Measuring and defining success

After more than 10 years in consulting, I’ve gone through a lot of goal-setting exercises. Some of those goals included:

  • planning a consulting business
  • graduating from an entrepreneurship program
  • getting my first client
  • achieving part-time success
  • leaving my full-time job
  • making more than I did in my full-time job
  • securing my first "Fortune 500" client
  • moving into new business areas
  • teaching at the college level
  • establishing recurring revenue
  • subcontracting work
  • and so on.

However, no matter what my successes, I’m tempted to look at my revenues. It’s my biggest vice. I know there are a million ways to measure success, but I always end up looking at my financial statements.

Do you share my challenge? How do you manage it?  

I think it’s totally logical to look at revenues when measuring success, especially when running your own business that you’ve started from scratch. It serves as a very tangible and clear reality check for where you’ve been, where you are going and how you’ve been able to get there and separates you from more personal aspects of your goals because dollar amounts are objective and straight forward. I think it’s important to track and analyze profits and revenue (just as you would any other part of your planned goals) to make sure you know exactly WHY your numbers are lower or higher at a given moment. You may find that the reasons for lower profits are not your fault – a bad market, a major catastrophe with a client that was beyond your control, a natural disaster, etc. – at which point, you can feel better about it and figure out exactly how to move forward. So, I don’t think there is anything wrong with looking at numbers. I think the most important thing is to spend equal time analyzing all aspects of your goals to get a full picture and not get hung up on one particular area.