Great Business Ideas: Understand What Success Means to You

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Understand What Success Means to You

When asked for three words that define success, entrepreneurs offer a variety of terms: “Independence, control, security.”

“Happiness, financial reward, recognition.”

“Pride, acclaim, money.”

“Friendship, practice, failure.”

Success is tough to define, yet most entrepreneurs are obsessed by it. How do you define success when everyone’s concept is different? The best approach is anecdotally, not scientifically. The initial responses to an extensive, ongoing national questionnaire are worth sharing. Common themes emerge: Successful people work hard to balance their work and family life. Successful people rely on a mentor or series of mentors as their business grows. Successful people also surround themselves with other successful people and set limits on how much time they devote to their business.

“I drop work the minute I leave the office,” said Marcy Carsey, a successful television producer who participated in the survey. Carsey and her partner, Tom Werner, have brought an unending stream of hit sitcoms to the networks, including Roseanne, Cybill, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and the Cosby Show.

Although she does a few hours of paperwork at home in the evening, fighting workaholism has paid off for Carsey, whose firm, Carsey-Werner, is regarded as one of the world’s most successful independent television production companies. The company is growing rapidly. It moved worldwide distribution of its popular shows in-house and added a feature film group.

Despite the pressures of managing a high-profile, high- profit business, Carsey puts her family first, frequently speaking to her husband and kids from the office. “I very much needed the ability to balance my life,” said Carsey. “I believe in a team approach to doing everything—and I believe wholeheartedly in delegating.” Carsey, who vows to spend more time out of the office, “living and meeting people,” defines success this way: “courage, perspective, clear- headedness.”

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They may not be as well known as Carsey, but about 100 business owners attending a recent San Francisco Chamber of Commerce breakfast offered their own definitions of success.

Mary Ann Maggiore, a consultant in Tiburon, California, said she will consider herself successful when she is less than $5,000 in debt, is recognized as an authority in her field, and “my children are on their own and doing well.”

Regina Phelps, founder of Health Plus, defines success as: “freedom, happiness, making a difference.”

Suzanne Tucker, owner of One Stop Graphics in San Francisco, strives for “consistent profitability, less stress, recognition/reputation.” Tucker said she can say she’s successful when she is able to take more time off and when she has finally hired a strong general manager to free up more of her time.

Terry O’Sullivan, with CAL Insurance in San Francisco, said a successful person is happy, free, and focused. “I try to prioritize obligations, bearing in mind that special life events take priority over business activities,” he said. John Quezada, founder of Quezada Staffing Inc. in San Francisco, had an interesting definition of success: posterity, historical perspective, relationships. When asked when he could consider himself successful, he responded quickly: “Just after birth.”

As an entrepreneur, it’s important for you to know what it will take for you to consider yourself a success. Think about what it means to you—and then achieve it.