A new year lays before us. All bright and shiny. Full of promise and hope. A chance to re-assess our lives and, perhaps, set off in a new direction.
If we are to move forward with assurance, we must first evaluate what has passed before. I find small business owners are often extremely hard on themselves. As a Virtual Assistant, I have a tendency to feel I've not done enough. I think this is a problem common to most solo entrepreneurs. We grow restless in our self-evaluations and often focus on our mistakes rather then our successes.
How Do You Measure YOUR Success?
However, I feel a different problem is far more problematic. Most small business owners spent their formative years in a corporate environment. That environment set forth annually (and often even monthly) certain milestones which had to be met in order for the company to succeed. These measurements generally revolved around large numbers of billable hours, numbers of new clients and the monetary value of each of those clients, and perhaps even quantities of inventory sold. Goals and benchmarks were imposed. You either met (or exceeded) those stated milestones, or you found a different job.
As a solopreneur, those benchmarks hold little value. They are useless measurements in a business where the one and only commodity is you! Corporations measure in miles; solopreneurs measure in inches. To confuse the two is to set yourself up for failure.
This is not to say there is no value in the types of goals and numbers used by our corporate brothers and sisters. Whatever our product, if we do not put it in the hands of consumers, we have lost the battle. But we must recognize the differences in what we do and how we do it if we are to evaluate our efforts in a meaningful way.
What Is Unique About YOUR Business?
Most of our businesses are based on 1:1 relationships with our clients. For many of us, that is the very reason we left the corporate environment. As a small business, we provide clients a level of service and personal needs response which the corporate environment cannot offer. THIS is what we should be evaluating when we seek to determine our success in a prior year. Were we able to accommodate the needs of our clients in a reasonable amount of time? Were we able to meet their emergency requests? Were we available to trouble-shoot when they needed an answer right now?
Similarly, did we interact socially and professionally in a manner that produced positive new relationships? Did we follow-up earnestly on referrals. Did we exchange ideas with other solo professionals and willingly assist other struggling to succeed on their own?
It is so easy to view our success only in terms of the bottom line on a balance sheet. Dollars and cents success is always socially acceptable. However, for solopreneurs it is a false success and often leads to despair. I am convinced it is the largest reason many fail in their solo business attempts.
Granted, we must pay the bills --- which means earning money. I would be the last one to fault making money. But the true measure of our success as solopreneurs is not monetary. For each of us the benchmark of success will be different. Only you can determine what truly produces movement in your business. But until you make that determination, setting new goals is pointless. Just as wearing another's clothing often results in an ill fitting wardrobe, using a corporate measuring stick in evaluating the success of your business will result in inaccurate results.
Use The Right Measuring Stick!
Take time now to determine what is truly important to your business. Why did you start this business? What did you hope to accomplish when you headed down this path? Once you have those in front of you, you can establish a realistic game plan and goals for 2009. You will be more successful and far happier if you do your homework first. In the end, this is YOUR business. Run it on YOUR terms. And above all else --- use the right measuring stick!