October 22, 2014

How Do You Define Success?

How do you define success? A new study from The Hartford set out to discover what constitutes success in the eyes of small business owners. Here’s what the Small Business Success Study of 2,000 small business owners found:

success concept

Overall, business owners are feeling good. One in five (22.9 percent) say their businesses are very or extremely successful. Nearly half (46.8 percent) say their businesses are moderately successful. Just 30.3 percent say their businesses were “slightly” or “not at all” successful. Asked to project forward for the next two years, only 6 percent feel they won’t achieve success in that time frame.

The survey also asked small business owners to choose their top answer from among various definitions of success. The top three responses were:

  • Make enough money to have a comfortable lifestyle: 24 percent
  • Do something I enjoy or feel passionate about: 23 percent
  • Increase the profitability of the business year to year: 18 percent

Other possible answers, including “have the free time to do whatever I wish,” “expand to new markets,” and “sell the business for a substantial profit,” were far below the top three, only garnering single-digit responses.

Based on how small business owners themselves define success, what type of small business owner is the most successful? The Hartford found that the entrepreneurs who feel most successful are those who have 10 to 20 employees and have been in business for more than 20 years.

This group was more likely than average to say their businesses are currently successful. They were also more confident about the future. And they were significantly more likely to admit they’re closer to “complete” success.

What’s enabled them to succeed? The study found two key steps these businesses took: they used professional advisers to prepare for future growth, and they realized that paying employees well attracts better workers and leads to greater success.

Of course, simply having stayed in business for 20-plus years was surely a contributing factor to feeling successful. But it seems to me that entrepreneurs who enjoy the greatest success have a realistic attitude toward their business. They don’t expect miracles, but they do have goals and plans. They’re optimistic and they enjoy what they’re doing. Sounds like most of the small business owners I know!

How do you define success?


Success Photo via Shutterstock

7 Comments ▼

Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a staff writer for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

7 Reactions

  1. Success?…just see my daughter

  2. Great to hear some optimism from the business world. With all the doom and gloom in the media you’d think that all businesses were cowering in fear awaiting the coming apocalypse.

  3. What a nice post Rieva!!

    Well for me… Success is getting to my aspirations, expections, goals and setting even higher ones… Success is FUN…

  4. Thanks for the positive article! I like what you said about employees being paid better helps a company succeed, an employees attitude really affects how a business runs on a day to day basis and you’re right, it will attract higher quality applicants as well.

  5. Great post! Success to me is defined completely differently as success as business. Where as business success is about making profit, increasing market share and so on, personal success is waking up every morning happy and healthy.

  6. Thanks, I love your explanations of success.
    To all, I wish a successful 2012.

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