What does success look like

Your Business Hub is 5 years old !  But is it a success?

I was at our gorgeous new co working space  SiGNAL yesterday and Nyree Forster, founder of The Painted Desk, popped in to look at potential workshop space for hire. We got chatting and I discovered that she had made a really interesting transition from the world of corporate PR to the world of creative small business. The Painted Desk, located at Farnham’s Packhouse, teaches people how to upcycle old furniture using chalkpaint, amongst other things. It was clear that Nyree had really embraced her craft and built a large community of followers. I thought her story was a good one so I asked her ‘would you come and do a talk for the Bordon Hub about your journey as an entrepreneur’? ’ She said not yet because she didn’t yet feel like a ‘proper business’. I asked why and she said that even though she had been up and running officially for 4  years and had been showing profit for four of those years, she felt that her business wasn’t quite grown up. Why? Because although well known on Instagram, she didn’t yet have a proper website.

I thought this was an interesting insight into how we define our own worth and and our perception of our own success. Success is usually what is just out of reach – so we continue to believe we are unsuccessful. This is why it is so important to define success for yourself and write it down. Especially for us small business owners who have no one else measuring our success!!  If ‘success’ or ‘being a real business person’ is having a fully functioning website, then write that down. Along with anything else that you think would signify your success. Because I bet that when you get that website up and running, you still won’t feel like you have made it, because you’ll find some other signifier that is still just out of your reach, like a bigger website, a member of staff, a premises, or an award.

My first business The Farnham Hub (now called Your Local Business Hub) is five years old today. And instead of one Hub, it is  now three Hubs, soon to be four. Hurrah! We have a proper office now, and a great team. Does making it this far mean I feel successful? Of course not. I feel most days like I am making a complete hash of things. (I probably am – the stuff that works is mainly down to my team!) But that aside, how have my achievements stacked up against what I set out to do 5 years ago?

I took a look back at my first attempt at ‘what does success look like for you’ that I wrote 5 years ago at the time of starting my business.

Here’s what I wrote:

Doing work I enjoy every day (tick)

Being challenged by my work and learning continuously (tick)

Only working with people I like and admire (tick)

Financial independence – not reliant on anything or anyone (tick)

Enough money so that I don’t have to check my bank account every time I want to buy something nice for me or the kids (tick)

Work that is flexible and allows me to be there in the mornings to drop off and then to pick up (Tick – I pick up twice a week and drop off every morning)

A cleaner (tick)

A piano. (tick)

That was it. No big turnover goals,  no ambitions to change the world or work a 2 day work week (that came later).

So by my standards of five years ago my life is a roaring success! I shall try and spend the day remembering that and rewarding myself for the immense amount of hard work that has gone in to achieving those goals. Especially financial independence. The business now supports me and the three kids with some to spare and that is huge.

Of course, as you achieve your goals they disappear and you invent bigger ones. In fact I would now measure my success by the impact of the business on others rather than on me. So my definition of business success now is twenty franchisees supporting 2000 small businesses, all profits invested in a microlending organisation  to finance developing business in developing countries and a well established and profitable coworking space (or two). Five years ago it hadn’t even occurred to me that any of these things might be possible. I just wanted  make my own living doing something I loved and believed in.

Of course I still wake up every morning thinking ‘Crap, there’s still so much to do and I’m behind with everything!’ It’s hard to feel successful. I think perhaps those who appear most successful are the ones who feel it least because they set their expectations of themselves so high.

What do you think? Have you defined success for you and your business?





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