I’ll let you in on a little secret.
If you ever want to wind my Dad up, just find an opportunity to say, “You know what happens when you assume? It makes an ass out of you and me.”
It’s fairly safe to assume (see what I did there) that we have all heard/said this at one point or another; and most likely it was after an assumption back-fired in someone’s face. If you assume incorrectly, it is very easy to become discouraged and question your ability to make accurate assumptions. But as my Dad will quickly point out: in order to accomplish anything, we have to assume.
Granted, we cannot base our actions solely on our assumptions. Facts need to play a role in our actions, but many times an assumption gets the ball rolling.
When my wife and I are assessing a property as an investment there are several factors that come into play: some factual, some not. We have to assume what our monthly rent would be, given our knowledge of areas and market trends, comparable rentals and current vacancy rates. We make allowances (assumed) for vacancies, maintenance, utilities and improvements. This helps us assess whether a property will provide a positive monthly cash flow and act as a sound investment.
When a company builds their budget for a fiscal year, there are countless assumptions that are required. Previous year reports are broken down and analyzed, only to be evaluated and extrapolated (based on surprise, surprise: assumptions) into a new goal. Factors such as upcoming projects, recurring contracts, head count additions, ongoing operating costs, sales targets, etc. all need to be considered in order to construct a target for future performance.
In sales, we often prospect based on vertical markets or by industry. We use our own historical successes and assume similar customers can benefit from similar solutions. If my product or solution requires me to speak with a Plant Supervisor with one particular organization, it would be safe to assume I would talk to someone in a parallel position when dealing with another similar prospect. We get our foot in the door based on an assumption.
Although I could continue with examples, the reality is that we need to assume because the future is unpredictable. Assumptions based on past experiences are the closest we can come to predicting what’s ahead.
As a result, and like my Dad before me, I will continue to make an ass out of myself.