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Business: Bottom Line Is Usually Below You
Dewey Defeats Truman? Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Poll: Profits Flying Off the Chart
You hear it said most often in connection with businesses and budgets: The idea may be good, but you've got to look at the bottom line.
The world of business is proficient at coming up with pithy little adages that seem to justify whatever it is they want to do: "Business is business," "The customer is always right," "What's good for General Motors is good for the country."
But if you're reading the bottom line you'd better be attentive. It's not always what the bottom line shows that counts; sometimes it's what the bottom line doesn't show.
Polls Scientifically Accurate
Take polls for instance: polls these days are very scientific. They are taken under precise mathematical formulas that take into account all of the variables and, if the formula is faithfully followed, you come up with a margin of error of just a few percentage points.
Faithfully following the mathematical formula, however, is not always easy, and can be expensive. It takes purpose, skill and determination to put the numbers together without straying from the goal of achieving truly random numbers.
Interpreting Polls Vital to Success
Even if the poll is successful, the correct interpretation of its results is essential. Often, the simple results of polls are widely misinterpreted, and can sometimes lead to disastrous consequences.
We're probably most familiar with political polls which find one candidate or another as the "favorite" in the upcoming election. But, while pollsters are usually careful to point out that the results merely show a single point of time, the public often takes the results to heart -- and may even be swayed to vote for the candidate who appears to be most popular.
Led Down the Primrose Path
Similarly, the consumer who looks at the "bottom line" when buying cheaper napkins or an off-brand of ketchup may be led down the primrose path.
A restaurant owner, or chef, who uses inferior products to save "on the bottom line" is in the same soup.
Such decisions are usually, if not always, shortsighted.
When the napkins fail to do the job they're designed to do, and when the cheaper ketchup ruins a fine dinner, the so-called bottom line savings loses its luster.
Looking for a Scapegoat
And when the restaurant owner begins to see more and more empty tables, he may rethink that bottom line savings; unfortunately, he often doesn't like to admit his error and looks instead for a convenient scapegoat.
Offsetting the adages of business are the laws of finance and physics. For instance, the economic law of supply and demand that keeps our financial markets on an even keel, and the laws of physics that say for every action there is a corresponding and equal reaction -- and the old standby of the stock market: What goes up must come down.
The next time you're tempted to look at the bottom line, give the idea a second thought. Don't forget to take into account the subtle, but often critical, affects of any variation in the bottom line.
Take your eyes off the bottom line and look up and smell the roses. Don't take the low road, take the high road.
Lift your sights a little higher; you may find the bottom line is, as it should be, below you.
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on April 6, 1996. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.