Starting a business takes guts; it's a huge leap of faith. You are vulnerable, you are putting it all on the line, and it is hard to be tough with your 'asks' in those first few years when everything is so fluid.
As we know, facts provide insight. Most small businesses begin with an idea and passion, and yet only one in ten businesses grow revenues over 1 million. Much has been said about why, but from my experience, the most often overlooked tool for business health and longevity is accountability. Defined by Merriam-Webster as, "an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions," accountability must be maintained for both oneself and others.
To maintain my own accountability, and that of everyone in my company, I follow these 3 steps:
Plan for success.
The biggest question in life and in business is always the hardest - what do I really want? Once that question is answered, the 'how' becomes much easier. In my experience, using a phased approach has been the most effective way to hold ourselves accountable.
For instance, if Phase One works, we move on to Phase Two. Breaking larger goals into smaller phases makes it easier to see what works and what does not so the course can be corrected as needed. My own CEO Coach just reminded me yesterday after we fell short of a sales goal that you can't always control the results, but you can control the activity - and activity drives results. Sure enough, when I further investigated, I learned that we had trusted but not verified the activity.
It was true when it was only my own success, and it is still true now that this success includes 45 others.
Plan carefrontational conversations.
Once you have defined what it is you want to achieve, and have broken it down into measurable and specific phases, make recurring appointments to have a candid conversation with yourself.
If you are not making progress, be sure to address the cause and articulate one or two examples that illustrate the behavior you need in order to change what contributed to the lack of progress. It is important to describe your emotions around it, clarify what is at stake and determine what you will do to solve the problem or alter the behavior that is standing between you and success. Maybe you are missing the education, skill or tools needed. That is all reparable. Your own mental barriers are the hardest to overcome. Honest, specific and positive self-examination will help.
Celebrate that you are one step closer to your goals if you are making progress. Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you, that with each step you make, the universe realigns to present you with new challenges that you will need to face in order to grow your business.
Inspect what you expect.
How you address underperformance says as much about you as it does the person not meeting expectations, even if that person is you.
Trusting others is always a good idea, but it is critical for success to inspect what you expect.
Mistakes happen, but underperformance is a pattern. If you catch it early, and have that fierce conversation at the first sign of trouble, you will have spent zero time worrying about it, and 100% of your energy getting back on track. Making your expectations crystal clear is the only way to be fair to yourself and others - whether they are volunteering family or paid employees. No matter the case, they will see that you are a true leader who cares about their success. For perspective, I make a habit of reminding myself that time is really our most important resource. Wouldn't you like to ensure that those who are helping you are properly incentivized to make the most out of it? Make it about their success too, not solely yours.
When things do not get done, remind yourself that you will always get the behavior you are willing to tolerate. Everything starts and ends with you as the leader.
Here is to your continued success, with your new silent partner, accountability.