When people set out to start their own business, they usually do so because they think that they can “make more money” with their own business than they can by working for someone else. The money, more than anything, drives them and money, more than anything is their way of defining success. Now don’t get me wrong, every business needs to make money and “how much can be reasonably expected” is a very important question. My point here is that this question might necessarily need to be answered after defining success.
The definition of success is so often the last consideration for new businesses. I think that this is true (at least it has been for me) because it is a way more complicated answer that just “how much money can I make.” Success is more than just deciding on a arbitrary “why” and takes time to work through. Defining success has to do with deciding what your life should look like and what you are willing to do (and not do) to get to that place.
In my view, defining success requires looking at life in three areas:
1. What makes you happy? For any business to be successful, it needs to be something that adds to your “happy factor.” To get up every morning and head out to do something that doesn’t make you happy is akin to poking yourself in the eye with a sharp stick! It’s not fun the first time you do it and it doesn’t get better with age! You may become dulled to the pain, but even that doesn’t make things better.
2. How will your business help your clients? When someone asks me what success looks like, I think about the faces of those who I helped buy their first house. The smile on their face as they walked through the door for the first time as owners is priceless. Success, in all businesses should look like that! A client/customer elated with what you have helped them do and their view of a brighter future because of your efforts on their behalf.
3. How will your business help make the world a better place? Whether you choose to donate to an existing cause or develop a system that allows new causes to get the place they deserve, society is only made better by businesses that care! In the early days of American capitalism, businesses (not government) were the engines of social change. They supported the needs of the under privileged and the needy. They supported the churches and religious institutions. They encouraged young entrepreneurs to showcase their talents. They realized that, as an old line from Star Trek said, “the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few.”
If you first define success by looking in, looking out, and then looking around, the money question will be much easier to answer. Then you will know for certain if you are building a business that counts!