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.
Say you’re a newly minted entrepreneur who is shooting for her first six-figure year. First, figure out how many days in a year are available to make money. Most people will assume that number is 365, but, realistically, there are only about 250 business days that most of us make money: five-day work weeks multiplied by 50 weeks in a year (that is only accounting for two weeks off, which is pretty much the major holidays, a couple of sick days and not including a vacation). If we take a $100,000 revenue goal and divide it by 50 weeks, you must make $400 a day in order to hit your goal. (Even if you have big projects in the thousands mixed in with smaller projects that earn you hundreds, you can — must — still use this model.)
I have learned to break down — and achieve — other goals in the same way: I am currently launching a new consulting business designed to help entrepreneurs get things done (versus training them to do it themselves). There are a lot of pieces to put together: e-commerce, copy, hiring a web designer, brand consulting, new professional photos, a social media campaign, sourcing team members. I have a list of each major milestone that needs to be completed in order to reach the goal, and those milestones each have an individual to-do list of tasks that I either need to delegate or do myself. Working in this way is meticulous, clear and measurable.
Another piece of determining revenue goals is to make sure you’re incorporating “running your business” into those numbers. If you are a solopreneur, only a portion of your day is billable time. The rest, you spend marketing yourself, blogging, networking, handling administrative work and pitching and closing sales. If you need to generate $400 a day to hit your $100,000 revenue mark, but only half of your eight-hour day is billable, you need to charge at least $100 an hour for your services.
Prior to this year, I worked mostly on a retainer model that, frankly, wasn’t working. After logging my hours (and my team’s) in a professional time-tracking software, I realized many projects were taking far longer than I had anticipated in my original sales pitches. I either renegotiated with my clients to work on an hourly basis, getting paid for all the minutes worked, or ended (sometimes painfully) client relationships that were costing me money versus being profitable.
So this year, instead of making a New Year’s resolution, create a New Year’s revenue goal. Break it down. Know your numbers. They aren’t scary if you make friends and get to know them. In fact, they just might help you blow through your revenue goal by 19 percent.