Accountability equals success

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Success is such a strange word, and it means so many different things to different people. Therefore, it’s so hard to define. It’s like a shape-shifter, always adjusting to change.

I am sure you’ve experienced this yourself. You’ve set out to achieve something, you didn’t quite make it, or it turned out different as expected, and all you had to do is see the positive in the result and SUCCESS. Yes, you’ve made it! Not quite as planned but a good result. Most of us are very skilled in this. How can achieving something good be a failure? It isn’t, right? Really?

I have to say that I was very skilled at this. I was always successful, whatever happened. Avoiding a worse situation is also a sign of success.

For many years I was floating along and never entirely made it. I was stuck in a cycle and couldn’t find my way out. In the back of my head, I knew that I wasn’t successful at all. There was this nagging feeling that wouldn’t leave me alone.

Starting out on the road to success

I learned my lessons when Alex and I decided to start a business together. Alex is a good friend of mine and the analytical type: someone who takes ideas apart and puts them together again.

He was terrific at planning things – and statistics were something he lived for. I am exactly the opposite. I am a dreamer, someone who comes up with ideas, highly motivated and full of energy. I didn’t see it at the time, but Alex became my biggest business lesson ever.

Together we came up with a few ideas for our new business and Alex created a fantastic business plan to go with it. We made a step-by-step plan and set clear success points on the way. We also worked on the final result. We described as good as possible what we expected to have achieved at each stage on the journey.

Trust and keep the faith

I have to say that I was a bit worried about that part. Things had never really worked out the way I planned them in the past. How can they? There are so many things that can go wrong and are completely outside of our control.

I tried to explain this to Alex, but he wouldn’t have it. He said, “What is the point in having goals if you’re already looking for alternatives in case you won’t make it?”

I explained to him that I have many years of experience as an entrepreneur and things never turned out the way they were planned. But Alex insisted. He said we either re-design the goals and the business plan or we are going to make it happen. No buts!

Time will tell, I thought and went along with his point of view.

Getting down to business

Our business was based on booking advertisements in all Media in Germany, Switzerland and Austria for foreign customers who didn’t understand the German-speaking market. At this time, I was working for a large nationwide tabloid and was able to get excellent prices through my connections.

Alex investigated the market niche we wanted to attract, and I started to talk to potential customers all over the world. It started well. We established a good customer base within the first few months, and everything looked right on plan. It was amazing when I think back.

After a few months, we ran into a problem. One of our more significant publications raised their prices substantially and we had to inform our customers of the price change. It was too much to cover for our start-up. We lost three customers because of this, and our plan was somehow breaking apart. If we wanted to stay on track, we couldn’t afford to lose these customers.

In my mind, I already started to see the good in it. We got it off the ground – and were making money. Success, right?

Cool heads in times of crisis

As you probably guessed, Alex wouldn’t have it. He insisted on sticking with the plan and – as it was my job to search and find customers – the pressure was on me. It was the first time I didn’t retreat to my usual ways but went full blast out there, and within two weeks I found two new customers and got one customer back without providing any discount at all.

I can’t tell you how proud I felt at this moment. That was a success! Yes!

It was also a significant turning point in my life. We managed the business successfully for over five years, before selling it and moving on to new adventures. For me, it was a real success story.

I realised that it is just too easy to lie to myself but much harder to do this to others. If you have the right partners you are accountable to, lying won’t work. Not on the long run anyway.

I was lucky that Alex was my business partner. He was the right fit for me, and I was the right fit for him. Almost all of the businesses I started after that, I started with a business partner or a good business coach. It wasn’t always perfect, and I had to learn a couple of lessons on the way, but it was worth it.

I believe being accountable to your goals is the only real way to become successful. Find yourself a good co-founder or a good coach. Both should keep you on track.

My definition of success is: To achieve what you’ve set out to achieve!

To ensure that you will make it, you need to be accountable for the results and the directions you take.

When was the last time you had some real success?

If you want to find out how to find the right business partner, contact me at the Entrepreneur Academy.

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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