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How a Whiteboard Put Me in the Black Comments

The secret I learned at 15 that helped me succeed in business in my thirties.

  • By Justine Lackey
  • December 17, 2013

financial model

I vividly remember my very first retail job at 15, for a major pharmacy chain. After sitting through hours of corporate training videos that made my head explode, I then had to endure the daily “whiteboard pep talk.” The whiteboard was located in a windowless, drab break room, which meant you couldn’t avoid seeing it during your shift. On it were the revenue goals for the week and the month, how much the team was over and under and which team member had the most accurate register tallies for the month. The numbers mattered, and the managers made sure we knew it. I hated that board for reasons that are still unclear to me.

Fast forward about 17 years, after giving birth to my children and scaling back my small bookkeeping business to raise my little ones, I came back with gusto ready to expand my company, hire a team and start my empire. That piddly retail job back in my teens was pretty much my only experience with corporations, but I was certain they had nothing to teach me. After all, my mission was to work with artists, creative service professionals, entrepreneurs who just made things happen. I, for sure, didn’t want a whiteboard in my office. That wasn’t my brand; that wasn’t me. I wasn’t “corporate” — the very word made me shudder.

Except something wasn’t computing: My numbers weren’t reflecting what I wanted them to. Because of my own inability to craft serious financial goals and map out how to achieve them, I fell short of my revenue goals, not once, not twice, but five years in a row. I started to think that maybe those big corporations were onto something.

Last year I created my own version of that whiteboard, except mine was white, blue, pink, yellow and green (thank you Post-it notes!). I had an annual sales goal, and I knew how much I had to make every single day in order to achieve it. If I fell short, I had to hustle and engage in another round of marketing to find a new client, a new project or a new consulting gig to make up the difference. I kept myself in check. I knew my daily and monthly sales totals. I knew how January of this year compared to January of last year — and April and October and every month in between.

All this work paid off. This year, thanks to my new-and-improved whiteboard, I smashed my own glass ceiling and blew that goal, the same goal I had missed every year prior, by 19 percent. And that was just as of November. I don’t even have my full revenue totals for December yet.

What’s my secret? Simple math, good bookkeeping, commitment and flexibility. And you can do it too.

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