What is success?

I was working with a business not that long ago, who anyone would have guessed (or assumed) that they would have the answer to everything. A long standing, larger firm, they appeared to be the epitome of a “belt and suspenders” kind of firm: a plan in place for everything. An answer for every issue. So as part of my usual discovery process, I asked the owner what their definition of success is for their firm.

Blank stare. <Pause.> <Pause.> <Pause.>

“Um, well, we’re in business. We don’t really discuss it much beyond that.”

This isn’t really all that uncommon. Business owners start as entrepreneurs; and entrepreneurs start off with a good idea for a business – not typically just business. Entrepreneurs are incredible people: they’re passionate about what it is they do.  Think about the innovators of industries – Dell, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Apple … they have a passion for something. Whether it’s Grandpa Nordstrom making shoes in the New World, or Michael Dell building computers from his college dorm room – it’s still a passion for what the business is about.

So it’s not all that surprising when the other aspects of actually RUNNING a business aren’t quite as much fun as the actual “doing” part of the business. Take me for example: I hate accounting.  Hate it. Nothing bores me more. Do I understand it? Sure (reluctantly at times to be truthful).  But do I want to do it? ARE YOU NUTS? No. I want to do what I love: marketing, research, strategy and planning.

So I hired someone to help me with the parts I don’t particularly think about, or even want to think about.

The same can be said for anyone. Innovators love what they do – but that doesn’t always include all the parts of business. Steve Jobs is a great example. We will always be affected by him and his incredible innovations. He was brilliant beyond belief. But have you ever asked a former Apple employee about the infamous elevator ride where an unsuspecting employee got on the elevator with Steve, who asked “So what have you done for the company?” and by the end of the elevator ride, the poor employee no longer had a job?

No one can possibly be great at everything. Even the GREATS – Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet — it doesn’t matter who you pick, there was something they weren’t great at.

So my advice: hire people who care as much as you do about the firm’s success – but are still brilliant at what they do – be it accounting, planning, research or just basic business management. – so you can do what you do best!

Action Plan:

  • What are you not good at? Are you putting off “doing” it because you don’t like it? Could this start to become a problem in your business?
  • Outsourcing is a scary word to many entrepreneurs. What’s holding you back from doing so if you know you’re not good at a particular area – and you know there are others who can do it better? What plan can you devise to help yourself overcome these feelings?
  • What additional steps might make you feel better about turning over parts – even small tasks – over to someone else in your business?

There you have it. Class dismissed. No grades or homework from anyone else but you – and the only grades that matter are the difference you make in the world and the number of commas and zeros on your bank balance.


Category: Organizational Management

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