Spreadsheet gut check: Talking about your business in the language of numbers

Jul 01 2013

I’m a journalist. I like to talk to people, record reactions and communicate in a language that a mass audience can understand. My stories tend to revolve around people, what they say, how they said it and why.

I don’t do spreadsheets.

Displaying everything in little charts and plugging in formulas scares me more than an interview with Lord Voldemort.

lord voldemort

And so when the NewsLing team sat down to talk about the revenue and costs of our business, I was very nervous.

Our fearless director, John Clark, quickly and magically set up an outline of what our business will look like in years one through five.

Already, a sense of reality was sinking in. Oh … this is serious.

Our cool idea has value. It needs to be given a price.

So we threw a number out.

For broadcasters to subscribe to our translation service and the mobile platform we’re building, we would charge them $5,000 a month. And it would break down like this.

spreadsheet of costs

All of the sudden the language of numbers was making sense. The math in the spreadsheet wasn’t scary and intimidating; it was translating to me how our product could be a business that gets off the ground and hopefully grows.

After this personal epiphany, I got excited and paid close attention to how numbers would go up.

And the year-by-year breakdown looked like this.






Then we looked at cost. The price that we set had to cover costs of employees and technical fees. That is just to break even. Oh boy.

Based on the research we had done on the average rate for translations and our own experiments on how long it takes to do the whole process, we came up with the following cost breakdown.

We would employ three translators and pay them for the script translation, pre-show recording and live translating of each broadcast. Each translator would receive a base salary of $40,000.

Based on these numbers, we would already be in debt by the first year. Yikes.


My palms got sweaty and it seemed like our little idea was dead before it had a chance. The language of numbers was not saying nice things.

But we did learn something very, very, very important. We now know what our costs are and what we will need to make to cover those costs. We can talk the numbers talk.

Our next step is analyzing what our customer, the broadcasters, are willing to pay.

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