“‘We publish a business magazine,’ I remember him telling me then, ‘and business journalists should get used to seeing what the numbers look like.’
“It was a revelation. Sure, as a business journalist, I was used to asking companies about their numbers, looking at earnings statements and SEC filings every now and then. But companies are usually doing whatever they can to put their best foot forward, even in their published numbers. A front-row seat on the finances of my own employer was a different matter entirely.
“The transparency made me both a better reporter and a better employee. I could see more clearly the real costs of running the business: how the cashflow cycles worked, how the different business units were related, and what was working — and what wasn’t — for our own products. That enabled me to ask better questions about why decisions were made — and sometimes to understand why big changes needed to happen, even if I didn’t like them.
“Financial transparency also made us a better company. An open dialogue about the company’s finances created an opportunity for us to understand the complexity of making decisions in a rapidly changing business environment. We also had more tools for thinking about how to improve our own business unit — and we actually thought about those things. Shortly after the first quarterly financial meeting, I remember developing a custom publishing project with my colleagues on the business team. We all knew that the company needed to find new revenue streams for the magazine business, and we were able to work together to preserve the editorial team’s independence while also looking for ways to create a sustainable model for future projects like this.”
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