As a result, their astonishing leadership skills and the scientific training of their top-level managers birthed dominant public brands.


Before I attended college, I was an entrepreneur. I learned everything from accounting, marketing, customer service, and management while also developing and delivering our products and services “in the trenches.” It wasn’t until nearly ten years later that I picked up my MBA. Every day I wonder just how much larger my brand would have been had I known this science behind doing business and how it could have helped predict, prepare, and position us for astonishing growth beyond what we already achieved.


At that time, like many, I was uneducated in the value of an MBA. The mad scientists behind the scenes of business.