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22 Entrepreneurs Explain What Success Means in Entrepreneurship

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When defining success as an entrepreneur, it’s a fact that there are no shortcuts to how it can be achieved. It differs with the phase you are in and the goals you’ve set to achieve. Some will say the number of employees in a company is the real measure of success while others will say it’s the impact you achieve. It’s clear the definition of success varies and is determined by various factors.

We asked entrepreneurs and business owners their definition of success and below are the responses they had.

#1- Building relationships

Photo Credit: Laurel Egan Kenny

One way I define success in entrepreneurship is through knowing who your friends and supporters are, and knowing when to sever ties. I am a strong believer in building relationships, but occasionally, some of those relationships have unexpectedly led to attempted exploitation. The most recent example was a former coworker asking me to send her my training materials so she could ‘use them as a guide’ as she develops a training  program. Meanwhile, I had bid on business at the same organization and was told that training was not in the budget. I also had an associate who used our company materials to develop a training program for his new employer, and one other time a former employee claimed to be a partner in our organization. That said, on the bright side, these are isolated incidents. I have built many more positive working relationships than negative, and a full 100% of my business has been built this way. This type of knowledge has been crucial to my success.

Thanks to Laurel Egan Kenny, Turningpoint Communications!

#2- Striking work-life balance

Photo Credit: Ameet Khabra

I think success in entrepreneurship is being able to find that elusive work life balance. When you own your own business, it’s easy for work to take over your life. I think most entrepreneurs will echo this sentiment. While I know that myself, and many others are more than happy to make that commitment, the idea of having a life outside of my business is tempting. I have the sense that when I’m finally in the position to take a step back from my business, and allow it to run itself, I will know that I’ve truly made it.

Thanks to Ameet Khabra, Hopskipmedia!

#3- Thriving ideas

Photo Credit: Andrei Vasilescu

As an entrepreneur, you must pull out different innovative ideas from beneath your cuffs to reach certain goals in your business among which some do the trick as expected and some fail to do so. In my point of view, success is when you see most of your ideas have worked as you expected or exceeded your expectation and eventually produced the ultimately desired result of any entrepreneurship – healthy revenue.

Thanks to Andrei Vasilescu, DontPayFull!

#4- Four things

Photo Credit: Kevin Tucker

I would define success as having built a company that enriches the lives of both our clients and our staff, while also leaving a positive impact on the community and our planet. Any one of these four things would be an achievement in its own right, but if you can achieve all four, that is true success. By focusing relentlessly on our people, our clients, our community and our environment, we have achieved all of the typical rewards associated with business success. Our growth in revenue and profit over time is simply a measure of having done the other four things well.

Thanks to Kevin Tucker, SOLitude Lake Management!

#5- Its determined by the entrepreneur

Photo Credit: Stephen Alred Jr.

On the surface-level, success is staying in business, but it’s also quality of life. If you work 100 hours a week and make $30,000 a year, that wouldn’t be successful to me. However, if you work 25 hours a week, and make $30,000 a year, and live on a beach in Koh Phangen island in Thailand….that would be pretty successful to a lot of people.

Thanks to Stephen Alred Jr., KnowCap IO!

#6-Ability to define what I do

Photo Credit: Tim Brown

Besides the very clear physical aspects of success (a revenue goal in the next 5-7 years), I define ongoing success as an entrepreneur – as the ability to define what I do with my time. I also define it as how I’m able to drive my business in the direction of what I want do, rather than what the economics of the situation demand. When I can enjoy the journey (though it’s sometimes painful, it always feels worthwhile), while it stretches me to new levels of growth.

Thanks to Tim Brown, Hook Agency!

#7- Great customer satisfaction

Photo Credit: Sue Duris

I define success as when you have a strong product-market fit that your prospects get you, buy from you, keep buying from you and advocate for you. Customer retention, loyalty and advocacy is where companies grow. And all of this comes from being customer-centric and providing a consistent customer experience that people expect from you which starts from before awareness and through advocacy. In fact, CB Insights conducted a survey of CEO’s whose businesses failed and reported that 53% of respondents said that failure either was due to lack of product-market fit or not taking care of the customer. Your customers are how you survive and thrive. You need to care take of them. Know what motivates them, what pains them, what their business outcomes are. Once you know this and develop products and content that resonate with them, they’ll trust you enough to buy from you and keep buying from you. That’s success.

