Let me make a case here for why everyone is getting business success wrong. By the end you should have a clearer idea of what business success really is.
You started a business to be happier
Why did you start a business? Or why are you considering it now?
Is it to have a number on a piece of paper? No, of course not. You want a successful business for one reason and one reason only; it will allow you to spend more time in the happy emotions, and less time in unhappy emotions.
On the diagram below, you want to spend more time in the green emotions, and less in the red.
Why is that?
Well, if you look at the emotions within the green section, you can see such gems as energetic, excited, content, joyful, interested, proud, confident, respected, creative and optimistic. Who doesn’t want a life filled with these kinds of emotions?
And on the negative side you have embarrasement, disappointment, powerlessness, disapproval, ridicule, furious, jealous, threat, weakness, anxiety and overwhelm. Who doesn’t want a life with less of those?!
What was it that triggered you to start?
Possibly you started a business because you were unhappy with your current job and thought you could do better, or unsatisfied day to day with how you were living your life.
Whatever it was, something felt wrong. You knew that you were spending too much time in these red negative emotions, although you might not have consciously realised that.
How can you find business success then?
Within the business world, there’s a general feeling that business success means financial success.
Brian Tracy says this in his article on the subject “What is the purpose of a business? Many people think that the purpose of a business is to earn a profit, but they are wrong. The true purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer” and “The key measure of business success is customer satisfaction”.
I call BS on this.
The key measure of business success is happiness for the business owner!
Define business success for yourself
Now, it may be that financial success in business leads to happiness for some people. If you’re fairly materialistic and “like nice things”, then that’s the definition for you, but everyone is missing the key point here: it’s for the business owner to define business success for them.
If you are creating a business plan, that should be the starting point – the end goal should be some kind of happiness that is important to you.
As a business coach I see people all of the time who have bought into someone else’s vision of business success: “You must grow by 20% each year” or whatever. Well, what if you’re happy where you are? What if you don’t want to grow 20% this year? What if you want to have more family time?
Coaching to the rescue!
So, a portion of the business coaching I do is life coaching because mature businesses have lost their way and the business owners are now unhappy, stressed, overwhelmed, lacking in motivation, uncertain of what to do and unwilling to give themselves permission to change.
That doesn’t sound like business success to me! That sounds like business hell!
Savvy business success
Before you start a business, in my opinion, you should always have a good idea of what you want to get from it. Do you want:
- To feel more free?
- To be more connected to people?
- To be more creative?
- To provide for your family?
- To buy more stuff?
- To be more secure now and later in life?
- To enjoy the excitement of starting something new?
- To put in huge amounts of hard work?
- To demonstrate that you are capable of this?
- .. something else?
This is the start of business success; achieving that core goal – what you really want from a business.
If you want more freedom, and your business means you can’t travel, you’ll become more unhappy and you might as well work towards a well paying job that gives you increased freedom because at least you can leave the office and feel completely free for a while.
These are the true success factors in business, because that’re what you – the business owner – really wants. That can be on the only definition of business success. If you don’t achieve what you really want, you’ve been unsuccessful.
Don’t allow yourself to get pulled into someone else’s definition of success. It’s irrelevant to you.
How about small business success?
Some business owners want to continue to grow their business into an empire, but not everyone wants this, and that’s OK.
Many small business owners want to have a business with just 2 or 3 people, or maybe up to 10 or 20, and stop there. That’s totally fine. Sometimes these would be considered lifestyle businesses, but not always. They can still be “run of the mill” businesses, but the key element for the business owner might be that they don’t want the stress of becoming a CEO who deals with a board.
If that’s what you want – if that’s what will make you happy – they’re perfectly OK.
How about financial success?
Well, yes, you’ll have to have an element of this, so let’s talk a bit about what makes financial success and increased profits more likely.
First off, you’re unlikely to be financially successful in the long term if you’re unhappy. You’ll become demotivated and stressed and your business may flounder. Now, instead, you might be able to find enough financial success in the early days as you grow a business that you can sell it and retire or move onto your next venture.
Or, you can hire a CEO with the management skills and ability to cultivate employee satisfaction that you lack, when you’ve had enough of the day to day running of your business. You can then go back to doing what you love without worrying about all of that stuff. Maybe you’re not the right person for this, and that’s OK too.
Or, you can hire accountants and VA’s who can do some of the running for you.
Where I agree with Brian is that, if we’re looking at financial success, customer satisfaction is almost always essential. Happiness is almost never achieved when you have poor cash flow, or complaints about poor customer service, so while happiness for you is the goal, you do have to turn your business idea into a fully functioning company. You will have to be successful in marketing, and that requires market research. You’ll likely need brand awareness and certainly a sales system that works.
But then we have to loop back round to a happy business owner, because if you’re doing the wrong work day to day and you’re unhappy, and you’re servicing the wrong customers because you feel desperate and lacking in confidence, you’ll struggle. You’ll find business failure pretty quickly this way!
So, however we look at it, even through the lens of financial success, you – the business owner – has to be happy and content.
How can you bring yourself happiness so that your business will be successful?
Well, it’s a little known fact that when we’re unhappy when our needs in life are not being met.
What are our needs?
Well, they are the elements of our lives that are non-negotiables. I mentioned a few which you may have above. If you want to determine what your needs in life are, I have an exercise which I can run through with you. It’ll help you understand yourself in more detail and you’ll be able to design a business that give you the life and happiness which you want.
You can also ask yourself “when in my life was I most happy?”. This might give you some hints about what needs were being met at that point in your life, and allow you to discover what’s really important to you.
Do what makes you happy
The most important tip for business success then is to do what makes you happy and comfortable in the different phases of your business.
If you’re happy and comfortable, you’ll be successful – and you’ll be more likely to stick with it, which will make you more financially successful too.
If you’re unhappy, you’re unlikely to ever be successful, by any definition of the word.