It its simplest terms, success can be defined as accomplishing a goal. Many individuals define success as achieving a certain annual salary or a certain amount invested. How often do you see headlines on reputable business and investment websites telling you how to become a millionaire by age 30 or how to increase your annual income? These headlines must appeal to a lot of people. Otherwise, you would not see them so often.
As a small business owner, there are many things to consider when you think about success. First of all, why limit yourself to a strict dollar amount? Any goal that you set needs to consider all aspects of your life. Do not focus solely on your business. If you do, you run the risk of forgetting why you became a small business owner in the first place. Suddenly, spending more time with your family or taking that dream vacation gets pushed aside in order to meet arbitrary fiscal goals.
Where do you want to be in three years?
A better way for you to define success is to envision your future self. You want to envision yourself far enough in the future to have time to accomplish something meaningful. I personally think three years is a good timeframe, but you may want to shorten or lengthen the timeframe depending on your personal circumstances. Just do not give yourself too much time. I definitely would not look more than 10 years in the future.
Once your timeframe is set, start casting your vision. Here are some guidelines for you to follow:
- Envision both your personal and business life. You do not want to sacrifice one for the other. And you need to be very aware of how your personal and business life interact. A small change in one aspect of your life could drastically change another part of your life.
- Be realistic. Chances are, you are not going to be cruising the Bahamas in your own private yacht.
- Be specific. Set an absolute target that you can measure. Don’t envision more sales. Envision $3 million in sales. Don’t envision having more time to do what you really want to do. Envision a 40-hour work week.
- Commit your vision to pen and paper. This is actually the hardest part for me. I spend a lot of time thinking about my personal and professional life, but very little time committing my thoughts to paper. Make the commitment. And keep a copy handy to regularly look at.
What is necessary to get where you want to go?
Got your vision set? Good. Now, what is it going to take to get there? Again, be realistic.
For your business life, do you foresee increases in sales? Then you need to consider everything that needs to happen to help fuel that sales growth. You will need to consider infrastructure to support the increased sales. How many employees will be needed to achieve the growth?
You also have to consider the effects on you as the business owner. Is this growth going to contribute to the bottom line and increase your rate of return on your investment in the company? Are you going to have a short-term decline in profitability in order to fuel long-term business growth?
For your personal life, do you envision having more time at home? If your vision for your business will require you to work longer hours, then maybe you will need to revise that. Perhaps you can still meet this goal by hiring more employees. But maybe that will shortchange your compensation goals. If so, then you may have to start over.
Change is inevitable
Regardless of your vision of success, it is important to consider that most any vision will require a certain amount of individual change on your part. If it does not, then perhaps you are not adequately challenging yourself. Or maybe you really have achieved your success.
Think about the crystal merchant in “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. One evening, after the crystal shop was closed, the crystal merchant and Santiago were discussing expanding the crystal shop by selling tea in the crystal on a hilltop near the shop. The merchant told Santiago, “I don’t want to change anything, because I don’t know how to deal with change. I’m used to the way I am.” The merchant was afraid of the change. But ultimately, the merchant relented and allowed Santiago to expand the shop. The expansion was successful and two more employees were hired.
Change is inevitable. So is fear. Don’t let your fear of change keep you from your success.