As a small business founder and the CEO of SLC Bookkeeping, I try to spend the majority of my time on mission critical activities. I spend a lot of time developing strategies and advising team members on how to best implement them. I also manage, coach, encourage, and review employees.
But, the one major challenge I face as a CEO is this: Where do I turn for help? Who advises me? Who reviews my performance so I know whether or not I am doing well?
According to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “Nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive outside leadership advice, but nearly all want it.”
One of the biggest realizations I have had as a CEO is that I am not the best at doing everything in my business and that is not my job. My job is to find people who are better than me in certain areas and build the best team that I can.
One of the biggest challenges I have had is figuring out how to hold myself accountable. Below, I share the various methods I use to hold myself accountable as a small business owner.
Mentors and coaches
Without a doubt, the best way I have found to get advice and hold myself accountable is through mentors and coaches. I have never paid my best mentors, so don’t think that you have to spend a ton of money to get a good advisor.
When I face difficult challenges that I am not able to solve on my own or internally with my team, I turn to my mentors.
In his article titled “Overcoming the Loneliness of Leadership,” Bill George, a Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, wrote:
“CEOs and senior executives say the biggest problem they face is lack of someone to talk to about their toughest challenges.
Leaders know they are ultimately responsible, and the well-being of many rests in their hands.
If they fail, many people will be harmed.”
A good mentor fills in that gap and gives me someone to talk to when I face a particularly difficult challenge.
Personal and business goals
Another way I measure success in my business is by monitoring both personal and business goals.
Although my personal goals actually may not have a lot to do with the business itself, I want to explain how the business can affect them. Most of my personal goals are related to how much “me time” I have and how I use it. Creating enough personal time allows me to stay in physical shape, reduce my stress, and free my mind from the business.
I love hanging out with my family and I love the outdoors. It is incredibly important to me that I make adequate time in my life for everything outside of my business. So, I set up goals for the number of hours I work and how much time I spend with my wife and son. I also have goals for making time to stay physically fit and to go fly fishing.
With regard to my business goals, I am concerned about much higher-level items than just sales and profits. Certainly, the business financials are incredibly important to me, but I tend to think bigger when I’m trying to measure success as a CEO.
My business goals tend to be about the number of jobs I want to create per year, expansion plans and strategy, exit planning, and long-term sales and expense forecasts. I’m constantly making bigger business goals and monitoring my progress.
I read the company vision, mission, and core values on a regular basis to make sure we are on track with my long-term goals. I also list out the challenges that I am expecting and company goals for the next one to three years, with one major objective that I want to accomplish each year. This helps establish the direction of the company while also giving us a clear end-of-year goal for each of the next three years.
One of the best ways I monitor my success as a CEO is to review my exit plan. Many small business owners make the mistake of not having an exit plan in place. Having an exit plan is a great way to measure how you are progressing with carrying out your vision.
In my article in the Huffington Post titled “Exit Planning: 8 Steps to Prepare Your Small Business,” I break down some common characteristics of businesses that are setup to exit.
I suggest that your exit plan should be written down so that you can review it. I personally look at my exit plan on a semi-annual basis. I then ask myself a few questions: Is this exit plan still true or does it need updating? Am I progressing toward my exit at an acceptable rate? If not, why and what pivots can I make in my business to get back on track?
Another place I turn to assess how I am doing as a business owner and to get advice is my business network. That doesn’t mean I show up to networking events and bug everyone with my challenges; I turn to certain people with specific issues that I am facing.
One of the greatest things about my business network is that it is full of specialists. If I am facing an issue with an employee at work, I have a human resources person to turn to whom I trust. The same is true with each specific area of the business; I can always find a trusted advisor within my business network to talk to about my challenges.
Personal support network
Another group I look to for help is my personal support network. Sometimes, when I am faced with challenges, I don’t want to talk to just anybody about them. It is important to have a place to turn when nobody seems to be the “proper” person.
This could be a family member or a close personal friend. Sometimes it is just good to have someone to talk to who can give me an outsider’s perspective. Often I just need to get something off my chest or blow off some steam. Having a strong personal network made up of reliable folks is vital to my success as a business owner.
The last way I hold myself accountable in my business is by continually educating myself. I do this by reading, attending conferences, and learning from mistakes.
I read a ton. I read books, blogs, ebooks, white papers, and so on. I love to consume good high-quality information. The important thing I want to note here is that I always reflect on the information I receive to draw my own conclusions.
I also attend conferences and webinars. I think it is important to get out of the office and educate myself in areas where I’m not an expert. Conferences are also great networking opportunities where I frequently meet other business owners who can help.
Last, and most important, I always learn from my mistakes. Every failure in business needs to be a learning lesson, not just a negative experience from which you never recover. When I experience failure in my business, I assess why it happened and what I can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
As a small business owner and CEO, what methods do you use to hold yourself accountable?