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Defining Success

What Does It Mean for YOU?

I read a ton of books on business, management, strategy, and habits. I am always looking for a nugget of wisdom to help me keep moving forward in my CPA firm. I’m also bad about making notes with quotes and ideas, and I can’t remember where I found this latest piece of wisdom. But it went something like this:


In order to achieve success, you have to define what success is for YOU. It can’t be what your friends, family, colleagues, and associates define as success. It has to be YOUR definition.


I was reminded of this in late 2019 when meeting with a business owner. She and I were reviewing her financial statements through the end of the third quarter, and I brought up the fact (again) that her revenue had stagnated and her profit was basically flat. I went through my usual update of trends, and my concerns about future cash flow. Then, she said something to me that made me step back. She told me that she was perfectly happy with where her business was, and that the reason she was happy with being “flat” (what I had referred to as stagnation) was that she was only working half the time she worked the year before. It was a lifestyle decision she made for her family and her. She sounded happier than I had heard her sound in the past year.


It’s important that you define success for yourself, but it’s equally important to share that definition with those professionals who help you monitor your success. I made the mistake of imposing my idea of success on her business, and while it wasn’t malicious, it certainly didn’t help me relay useful information to her. It was as though I was speaking a language to her that she didn’t understand.


After that meeting, I tailored my comments and trend highlights in her monthly financial reports to more accurately reflect her idea of success in her business. I didn’t rely so much on comparative reports with the prior year, since her prior year was not the benchmark on which we needed to rely. I started to ask about what her goals were, then I compared the actual results to her goals. That way, the financial statements were more helpful to her and they told the story she wanted to read.


Have you taken the time to sit down and really think about YOUR idea of success? Not your friend’s idea, not your coach’s idea, but YOURS? It’s an enlightening internal dialogue, so let us know if you’d like to have our help in tailoring your company’s financials to YOUR idea of success.

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