What Was Your Defining Moment in Your Business?

What Was Your Defining Moment in Your Business?

How would you answer this question:

Did you ever reach a defining moment in your business when you just knew it was going to be a success?

You may be thinking: “I can’t answer that because my business is not where I want it to be — yet.”

But — this question is really about the exact moment that something just clicked.  It’s about when you became certain, in your heart, that someday your business would make it.

You may not have reached your desired success yet. But now at least you can take a few breaths. Some event or revelation made it clear that your business would not be closing up shop next week or next month (barring catastrophes).  You knew it would survive and thrive.

I polled 6 entrepreneurs about THEIR defining moment.  Let me kick off the discussion by revealing my own defining moment:

success“When I paid myself a $600 paycheck,” says Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends:

For me, the defining moment came when I finally could start paying myself a regular paycheck. At the time, I started paying myself $600 a month.

To some of you that may not sound like much.  “Years of experience so you could get to $600 a month,” I can hear some of you … aghast!  (Actually, I think that was my husband I could hear 🙂 But the amount was beside the point … it was a temporary level … a stepping stone to the future.

Yet, it was a symbolic leap.  You see, at first, I paid myself NOTHING. Zero. Nada.  Every single dime had to be plowed back into the business.

But the moment I looked at my accounting records and realized I could pay myself and not go in the red, I just knew.  I felt like I could whip the world. It empowered me.  I could take on bigger challenges. No $600 check was ever so sweet — nor so meaningful — as that first regular paycheck from the business.

success “When they started contacting ME,” says Andru Edwards of GearLive:

When thinking about that one, first defining moment in Gear Live’s history, I have one specific moment that I can point to where I knew things were going to be successful. For a bit of a background, Gear Live was started as a hobby where I would publish my thoughts and opinions about technology. In order to get exclusive pieces out there, I had to approach manufacturers about reviewing their products. To make money, I needed to sign up for some bottom-of-the-barrel advertising networks, along with Google Adsense, just to get by.

I knew that I wanted to take the site full-time, but in order to do so, I needed it to be better recognized in the industry and needed it to earn more money to support myself and my family. After months of phone calls and emails going out, trying to get advertisers and manufacturers on board (while also trying to build readership,) two things happened in the same month.

First, I had a manufacturer contact me, rather than me having to contact them. They wanted to know if we wanted to take a look at one of their new products, and if so, they would send me a review unit loaner. That meant that we were finally getting recognized by the companies that we had been writing about and that they were taking the first step to contact us since they felt that we were important enough to be included in their press strategy.

The other thing that happened, almost simultaneously, was that we had advertisers starting to contact us as well. Rather than scraping by on Adsense on low-paying banner ads (relationships that I had to go out and start), large advertisers saw value in connecting with our audience.

One those two things happened, I knew right then, that Gear Live was going to be a success. At that point, I could focus completely on making great content.

success“When fear gave way to crazy activity,” says Phillip Torrone of MAKE Magazine:

I’ve been part of a few businesses and I seem to gravitate towards underdogs and strategies which need to outsmart as opposed to outspend … The defining moments of success all seem to have one constant: at some point, the fear of failure is replaced by panic to get all the work done.

Looking back, as soon as the worries of not “making it” went away there were always periods of heads down craziness – time flew by, the best work happened – you’re too busy to think about anything else. I think those are the best times.

success“Every time we hit a big goal,” says Jeremy Gutsche, TrendHunter.com

About a year ago, Trend Hunter hit a million views in a month, which was a pretty large psychological number. Achieving that level as a part time hobby, I knew that I could really transform the business when I started full time. Today we’ve grown to over 5 million monthly views, so I suppose it’s working out. The problem with that question, for me, is that my definition of success is always changing. So every time we hit a big goal, I don’t really feel successful, I feel motivated to hit the next goal.

success“It’s a moving target,” says Dane Carlson, Business Opportunities Blog:

Success can be an elusive goal for small business, especially in as dynamic a business as web publishing. Today, I feel like my blog is on top of the world, but what about tomorrow when blogs are passé?

Like the mythical buggy whip manufacturer, even the best and most successful businesses must adapt to survive. In the early part of the 20th century when automobiles were still new, buggy whip manufacturing was a mature industry with many competing businesses, and many successful business owners. Within a few decades they were all but gone.

It wasn’t the car, though, that killed the industry. Rather it was the buggy whip maker’s definition of success. They might have been the best at braiding leather whips, but by the mid century that was as quaint as claiming that your business is the most experienced Windows 95 developer today.

Because they saw themselves as whip makers, instead of in the transportation after-market accessory business, there was nowhere for the buggy whip makers to go but into bankruptcy.

success“It’s small successes everyday,” says Harry McCracken, Technologizer.com

My startup, Technologizer, is only a few weeks old, and so to declare it a success already would be premature. I’m still very much in the process of getting it off to a good start. So far, the vital signs are excellent.

When you hatch plans for any new company, your business plan begins as nothing more than words on a piece of paper. Chances are that you’ll deal with at least an unbeliever or two who thinks your plan is unrealistic — I sure did. I was confident, though, that my goals for Technologizer were attainable, and it’s been a joy to see things I hoped to accomplish come true, one by one.