Thanks to Sue Duris, M4 Communications, Inc.!

#8- Various ways

Photo Credit: Nate Masterson

As an entrepreneur, I measure my success in a variety of ways. Of course, the prosperity and advancement of my business is of great significance to me. Firstly, it allows for financial stability for myself and my employees. It is also meaningful to me to know that the products and services which my business provides are serving a need and making a difference in the lives of our customers. I also measure my success by my company’s relationship with local communities. Actions such as hiring local workers and contributing to neighborhood charities are a way for my business to do good and give back. I believe that the ultimate success for a company is progressing financially and using that success to help others.

Thanks to Nate Masterson, Maple Holistics!

#9- It’s the same as personal success

Photo Credit: Brenda DiBari

Success in entrepreneurship is no different from success as a human being. It’s embracing resilience, accountability and open-minded problem-solving. It’s freeing yourself from the boxed set of rules of others, to unleashing the unique skillset you bring to the world. It’s deciding your own destiny and being able to live a life that matters to you. It’s working on something that resonates within you so that the 7 day work week required to be an entrepreneur doesn’t feel like work, but rather a manifestation of who you are in this world. As a woman in business it means providing for myself (which in and of itself is empowering) and in succeeding, I am demonstrating to my children that through their own hard work and vision, they can make a meaningful and satisfying contribution to the world.

Thanks to Brenda DiBari, Halstead Real Estate!

#10- When the risk of your investment pays off

Photo Credit: Erin Paruszewski

As an entrepreneur, you are the one who takes all the risk and puts in all the work. There is no guarantee that any of this effort will result in success. When you work for someone else, the parameters of payoff are clear—you put in time and effort that is exchanged for an agreed upon reimbursement. As a business owner when you take great risks, there is the potential for even greater rewards, but the potential for devastating failure is there also. Success comes when the passion for what you do along with careful planning and risk-taking returns the opportunity to live the life you want to live.

Thanks to Erin Paruszewski, Alkalign Studios!

#11- It’s about how it makes me feel

Photo Credit: Cyrus Webb

For me the idea of success has definitely shifted from what I have to how it makes me feel. In 2005 I left the comforts of a career in hotel management to pursue my own media company. It was difficult the first couple of years to really stand out, but what kept me going and inspired was the fact that I was doing work that I loved and people were seeing the value in it. Fast forward to 2018 I am recognized not just for my work in media but as a social media influencer that has been able to push other brands and help them reach their own goals. That’s all the success I need.

Thanks to Cyrus Webb, Conversations Media Group!

#12- Success as a business owner comes when you gain financial freedom

Photo Credit: Julia Carlson

Being an entrepreneur is not a get rich quick scheme, it takes hard work and dedication, and success is not a sure thing. I counted myself successful when I was able to achieve financial freedom. This means different things to different people, but for me it means that I can make choices for myself and my family based on our dreams and desires, instead of financial constraints. When you have financial freedom, you can enjoy your life today, not just because your finances are stable, but because you have freedom of time as well.

Thanks to Julia Carlson, Financial Freedom Wealth Management Group!

#13- Creating a total shift for the better

Photo Credit: Bennett Washabaugh

The ultimate definition of entrepreneurial success is creating a company that legitimately improves the well being of everything and everyone it touches. Entrepreneurial success comes when your customer, who once had painful experiences, walks away from using your product or service with a smile on his or her face. It comes when your employees, who work tirelessly to achieve a shared vision, go home at night fulfilled and ecstatic to tell their family or friends how excited they are about the importance of what are building. Making money is one thing but creating a total shift in the way an industry operates (for the better) is the pinnacle of entrepreneurial success.

Thanks to Bennett Washabaugh, TenantBase!

#14- Success differs with the different phases

Photo Credit: Tatiana Bonneau

I think every entrepreneur goes through phases of defining and redefining success. When you are starting out just the fact that you have got into doing something and working on an idea/project of your own feels like a win already. Then you get into doubting everything, comparing yourself to everyone who is richer, bigger, more famous, has more views, users, followers etc., you are trying and failing at things so that feels like success is just about everything that you are not. Then with experience (and that can be regardless of whether you get to run a profitable business or not – it can be after going bust 10 times) you get to appreciate the ride and treasure simple things like doing what you love, managing your time, continually learning and having an interesting lifestyle that is not fitting into a 9 to 5 routine. So this is what I would say is success – when you get to the understanding that what you do every day is important and has value and you learn to enjoy it or change it if it is not what you want. This can apply to life and business.

