April 23, 2020
Today, we are talking to Justine Lackey. Justine is the founder of Good Cents Bookkeeping – an entirely virtual business with a team of 13 with a good majority of her team being other moms. As Chief Wealth Officer of Good Cents Bookkeeping, Justine has had the privilege to work with many talented people across a wide spectrum of industries. Her clients include artists & art dealers, social media and digital marketing stars, designers, fashion royalty, coaches, consultants, creative agencies, midwives, nonprofits, and even hedge funds. The variety and depth of Justine’s experiences as an entrepreneur have granted her an incredible array of business acumen–skills which she now uses as a money educator, consultant, and media contributor.
Today we talk with Justine all about cultivating a work environment that allows freedom and flexibility for your team, how to approach money as a single woman or young mom, and she goes in depth on a topic she calls “Time Freedom” which is a concept she uses heavily within her team as well as her own life. Time Freedom is essentially molding your job around your life and not vice versa. Chatting about that led us to talk more about work/life balance, and even how to find your dream job if you’re currently working a job you HATE.
This episode is packed solid with tangible takeaways for the young mom, new entrepreneur, and seasoned entrepreneur looking to build a team and create a team environment that cultivates quality employee AND client experiences.
Justine was 19 when she moved to Brooklyn, back when it wasn’t hipster heaven. She was incredibly involved in the arts and club scene. One of her friends had a freelance graphic design business and asked Justine if she knew how to work Quickbooks. She began to do all of her friend’s accounting. At the time, it was really the rise of the internet and the start of the gig economy. Before then, you didn’t really see subcontractors or freelancers.
One friend referred her to another and so on. Before she knew it, Justine was working all over New York City and was tucked under the wing of an accounting firm that still to this day deals with most of the major artists and art galleries in New York City. Justine became the firm’s go to girl.
This was how she began her business. She started when she was 21 and when she was 27 and about to have her first baby she transitioned into virtual bookkeeping. Keep in mind that this was in 2001 and people were just starting to use online banking.
Justine started bookkeeping from home and this was the birth of time freedom. It allowed her to be at home with her newborn while still working. Justine had her second baby in 2005 and they did the second baby bounce to the suburbs. Justine now lives 45 minutes north of New York City.
When her second son started preschool, she got a commercial office lease and hired her first employee. Now they have a team of 9 on the bookkeeping side and a team of 4 on the marketing side. They are leaders in the virtual bookkeeping space. Justine is an early adopter. At their office they are totally tech centric in order to provide services across the country.
Justine went from working for herself to all of a sudden having to hire and manage people. Most people’s trajectory is that they work for a corporation and then they open their own business.
Justine knew a lot about bookkeeping, but nothing about running a business. At the time, she was involved in the parent teacher association. She decided to reply all to an email and let them know she had employment opportunities. Where Justine lives, there are many women who are college graduates or even have post secondary degrees who leave their full time jobs in New York in order to spend more time with their family.
Justine provides them an opportunity to still stay relevant in their field and be home to get their kids off the bus.
It was very intentional. There are a lot of pros and cons in working in the art and fashion world of New York City. Justine experienced a lot of challenging work environments in her early 20s and creating a place where someone would never get yelled at or fired because they had to pick up their kids from school or someone got sick was so important to Justine.
Justine has a term, “ the atmosphere of excellence”. This is not just for her clients but she wants her employees to be in a place of excellence.
It sounds so cliche, but it’s true. The days are long but the years are short. You have a very limited time to be with your young children. Justine really tries to design her life and work environment for her employees where that is the exception to the rule.
Part of it is spiritual and personal development, and the other part is financial. People who are really ambitious have a tendency to be perfectionists. Justine definitely has a strong streak of perfectionism. It’s so important to give yourself grace. People make mistakes. You’ve got to feel it to heal it, and then get over it and learn from it. Look at it and figure out how you can do better and avoid that mistake in the future.
Financially speaking, that direct transfer from your checking account to your savings account is really important. Do this as early as possible. Make sure you have savings if you are single and if you decide to marry and become a parent you have that money aside to let you take the time.
Get a life insurance plan. Life insurance is similar to any other insurance policy and is based on risk. When you are really young, the risk of you dying is really low. The younger you are, the cheaper you are. If you have a kid, you absolutely need to get life insurance.
No matter who you are, these are universal principles. The economic reality and irrefutable academic evidence is that there is a cost of motherhood. The reason for this is very simple. When you are working and on salary you are contributing to your medicare and social security accounts, so the minute you pull out from the labor pool, you are pulled out of that economic system. This isn’t even touching the economic cost and opportunity cost. When you have a gap on your resume it is harder to get employed. This is why staying employed, even part time, as a mom is so important if you want to go back in the workforce.
