Success. We may not all have aspirations to become multi-millionaires, or run our businesses from tropical islands in the style of Richard Branson, but success is something that we all aspire to, in one way or another. But how do we know when we’ve achieved it? At what point can we describe ourselves as ‘successful’ entrepreneurs? That’s a really big question, and to answer it, we first need to think about how to define success. We need to know what success looks like for us.
What does success mean?
Before we start to look at that though, we need to have a starting point. We need to know, in general terms, what ‘success’ actually means. Oxford Languages, the provider of Google’s English dictionary, gives us three meanings:
- “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose”
- “The attainment of fame, wealth or social status”
- “The good or bad outcome of an undertaking”
When you think about it, these three definitions are quite different, so which one of these resonates the most to you? For me, the third one is too ‘black or white’. It also implies the potential for failure, which goes against my belief that there is no such thing. So for the purposes of this blog, we’ll discount that one too. That brings us on to number two. For some people, this will really ring true, but I personally am not driven by being ‘known’ or by money, so again, for the purposes of this blog, we’ll discount it.
This leaves us with “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. And it’s there that we’ll start on our discussion of how to define success when you run a business.
How to define success when you run a business
Despite what I’ve said above, even “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” is not a cut and dried answer. Particularly if the “aim or purpose” is to run your own business. If this is your objective, then once could argue that you are ‘successful’ when you have launched that business! So then, as entrepreneurs, what should we be thinking about? What else goes into a definition of success?
This is a strange place to start, given that I mention above that I personally am not driven by money. But despite that, it’s an important place to start. Why? Because if we aren’t making money, our businesses can’t survive. The question therefore becomes whether your business is making enough – both to survive, and to allow you to thrive. This doesn’t mean millions necessarily – just the level of income that is ‘enough’ for you and your family to live the kind of life that you want.
Another question when we’re defining the success of our businesses is whether we feel satisfied by what we’re doing. Do we actually enjoy what we do? Do we find personal satisfaction and fulfilment in the day to day delivery of our businesses? Does the thought of a days work make you look forward to getting up in the morning? When we create a business that we love, we do so having successfully found our passion and turned into a job that we love.
Your Why. This is your primary reason for wanting to run your own business in the first place. The question is therefore, whether running your business allows you to deliver on that why. In my case, I wanted to run my own business to give me the flexibility I need to be there for my daughter. Yes, I work evenings a lot. But the trade off is that I do every school run, and I have never missed an event that my daughter is involved in. In a nutshell, I’ve been successful in creating a business that allows me to work in a way that works for me and my family.
4. Personal development
This fourth factor in how to define success might not be one for everyone, but it’s an important one for me. When we work for someone else, our personal development in a work context is often fairly restricted to the confines of the role for which we’re employed. But when we work for ourselves, the opportunities for personal development are endless. And I personally feel that my ‘success’ grows every time I take an opportunity to learn something new that I wouldn’t have been able to in any other role.
I rather like this quote from George Sheehan:
Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.George Sheehan
For me, success isn’t even about the end goal. Or about ticking boxes to say something has been ‘done’. For me, success is about the journey. The things I’ve learned along the way. The progress that I have made and will continue to make. It’s about being the best person I can be, and making sure that my life and work makes a difference to others. If I can keep making progress towards being the person I believe I was meant to be, then I will be successful.
What does success mean to you?
Now that you’ve had some insight into what success means to me, it’s over to you! It’s easy to be distracted by other people’s definitions of success – money, status and so on – so listen to yourself and your own thoughts. Think about what success means to you and your family. And remember that we are all different, so no two definitions of success will be the same. Whatever is right for you, is the right answer.
But just as importantly, when you’re seeking to define your own success, make sure you quiet your inner critic as well. Acknowledge your big dreams and make plans to chase after them. There is no reason, as far as I can see, why you can’t achieve them!
And don’t forget, if you need a little help defining what success means to you, why not get in touch?