When you’re running a business – or overseeing any project, team or undertaking within one – it’s important to keep one eye on success. Success is what you’re chasing, of course, but you have to understand what it is, specifically, for your business, your project, your team. If you don’t know what success is for you, then you’ll be chasing it eternally, unable to succeed, only ever able to eventually fail.
You need to define what success is for you, so you can measure it and assess whether you’re succeeding, and need to double down to get over the finish line or if you’re beginning to slip towards a failure state, and need to make some changes.
Success doesn’t always mean profit – that’s the ultimate endgame for any private enterprise, of course, but if you define success for every project by the money it makes you’re going to hamstring the less directly profitable but nonetheless essential projects every business needs.
It will likely make sense to measure sales initiatives by the revenue they bring in, and if a new product doesn’t make enough money to cover its costs, it’s hard to justify, but there are other key metrics you need to look into for other parts of your business.
Boosting efficiency in your customer service team, for example, can’t lead directly to more profits. It might help you avoid loss, by giving your customers more support, and increase loyalty, leading to long terms gains, but you’re denying yourself access to these benefits if you’re unable to take a long view, and expand your definition of success beyond immediate profits.
When you’ve defined what success is for the project you’re currently looking at, you need to make sure you’re measuring it accurately and effectively. If your aim is to build brand loyalty, for example, you need to have a sophisticated view of your market, taking into account audience segmentation. If you don’t see your audience as distinct groups, with different qualities and, of course, spending power, you might miss some vital work that your marketing has done to strengthen your brand. If your project has made a smaller, but significant segment of your market more likely to spend money with you, but you’re not even measuring that segment of the market, you might write off valuable work as a failure!
It’s important to set the terms for success and failure because they allow you to reflect on what happened with each effort – if you succeeded, why and how? If you failed, then learning from that failure, and avoiding those mistakes in the future means you salvage something from the project, and it wasn’t a waste of your resources.