Defining Success for Small Businesses – It’s Not About Money or Fame

I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. 

Visit to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit

Success. People spend their entire lives striving toward it. But in a world where everyone is fighting to get their ideas seen and heard, it’s hard to know what the definition of “success” really is.

The truth is each person has his or her own vision of success. For the small business owner, success could be making a profit or, in those early years, experiencing less of a loss than the previous year. Another, more established, business owner may define success as expanding into new cities or states or ramping up production to appear on more shelves throughout the country. Then there’s the business owner who sees success as a balance of life’s many facets.

In an interview I did with Rod Kirby’s Success Center I said that “Success has many definitions for me. Ultimately it’s ensuring that I nurture my family and my faith. Secondly it’s ensuring I’m able to contribute to society in the small ways that most people try to do day by day – mentoring, community outreach, etc. Thirdly, it’s ensuring my business is profitable and growing. Of course, the more I’m successful at the third point, the more I can do for the first and second points.”

By general definition, success simply refers to the positive conclusion of a series of events, namely through attaining wealth, status, respect, or awards and honors. By this definition, success isn’t the path leading up to that success as much as the end of that path, where the traveler receives his reward for a job well done.

But is the end of that path the only definition of success? A business usually hit several major and minor milestones along the way and each of those milestones represents a form of success. Success milestones for a small business include:

  • Landing a first customer. There’s a reason many businesses frame the first dollar bill they receive. Whatever type of business you own, that first customer is a huge accomplishment. After a while, you take individual customers for granted, so be sure to celebrate milestones like your hundredth or thousandth customer.
  • Meeting marketing goals. Every time you launch a marketing initiative, it is with a set goal in mind. When that marketing campaign brings in new customers or causes sales to increase, you’ve accomplished a goal.
  • Launching a new website. Completing and deploying a new website is a huge accomplishment, and often a necessary early milestone in establishing any new business. Publicizing that website and increasing views is a later website accomplishment, especially if you’re working hard to increase your site’s search rankings and click-throughs.

It’s so hard to determine exactly when it’s time to break out the champagne and celebrate, most business owners never do it. One success leads to another and all too often business owners never stop to celebrate. Try to periodically take a look around and congratulate yourself on all that you and your business have achieved. Don’t forget about your hard-working employees. By occasionally letting your staff know their hard work is appreciated, you’ll boost morale and further increase your success.

As 2013 progresses, keep your attention focused on your personal definition of success. If you don’t forget to occasionally stop to celebrate each of your accomplishments throughout the year, you’ll stay motivated to continue to follow your goals well into 2014.

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