By Rob Driscoll
When at age 14 I placed third in the Southern Alberta region in a national math competition, I started to realize that I was pretty good with numbers.
Around the same time, I learned that using numbers to my advantage would allow me to have my pi and eat it, too. For example, when sizing up value in ordering pizza, I could quickly use good ol’ pi-r-squared to figure out the surface area of my favoured ham-and-pineapple pie.
As a cheapskate with an enormous appetite, maximizing value in such matters was critical.
For example, if a 10″ pizza costs $10, rounding pi down to 3 and multiplying by the squared 5″ radius (25), I could determine that there are roughly 75 square inches of deliciousness – about 13 cents per square inch.
If the 12″ pizza — 3(6 x 6) = 108 square inches — costs $15, my forensic CSI (cost/square inch) investigation, would reveal that the bigger slice of pie, at closer to 14 cents per square inch, was no killer of a deal.
Two small pizzas, please!
As my university career drew to an end, my penchant for playing the numbers parlayed into paternal parlance. The one thing I wanted above all became apparent: to become a parent.
I wanted to have four or five children (my math went haywire at some point and I ended up with seven kids with ex-wife Karen), so I needed to approach a LOT of women to find one willing to help this amateur become a pro at creation.
I reasoned that if I approached 2,000 beautiful women over my time at university and struck out 90% of the time, I would have dated 200 gorgeous women. Those are “figures” that just about everyone other than the late Wilt Chamberlain and my Christian parents (for entirely different reasons) would appreciate. Surely, one out of 200 would be able to handle my delivery plan.
Shortly before graduating, I got reacquainted with Karen, with whom I competed on the Bishop Carroll High School high-jump team seven years earlier. Coincidentally, she did not mind setting the bar high when it came to jumping into parenthood.
Meanwhile, aiming for a career in sports journalism, I sent my resume to every daily newspaper in Western Canada. The numbers game worked again, this time producing the dream job of sports editor (and writer and photographer and wire editor) of the Whitehorse Star in the Yukon.
My two-year journey into the wild was fruitful in many ways as we promptly went forth and multiplied our family size by two. We brought Nicholas and little sister Angela back to Calgary in late 1993 with no jobs, mounting bills and not realizing that jobs were not easy to come by in a struggling economy.
I picked up a job with Sun Media Corp. and did a little freelancing on the side, but the income was not enough to keep up with steadily growing family expenses.
I decided to focus more on the corporate consulting world, where the average pay per hour was about triple what I made working for newspapers.
I founded Versatile Corporate Communications and went to work on a list of the 200 largest companies in Alberta that I picked up from Calgary Economic Development.
Utilizing my carbon-copy dating methodology, if I approached 200 companies and experienced rejection 90% of the time, I would wind up with 20 customers and more than enough work to pay the bills.
However, I did not get past #23 on the list because I had too much work on my plate from the top companies.
My point is that playing the numbers game can indeed be a potent marketing tool, be it for the benefit of your business or your personal life. How else would I have found a lovely young woman named Amie willing to spend the past seven years living with a quirky entrepreneur with seven children?
I continue to work the numbers as the publisher of Business Edge News Magazine, having sold close to $20 million in advertising, growing circulation from 20,000 to 158,000 and enduring two ownership changes over 12 years . . . and, as president of Versatile, helping other companies generate business through strong communication strategies and exceptional marketing material.