Many say the best part of owning your own business is that no one tells you what to do. It was one of my first thoughts as I decided to start my own company several years ago. What I did not realize is that if no one is telling you what to do, accountability begins and ends with the person you see in the mirror every morning. As a result, a key question for every small business owner is how they can improve accountability? This week will focus on how to hold yourself accountable as a small business owner. A future post will discuss how to improve accountability on your team.

Vision and Objectives – the first steps to improve accountability

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

Many small business owners have an idea; they know the kind of work they want to do. Maybe it is an accounting business; perhaps it’s a printing company or a marketing company. So, they begin the task of “doing” that business. The question that goes unanswered, though, is, “what are they building?” What do they want their company to look like in three to five years? How many customers? How much revenue? How many employees? When you have a vision for what your business will become, accountability begins. Now that you know how much revenue you want, you can start to think about what you will need to do to achieve it. And with that thinking, you begin to create objectives. Many business objectives are annual, and rightly so. Those annual objectives drive your monthly activities, which propel your weekly tasks and your daily activities. And, with those in mind, you must look at them every day, week, and month to see if you are meeting them. And if you’re not, why? What needs to change? Perhaps you were too aggressive and needed to reset expectations. Maybe though you didn’t do the work, or you were distracted by something else. By writing down your vision and objectives, you create something to hold yourself accountable to. And, if your business is going to succeed, you need to keep yourself accountable. Because, at this point, no one else is.

Mindset – building the strength to improve accountability

“Some of the world’s best athletes didn’t start out being that hot. If you have a passion for a sport, put in the effort and see.” – Carol Dweck

With vision and objectives in place, you have begun to shift your mindset to the long game. And every day, for at least some part of it, the small business owner needs to commit to looking at that long game. It’s so easy to allow yourself to get caught up in tactical duties and urgent, but not always essential tasks. And when you focus there, it’s so easy to feel accomplished. You will have worked hard and crossed a lot off your list, but you have not paid any attention to your long-term vision or the objectives that you have for your business. You must have a mindset that the long term matters as much as the short term. You must also believe that the long-term vision is what you are accountable to, more so than the short-term duties that are in front of you. At the beginning of your business, this can be incredibly hard to do, but you must keep an eye on the future, to build the company you want, not the one you currently have.

Accountability Partners

“There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.” George Shinn

When your company is more substantial and growing, one option to consider improving accountability is creating a board of advisors for your business. That is a tricky thing to do for a small business in its earlier iterations. But you may find that no matter how hard you try; you need something more to keep you accountable. And there are options. One idea is to find someone else who is building their business and asking them to be an accountability partner. Someone with who you share your goals and holds you accountable to them. You meet regularly and check in on progress. At Clear Path Coaching and Consulting, accountability is a vital part of our Trailblazer program. The heavy lifting in the first month is building a business plan that works. What makes the program successful, though, are the monthly group accountability sessions. Creating a group of small business owners who check in each month is a powerful tool for accountability and success. It combines the benefits of having an accountability partner and a board of advisors. It allows you to surround yourself with a group of like-minded people whose only interest in that session is holding each other accountable for their success. Accountability to yourself is a cornerstone of business success. If you have created a clear vision for your business, set appropriate objectives, and crafted the right mindset, you dramatically improve your chances of success. You can further refine your odds by surrounding yourself with a group of business owners who hold you and each other accountable. If you have questions, please join Clear Path’s weekly training, Clear Path Leadercast. We hold these training sessions each week at 5 pm eastern, and you can register here. You can also join our Clear Path Leaders Forum to get more tips on building a growing and sustainable business and interact with other small business owners.

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