There was an economic thesis, turned book, called The Price of Motherhood that goes into the economics of how women are impacted financially by motherhood.
There are several apps Justine and her team use everyday. Harvest is a time tracking app that her team as well as clients use for time tracking as well as invoicing. Even if you are not billing hourly but still have a team, Justine recommends using this to help figure out your profitability.
G Suite is incredibly critical. Justine’s company front faces for a lot of clients meaning that they are an outsourced accountant department. For example, if Justine was doing the accounting for the Heart and Hustle Podcast, there could be an email address associated with that. This way, any students, clients, etc. would be able to recognize that address and they would never know it’s an outsourced department.
Zoom is another app that their team uses all the time. It has been a complete gamechanger. Screen sharing technology has come so far. Justine hops on zoom calls all the time with clients to review financial boards. This allows them to see everything in real time and have a visual explanation. When you talk about math, or even email about math, it is so hard to explain it. It’s simplified when you can do this live on the call.
Every Tuesday, Justine’s team has weekly Zoom meetings. When you are virtual, it can be hard to build community and keep it going. Spending a half hour or hour each week with your team is so important. It’s a space where you can talk about things, do service acknowledgements, birthdays, and even talk shop. What happens, is you have a knowledge pool spread out across nine people as opposed to operating in an echo chamber by yourself.
Quickbooks online has a QBOA which is Quickbooks Online Accountant version.
Lastly, sometimes the best technology is the lowest technology. Communicate with people. This may mean getting on the phone and talking. Sometimes the best tech is low tech.
Sometimes you roll out things in your business, and they just don’t work. You have to listen to your team. Cut your losses and move on.
At some point, somebody asked Justine what she valued most about being an entrepreneur. Her answer was time freedom. She loves being able to do what she wants, when she wants.
She has the option of picking her child up from school, working out in the morning or the evening. Time freedom is really about being able to craft your schedule and having 100% control of your time.
One of the interview questions to work on Justine’s team is “What is your dream job?” If their dream job or dream environment does not align with the values of her company, she knows that person won’t be a great fit. There are a ton of things her team can accommodate: if you want to head in to work at 10am so you can work out in the morning, if you need to be home by 2:30 to grab your kid off the bus, or if you need a flexible schedule to work around your doctor appointments.
When people don’t feel like they have autonomy in their lives, they feel trapped. When they feel trapped, they feel unhappy. When you have unhappy people working for you, you are going to have unhappy clients.
It’s an ecosystem.
We have several phrases in our collective vocabulary that may need to be reexamined or retired. The first is “don’t quit.” Actually, sometimes you go down an avenue and you actually do need to quit. The second is “the customer is always right.” While you always want to provide an atmosphere of excellence, the customer is not always right. That saying gives people a blank check to act badly. It’s so important to listen to your intuition.
Sometimes clients will cost you more emotionally, spiritually, and physically than the revenue they will actually bring into your company.
Justine’s industry is specific. It can be really hard to find good people, and once you find them it can be hard to retain them. Justine has been able to develop a lot of loyalty with her employees, which has directly impacted her ability to retain her clients. From a bottom line perspective, this is huge.
Two years ago Justine took an intentional sabbatical for 30 days. Justine’s business is now on autopilot and she has the capability to do this.
Because of time freedom Justine has been able to be a class parent for several years.
Justine has the freedom to work when she wants and also spend time with her family when she wants.
Many times over her career, Justine has had to talk clients down off the ledge because they go looking for a specific number. We are told that it is so black and white and there should be a balance. The truth of the matter is it’s not so black and white.
There are seasons. Right now, in Justine’s busy season, her scales are tipped. She does not have the bandwidth to give her family her all right now because if she did her business would shut down.
It is such a huge disservice to parents to go after work-life balance. You are going after this thing that really isn’t attainable. Generally speaking, you can have a general balance. You should know that when those scales tip one way or the other, it is okay.
In certain weeks, seasons, days, you may have to give more time to your business, but this allows you in other seasons to focus more on your family.
Justine adores the people who follow their passion. We need the passion pushers. Justine’s father once told her, you have to find something in life that is tolerable. If you can find something that you can do every day and it’s okay. That’s good. A lot of people hate their jobs.
The “aha” moment for Justine in bookkeeping is when she is able to save her client a ton of money and they are able to buy a house. That’s the beauty of it. But, the day to day process of bookkeeping is just “okay”.
Sometimes you don’t have to put the pressure to find your purpose or calling. That in and of itself can cause so much pressure and anxiety that people stay in the job they hate.
When you are good at something, even if it may not light you up, that feels really good. Find something you are decent at, and make sure it is tolerable. Don’t follow your passion, follow opportunity. Follow a skill you can utilize.
You have to find a skill and perfect it. It’s all about skill building.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
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