What is Success to You?

What do we believe about success? What does success mean to you?

We all know fame and money do not equal success or happiness, yet we have a hard time putting that belief into practice. Vanity metrics abound. Countless people publish their income reports every month online. Twitter follower numbers are readily available on any profile. Alexa tells us where we stand in the popularity contest of the internet.

Whether your idea of success is to be able to vacation whenever you like or to simply support your family, there are basic things you can do to make sure your business is able to meet your goals.

Understand what success means to you

You’re a small business owner and maybe you’re a one-person company and you’re single. Maybe you’re an independent consultant with a large family to support…like me. Maybe you have 20 employees and you’re looking to expand. At any rate and whatever your situation is, you likely have some vision of what it means to be successful. What it means to you to ‘live a rich life.’ What is it?

Is it to take vacations whenever you want not having to worry about the expense? Maybe it’s just knowing you can buy a book at the local bookstore that you’ve been wanting without needed to check your account balance first. Maybe it’s not caring so much about late customer payments because you continually have enough business and money in the bank to always cover your expenses no matter what.

What is your vision?

Your vision is the picture you hold in your mind of the way you want your life to feel in the future.

It’s helpful to break long term vision into the component areas of your life so that as time passes, you can evaluate your vision through each different lens:

  1. Career – what you do for work and vocation
  2. Financial – what role do wealth and money play in your life
  3. Physical – physical health and wellbeing
  4. Relationships – what do you want your family and friend relationships to look like
  5. Spiritual – are you religious or have some kind of practice to connect you to a higher sense of meaning
  6. Mental – learning and mental health
  7. Adventure – the things that get you outside of your everyday routines and comfort zones

These buckets can help you paint an overarching picture of what you want life to look like in the future. The less you focus on specific accomplishments, the better at this stage. Goals are about the accomplishment, while vision is about how you want to feel. Try writing down a list of how you want to feel in each of these areas of your life 5, 10, and 25 years in the future.

Once you have a mission on paper, your values honed in, and a vision for the different areas of your life, it’s time to tackle the other half of the equation: your current reality.

Short term vs long term success

We all measure these things a bit differently depending on what we’ve always been used to, how we were raised, and what’s important to us now. T

One of the hardest things to do is to balance your (and your family’s) short-term needs with your long-term wants. There’s still the reality of needing to make a living and support your loved ones in the short term. That has to be balanced against the grand visions of success you have for the long-term.

That’s not an argument against defining your own success, it’s an argument for patience while doing it.

You should realize that it might completely derail all of your business plans. That might mean you need to take a step back get a job and run your business as a sideline temporarily, or do whatever is necessary to take care of your family in the short-term. In exchange, you’ll make sure you don’t end up hating your life just because you thought you wanted to build a million dollar business or climb the corporate ladder

Consider your values

Values are the 3–7 words or phrases that represent the way you want to live your life and make decisions.

To define them, you can brainstorm a large list of words or phrases that fit the criteria of how you lead your life and how you make decisions. Over time, try them on for size and narrow them down to a small list that makes up the core of how you live. Less is more in defining your values. The fewer you have, the more meaning in each one.

At the end of each year, you can ask a few questions about your values:

  • Did you live your life according to your values this year?
  • If not, do they still reflect the kind of life you want to be leading?
  • If yes, then what should you be doing differently to make them that way?
  • If not, then how should you redefine or change them to make them more like the life you imagine?

Your values are like a compass that constantly challenge you with the question, “Am I living my life in a way that reflects these ideals?”

For example, let’s say community is one of your values. You should consistently ask: am I living my life in a way that fosters community for me and others? And your systems, habits, and goals should reflect that as well.

Business strategies that foster success

Once you’ve defined success for yourself, consider what steps you can take in your business to help achieve the success you envision. Here are three business strategies to help you be a success and maximize your profitability.

Recession proof your business

This is a tough one. It’s easy to state, but hard to follow. There are three ways you can recession proof your business and they are all difficult. First, be the very best at what you do and your customers will likely stay with you even when the economy is bad or prices are high. Second, offer something people need but can’t find or that has little competition. But it must still be a need…or a guilty pleasure. Otherwise, you could be offering the only chocolate flavored broccoli around but if no one wants it, you still won’t be successful. And third, offer something that people will always buy. There are only a few of these categories in terms of products or services. Jimmy Vaccaro, the betting analyst (yes, I live in Las Vegas) once said it was gambling and pizza. No matter how poor people are, there will always be a market for betting and pizza. If you can find that niche (I don’t recommend the gambling niche though), then you’ll likely be fine… but good luck with that.

Be careful on pricing specials

I do periodically lower prices to obtain new clients… running specials to draw in those potential clients who have been on the fence for months or possible to reach a new market where my offering hasn’t been tried yet. But keep in mind, once you give client ‘x’ that low price, it will be nearly impossible to raise it back up again. To them, you’ll always be set at price ‘y’ now and if you raise your price on them, they’ll start looking for another business to provide your service or product to them. If you want to obtain success or stay successful, be very mindful of your pricing policies and the discounts that you are thinking about giving away. I’m not saying ‘never do it’ because it’s a great way to bring in new clients that you would not have otherwise obtained, but know how much you need to make to be profitable and stay true to that.

Provide excellent service

Finally, never let up on the customer service factor. It doesn’t matter if you’re the cheapest in your market or the most expensive. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best or maybe the only provider of your service or product in the area or entire market. Even if you think you’re customer needs you more than you need them, always, always, ALWAYS treat them like you need them very much and want their business above all else. Your customer needs to know that they are important to you and that you are serving them to the best of your ability. If you start to lose that perspective, the success that you are experiencing may be fleeting.

For further reading: 11 rules for succeeding in your own business

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