The One Thing to do Before You Start Your Business

When entrepreneurs get an idea, we often charge ahead to start working on it as soon as possible. The problem with this is that you will never know when you’ve reached your goal, your personal level of success.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “success” as: “Success | suc • ces | \sək-’ses\ | noun: the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect or fame.”

Researchers at Strayer University think this definition of success is ridiculous and are petitioning to have it changed to: “Happiness derived from good relationships, and achieving personal goals.”

I would say I have to agree with them. Wealth, respect and fame may be the way some people measure their success, but it's definitely not what we all think.  If we can achieve our own personal goals, that sounds like a pretty successful life to me!

The one thing you have to do before you start planning your business is to define your personal goals - own measure of success.  

Having a clear idea of when you have achieved success is important for a few reasons:

  1. It helps you make decisions each day in your business that are aligned with that you really want long term, which make saying yes or no to people a helluva lot easier.
  2. If this idea fails, but you have a bigger goal to work towards then you will be less attached to the solution and more invested in solving a problem, so have a greater potential to succeed.
  3. It helps you know when it’s time to take your foot off the pedal and re-assess the direction of your business (growth, product or process focus).
  4. It lets you celebrate when things are going well.

In the startup world there is a lot of pressure from the media to chase the big investment, get funding, build a unicorn (million dollar companies), fail fast, get back up fast, grow fast!  But you need to figure out what level of work/life balance suits you now. Often, having children changes your priorities in a big way - I know it did for me!

I have two little girls - 2 and 4 years old, and the things that once drove me in my investment banking career no longer give me that ‘push’. What drives me now is being able to use my brain for half the day and then be there for my kids, relaxing and enjoying them in the afternoons.  I have set myself a mid-term goal to achieve a home-based, flexible, part on-line business until the year that my youngest starts school, which is in 2018.

So, in 2018 I know I am taking a big step back and re-evaluating my definition of success and redesign my measure of success, because I have a feeling that that will change once both my girls are in school. Then, again when they’re in secondary school. And again when they are finished school. And again….and again.. and again.  

To define your measure of success, you need to: 

  1. Have a purpose. Having a group of people you want to help, having a real problem in the world you want to improve. These are the things that drive you every day when things get tough and you feel like giving up. Some people call it your passion - what is it that will make you stay up late to finish a piece of work? What will make you keep creating when people aren't buying? What will make you stay on course to help those people or solve that problem?
  2. Define a metric to measure.  Will you have succeeded when you have earned a certain amount of money? Signed up a certain number of people for your service? Got a certain number of eBook downloads?

For me, my passion is to help other mums who have a business idea but aren’t sure of the steps to take to get it started.  And my metric is the number of mums reading my blog.

For now, my measure of success is reaching 10,000 mums on my blog by the end of 2017, while being able to make every school run.

It’s a not a huge audacious goal, but it helps me make decisions every day on which ideas to pursue now and which to delay for 2 years when I’ll have more time.  

I want to start an accelerator program for parents, I want to create a co-working space with childcare, I want to start a crowd-funding platform for mums in the UK. I still can do all that, but I can’t necessarily do it all right now and get to see my kids!

What’s your definition of success at this stage of your life?

Please write yours in the comments below, I'd love to know!