There hasn’t been one defining moment so far, but there have been little successes almost every day. For a media site like Technologizer, goal one is to create content that lots of people find compelling. And so every time I publish a story that resonates with my audience, I feel better about my chances of success.

success“None … until we sign acquisition papers,” says Jacob Mullins, VentureBeat.com

At our stage of the game we’re still working tremendously hard to ensure that we are a success. I don’t think there’s been a formative moment for any entrepreneur, until he signs the acquisition papers, that the company is going to be a success. There are so many things that go into creating a successful company, the idea, the people, the timing, the business model, and a little bit of luck. You just have to keep working hard, keep an eye on the competition, use the good ideas, learn from the bad ones, and stay focused on creating the best quality product out there.

So now you’ve heard from 7 of us. Please leave a comment below with YOUR answer to this question:

Did you ever reach a defining moment in your business when you just knew it was going to be a success?

Image: Depositphotos.com


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

17 Reactions
  1. Although we are still a young company, I think there were actually two moments. The first when we a couple of customers emailing or calling us to give positive feedback on how our product has helped their business. This was great because although you do research before when you develop something from scratch it is still a risk.

    The second is now we are getting reputable companies approaching us to become partners with our company. These two moments make us want to worker harder to be successful and help our customers and partners.

  2. In our case the moment was hiring our first employee. Now we’ve grown to 5 employees plus families. When I think of the foodchain off our business (23 people) I know we’ve made a difference. No matter what happens.

  3. Each person’s story was really nice to read and they sure offer a lot of inspiration. I can only hope that one day I can pinpoint my own small defining moment.

  4. How inspiring! I’m still about to start my own business. Thus, so far I’m hoping that sooner I’ll be able to have that defining moment for my business too. 🙂

  5. Hi Susan,

    I think you’ve hit on 2 things that I’ve heard others use as reinforcement that “it’s going to be OK.”

    (1) When customers give you unsolicited positive feedback and (2) business partners come knocking — it’s energizing and makes you want to re-double your efforts. I know the feeling!

    — Anita

  6. After 35 months of building our website to help people find the right software for their business and only attracting 3 software companies to pay us advertising dollars, we finally had 4 sign up in one month, 3 the following month and then 14 the month after that – at which point it snowballed. We now have over one thousand software companies paying to generate web traffic and sales leads, but we knew we were on to something that month where we landed 4, given that we had only 3 during the first 35 months combined.

  7. I am still waiting for the moment to write my own paycheck… My start-up business has not become a success yet, not at least in financial terms. But the puzzle is getting more and more complete and we have involved some interested parties into the mix…

    As a solo entrepreneur and blogger I have several moments that gives me hope for the future. More of this later on… 🙂

  8. Since I’m still in the planning phase of my story, I’ll have to say the defining moment came when I started a blog to track the progress of my business planning and made the decision to commit to starting my own business!

  9. “Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it.” — Lt. John B. Putnam Jr. (1921-1944)

    I began blogging for fun a while back about some controversial, offbeat topics and early on wrote an article about what was then a little known topic, that suddenly became a highly searched one. My blog exploded onto the scene and money soon followed. Overcoming my fear of ridicule for my personal interests propelled me into unchartered territories which lead to new, positive experiences.

    My defining moment: overcoming my fears and being rewarded for doing so.


    Two of the biggest mistakes new entreprenuers make is their belief everyone needs what they have to sell…and if they just get their sales pitch just right, people will buy.

    The day I lost a major consulting engagement because I kept selling, even after I made the sale…was traumatic, embarrassing & devastating. I learned from that experience, selling is not about talking smarter and faster…selling is about listening, and asking questions that help the prospective buyer discover whether my products and services will solve their problems. The sale is made when they decide…not when I push.

    During the sales process, I have learned to be OPEN TO THE OUTCOME…not vested in it! From multiple experiences, I finally learned that when I get really vested in a particular sale…I almost always kill it. But when I am open to the outcome, show up to be in service of the prospective buyer, regardless of whether they buy or not, the most magical things happen.

    These defining moments were the point in time when I moved from a place of insecurity to quiet confidence (and gratitute) It made all of the difference in the world in how I was being perceived. In the place of quiet confidence, I was much more approachable…hence much easier to do business with.

  11. I would have to say that my defining moment was when I stopped worrying about everyone else. When I stopped comparing my products to everyone elses and just focused on enjoying my own experience and results. I realized that everyone else’s success occurs differently and at different rates. Once I focused on myself and developing my products, the stress of comparing my growth to others disappeared.

  12. When I sold my business for 7 figures! That’s when it really hit home!!!

  13. When we broke $100K in sales, I knew we would not go out of business.

    When we broke $500K in sales, I knew we could get bigger and that it could be more than my husband and I

    When we break $1million in sales, I’ll know we’re a success.

  14. In my web design business, it was when I started outsourcing some of my work to other freelancers, and I realised that I didn’t have to do it all myself. In my current business, it’s been by the incredible support that I have received from everyone around me. I’ve been incredibly lucky and lots of people are offering their time to help make this site the best that it can be. We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m really looking forward to the journey.

  15. The slow death of my previous business, and the realization in hindsight of just how difficult, cut throat and time consuming it really was

  16. And the other defining moment was hitting $100K in gross sales within 1 year of starting the new business! (like Jan V above…you go girl!)

  17. When Frank Tremmel. and I stepped up to receive an award at the CLCA Banquet.
    Best in State. Sweepstakes. It was the first State Competition we had entered.
    And we both were just getting started in our Careers…..