With only 25 percent of new companies surviving past the 15-year mark, having a long-term vision and intentional map for business success is incredibly important. Yet, as these statistics show, most company owners only gear up for short-term wins. As leadership expert Simon Sinek writes in The Infinite Game, strong leaders know “it is not about the next quarter . . . it is about the next generation.”
But how can a person prepare for success over the course of many years?
Long-term success requires a strategy and razor-sharp focus on what you want out of life. Additionally, it is a process that includes consistent evaluation of progress and adding challenging, new goals over time. Below, learn how to expand your possibilities and potential by creating and fulfilling your own long-term definition of success.
Step 1: Examine Your Definition of Success
“What does success mean to you?” It’s a question nearly every business professional has been asked during their career. Yet, think about how much of your answer has been influenced by others’ beliefs and opinions. Anne Sweeney, former president of Disney-ABC Television Group says: “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”
To define or redefine success:
1. Get Clear on Your World Vision
Understanding who you are as a person and the impact you want to make as an entrepreneur is the first step in knowing what business success means to you. Answer in detail these simple, but thought-provoking questions:
- What do you stand for?
- What do you want out of life?
2. Think About Your Top Priorities in Life
Focusing on distinct priorities helps CEOs and business owners make the most out of every day. Find out how to best spend your time by answering the questions below:
- What are your top three to five priorities in life?
- How can you practice better time management to ensure you achieve these high-ranking items?
3. Practice Visualization
Daydreaming isn’t a waste of time when it’s paired with action. To get clear on exactly what you’re working toward, imagine in detail what succeeding in business and life looks like for you. Visualization is a strategic tool that helps people reverse engineer goal achievement. For example, self-made billionaire Sara Blakely, the founder and CEO of SPANX, visualizes her success every single day.
Close your eyes and envision your future success.
- What does it look like?
- How did you achieve it?
- Write down what you see and keep fine-tuning this vision every day.
Determine Your Measure of Success
When do you know you’ve “made it” as a business owner? This is a trick question because, as mentioned above, business is an infinite game. Forget what rivals and competitors are doing or how they are faring in comparison to you. Instead, answer:
- What is your measure of success?
- What markers and milestones indicate you’re on the right path toward achieving your life’s vision?
Step 2: Align Your Priorities with Your Purpose
“The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, or gives you a sense of meaning, joy, or passion,” says Dr. Terry Orlick on aligning business success with your unique purpose. Without this orientation, a CEO will quickly burnout.
Being misaligned can cause a lack of motivation, anxiety, and low energy. This is why connecting top priorities, unique gifts, and purpose is so vital to a person’s success. When leaders work in their sweet spot by weaving these three together, they stay focused and fired up about achieving their vision.
To join purpose, passion and priorities:
1. Recognize Current Priorities
Consider your list of priorities. Next, think about how you currently spend your time each day. When matched up, do your top priorities and daily schedule line up with one another?
- Where is your time well spent? Where is it not?
- What can you do to avoid less productive tasks and focus on priorities?
2. Find Your Unique Gifts and Skills
Every person has a purpose in life—one that is unique to them. To fulfill this purpose, we’ve been given specific gifts that equip us. But without recognizing these strengths, honing in on them, and connecting each one to our purpose, we miss out on achieving our full potential. Maximize your impact by answering the following questions:
- What are your strengths? Where do you tend to shine?
- When do you feel energized at work?
- How can you best serve your company?
3. Do the Work You Love
To fulfill your definition of business success, shift your focus away from work that doesn’t best use your time or talents. Now, think about the work that ignites your passion as a business owner (green zone). Compare this to the type of tasks or responsibilities that cause feelings of dread (red zone). Work through the following questions to create a delegation plan:
- When do you feel the most energized and motivated?
- What tasks and responsibilities could be delegated?
- Who is right for the job?
4. Create Your Ideal Work Week
Imagine playing to your strengths and fulfilling your purpose each day. When priorities shift to what’s really important and an owner makes the most of their time using the strategies above, business success becomes a reality.
Get started by envisioning your ideal workweek, writing it down and considering:
- What would each day look like?
- How would this change your company?
- What outcomes do you see?
Step 3: Overcome Limiting Beliefs and Roadblocks
Even when business success is defined and an entrepreneur knows their purpose, roadblocks like limiting beliefs keep them from fulfilling their greatest potential. Limiting beliefs typically start with words like: “I can’t” or “I don’t.” For example, a self-limiting belief might be, “I don’t have enough business experience to own my own company” or “I can’t lead a team.” These doubts, fears, insecurities, or negative perceptions of oneself ultimately block people from accomplishing what they want in life.
