How to determine if your business is a “success”

“Success” is among the most overused words when it comes to talking about business. I’m guilty of using this word. But I’ve come to realize that using the word “success” to measure or describe our business puts a lot of pressure on us to achieve certain things, and if we don’t, we feel like we failed in some way.

canstockphoto17476617How we define success is personal and yet too often we compare ourselves to others, whether it be in our business or personal lives, to measure our success.

It reminds me of the time I went to the hardware store and asked for a gallon of white paint. You would think that would be easy. I had no idea there were so many shades of white (or gray for that matter). Similarly, there are many “shades” when it comes to defining success, and a lot of gray areas.

People go into business for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes it’s to do something we love and get paid for it. For others it’s the desire for flexibility. Some have full-time jobs and operate part-time businesses to make extra money. Others go into business for themselves because they live in an area with limited job opportunities and self-employment is the only option.

Others start businesses in their retirement years as a way to keep busy and pay some bills. Others go into business with the intent to make a lot of money and create jobs for others.

But money is not the only way to measure whether a business is successful.

Take my sister, for example. She had a job as a grant writer and fundraiser for an organization and it paid well. When two children came along, she wanted to spend less time at the office and more time with them. She wanted to continue to work — but desired more flexibility.

She left her job and went into business for herself, working from home as a freelance grant writer. She traded in a stable income and benefits for less money and more time with her kids. Today, those kids are grown and she is now back working for someone else.

Her business served a purpose and met her needs and priorities at a particular time in her life. That was a successful business for her.

Before you start a business, you need to ask yourself why you are doing it and how you will define your success. Then, as your life and business change, be sure to constantly check in to see if your business is still providing you with what you need.

Do you feel “successful”? If not, ask yourself why and then make adjustments to your business or consider letting it go.

When people choose to sell a business or shut it down, it may not because the business isn’t doing well. It may be because they just don’t want to do it any longer. The business fulfilled a purpose and now it’s time to move on. There is nothing wrong with that!

Choosing to close or sell your business is not failing. Everything has an expiration date. It’s best to let it go before it gets sour and spoiled.

I’ve seen many people hang on to businesses for too long because of pride. Sadly, the business can suffer greatly if the owner has lost the passion for it and what once was a viable business can become a failing one.

If you hope to sell your business or pass it on to the next generation, it’s better to exit the stage while things are going well and before you’ve lost interest.

So take a moment and write down how you will define what success means for you and your business. Remember: It’s your business and you are the only one who can determine what success looks like for you!

Deb Neuman

About Deb Neuman

Deb thinks Maine is a great place to do business and loves telling the stories of Mainers proving that it can be done! An entrepreneur at heart, she enjoys helping others with the same drive to create and innovate!