Thanks to Tatiana Bonneau, AMAfeed!

#15- The answer to one question

Photo Credit: Stormie Andrews

Entrepreneurs are a unique breed of individuals. We seem to thrive on living in a world of constant flux while simultaneously figuring out how to leave our mark on all whom we touch. Because I have had the entrepreneurship spirit in my blood since childhood, now approaching 50 years old, I certainly have had my fair share of success and failures. Of course financial gain is an obvious sign of success. But one thing remains constant when defining success for entrepreneurs is their answer to the following question. Would they do it all over again if they knew they were going to get the same results? If the answer is Yes, then I could not think of a better definition of success of entrepreneurship.

Thanks to Stormie Andrews, Yokel Local!

#16- A number of things

Photo Credit: Dr. Farouk Shami

Success happens when you dedicate yourself to be the best in your work in order to accomplish your goals. It is defined not just by wealth but by the legacy you leave behind. Also, there is no I in success, you must acknowledge those around you for helping to make your goals come to life. Whatever your business is, it’s your reputation, your honor, your integrity and delivering the best service and/or products that make your company shine.

Thanks to Dr. Farouk Shami, Farouk Systems Inc.!

#17- Setting goals and constant learning

Photo Credit:  Angelina Darrisaw

It’s critical to have vision to be successful. Future business leaders and innovators have to have large goals and a creative approach to solving problems for their clients. Sales skills will always be key, as will a student mindset. The mindset where you constantly want to learn about the field/industry you’re involved in is immensely important, just as keeping yourself aware on what’s happening in the business world and how you can influence it is as well. Success also means being able to learn something different from every difficult situation. You have to be willing to recognize any part you played in what didn’t work out and be able to focus that energy into a positive force for the next opportunity that presents itself.

Thanks to  Angelina Darrisaw, C-Suite Coach!

#18- Success is about being happy with your own path

Photo Credit: Josh Braaten

Everyone’s entrepreneurial journey is different but the temptation to compare yourself to other businesses is always there. Other people envy things about your business that you take for granted as you lament that you haven’t accomplished the things they have done. Being content with where you’re at in your own journey will make you happier and less anxious to be somewhere other than where you’re at right now.

Thanks to Josh Braaten, Brandish Insights!

#19- Similar to the sucess of a parent

Photo Credit: Shawn P. Walsh

I define success as an entrepreneur very much the same way I define success as a parent. When your creation is mature enough to stand on its own, make good choices and continue to grow without you, then you have success. Too many people who define themselves as successful entrepreneurs spend most of their free time on the phone putting out fires and micromanaging their staff. These people have not built a business, they have built a job, one that they are now trapped in. Your company needs to have clearly defined repeatable processes, that managers and staff can execute without you as the owner constantly getting involved. Your managers need specific metrics by which to measure success. With these things in place, you will attract top talent that doesn’t need your input to make good decisions.

Thanks to Shawn P. Walsh, Taylor Business group!

#20- Building something that provides value

When you feel like you’ve managed to build something out of nothing, a product that has grown to a state where it has its own life. Meaning, when your product gives value to its users, it has a growth engine which lets its userbase grow efficiently and it all makes sense on the financial level. If you’ve reached this point, it means that your initiative worked.

Thanks to  Uri Abramson, Overdraft Apps!

#21- It is all relative

Photo Credit: Kamyar Shah

Once you look past the societal definitions and standards such as wealth and fame, it becomes obvious that success is relative. One man’s growth from a side gig to full time freelancing or growing a company from 1 man operation to 20 employees can equally be considered success. By most accounts though, it is safe to assume that success should be defined as overcoming challenges that contribute to progress.

Thanks to Kamyar Shah

#22- Empowering and helping others

Photo Credit: Chris Yoko

This might be a bit esoteric, but the original meaning of an entrepreneur was someone who undertakes an enterprise or endeavor. It was usually associated with an endeavor to improve or build something. I think everyone, buy virtue of their being has an existential debt to leave the world a better place than they found it. I believe entrepreneurial success, using it’s more current meaning as someone who starts a business or organization, is to not only repay that existential debt for yourself but to empower others to build a better world as well. The old saying A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. holds true. Success is helping many people plant those trees.

Thanks to Chris Yoko, Yoko Co!

How do you define success? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community

About Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CEO Blog Nation writer. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

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