To work through limiting beliefs:
1. Identify What’s Holding You Back
Pinpointing limiting beliefs requires both honesty and vulnerability. Otherwise, a person will find it impossible to uncover any deep-rooted beliefs that hold them back in life. Start by observing yourself.
- Where do you find yourself putting up walls, making excuses, or practicing negative self-talk?
- If you were observing this behavior in someone you were mentoring, what would you tell them?
- Watch for the negative language cues mentioned above: “I can’t,” “I don’t,” “I’m not able to.” Why? What are the reasons behind your limitations? The answer will shed light on your limiting beliefs.
2. Replace Toxic Beliefs with Positive Self-Truths
Rather than seeing the obstacles life presents, effective leaders problem solve and seek opportunities. Once you’ve identified your limiting beliefs, you’re ready to start moving toward a transformative mindset.
Look at your list of limiting beliefs created above:
- What negative thought patterns do you need to break?
- How can you flip these into positive affirmations?
3. Set Boundaries
One of the most common limiting beliefs of entrepreneurs is: “I need to do everything” or “I need to say ‘yes’ to everything.” In truth, this limits the amount of time a leader can spend using their unique gifts to grow the business. As Tim Ferriss, best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek says, “What you don’t do determines what you can do.”
Analyze all the things you said “yes” to last week.
- Did they really require your time or contribute to the business’s overall mission in a significant way?
- What tasks or goals could’ve been put on hold by answering “no” or “not yet?”
- Are there individuals who cause you to lose concentration on what matters?
- How can you set firmer boundaries with these people?
Step 4: Practice Strategies for Growth
This article sets leaders up for the infinite game of business success. One where leaders maximize their impact and influence and turn good companies into great ones. As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great writes: “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice.” This is why the final step in this method is setting up strategic initiatives that put your vision for long-term business success into motion.
To make success sustainable:
1. Find a Mentor
Without a mentor or coach, leaders automatically put limitations on their potential. Mentorship is the top way a business owner can thrive past that 15-year mark. For example, a survey conducted by The UPS Store found “70 percent of mentored businesses survive more than five years . . . double the rate of businesses who choose not to have a mentor.” While mentorship is crucial for business success, research conducted by Olivet Nazarene University found that only 8 percent of senior-level business professionals have a mentor.
Find out how to get a mentor by reading this article: “Why You Need a Mentor and Where to Find One.”
2. Join a Mastermind
Another way to develop as a leader, plus get the accountability and the community you need as a business owner is by joining a mastermind. Whether working through limiting beliefs together, bouncing new ideas off one another, being introduced to some of today’s top leadership experts, or making great professional connections, these groups can be a consistent source of growth for entrepreneurs.
Depending on the program and membership, costs can range from being free to a few thousand dollars per year. If you’re looking for a local, low-cost one, check Meetup.com. To join a more exclusive group, reach out to some of the business professionals in your network to get more information on masterminds they’re part of.
3. Develop Daily Habits
Creating healthy daily rhythms helps set leaders up for productive, purpose-driven days. For example, this might look like getting to bed before 10 p.m., so you can get up at 6:00 a.m. and start the day with time for meditation or prayer, a healthy breakfast, and a morning workout. Additionally, practices like time blocking the next week in advance help leaders prioritize and direct their focus on top objectives.
4. Establish Strong Goals
Long-term business success is impossible without measurable, achievable goals. Once you visualize your ideal personal and professional life, set an actionable plan into play. With accomplishment in mind, work through what it will take to get there, then start developing a strategic map that outlines milestones of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly progress.
Learn a simple strategy for setting smart goals by reading this article on goal setting.
Pursue Excellence in a Focused Manner
Most importantly, rather than trying to succeed at everything, ask yourself: “What is the one thing I want to be exceptionally great at?” Every single business decision should then filter into accomplishing this.
Leaders who lose focus on aligning their definition of business success, purpose, and strategic initiatives start chasing rabbits. As a result, they lose both their profits and their heart by wasting time on achieving unimportant objectives. For example, the Startup Genome Project found, “More than 90% of startups fail, due primarily to self-destruction rather than competition.”
Scaling too quickly and lack of cash flow (burning through funds too quickly) are the two most common reasons businesses fail. Instead, focus on building the core of your company and plan for growth in measured steps.
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