How 41 Business Owners Define Success

Everyone has a set of parameters they use to gauge success in their business, including things like social media metrics, number of sales, profit versus loss, and  customer reach.  For some, these external measures determine their worth as a company.  For others, achievement is defined by something more than numbers.  So last week I asked –

How do you define success in your business?

The responses from our 41 business owners ranged from tracking external measures like sales, referrals, and profit margins.  And there were a range of more intrinsic measures including personal happiness, expertise, and balance, to name a few. The point is that how you define success in your business is personal.  So what holds meaning and value for one person, does not hold true for all.  There is no right or wrong when it comes to how you define overall business success, as long as your measure focuses on the things that you can control.

Thank you to our wonderful panel this week! Openly sharing your expertise and experiences is a huge asset to this blog and the readership. I wish you all a wonderful week and hope to see you here again.

If you would like to contribute to this week’s question, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to find out how you can get involved.  We’d love to have you share your expertise!



1. Success Is Measured In Happiness.

My success metrics are simple. That I”m reaching, connecting with and contributing to my clients. And making them happy!

When my clients are happy, my business is succeeding.

Thanks to Erin Ferree of BrandStyle Design

2. The Goal Of Success

Being successful is a matter of meeting your goals. It is not necessarily making a lot of money or having a lot of clients. Success is something you define for yourself. One of my first goals was not financial, but was based on reputation. I wanted to build my reputation in social media so that I would be able to build my client list with quality clients, and therefore build my financial base. When people started searching me out, telling me they had heard of me and inviting me to speak at their conferences, I knew I had met my goal. In that, I felt my first true success. But success is not static. Once you reach one measure of success, you need to establish a new measure. Perceptions of success are within you. What makes you successful?

Thanks to Lauren MacEwen of SM Cubed Consulting

3. Happiness Can Be Measured

For me, the success of my business is inextricably linked to the customer satisfaction ratings. If my customers are very satisfied, then I have delivered the service I promised. It really is that simple.

Thanks to Sarah Moore of Vappingo

4. How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

Doing what you love and getting paid for it = the first measurable element of success. What’s the point of making lots of money if you aren’t enjoying your work? There is little reward in that. However, if you love – or even just like – what you do every day and someone pays you to do it, there is immense satisfaction (success!) to be garnered.

Next measurable ROI is making your client or company more successful through increased exposure/sales/traffic/client or employee satisfaction – whatever the stated goal is to be measured through your direct efforts.


5. Word-of-Mouth And Repeaters

I gauge business success by two factors: How many of my clients come back for more, year after year. And, how many clients are telling others about my business, thus creating new clients.

Thanks to Dr. Marlene Caroselli of

6. Success-o-meter

As a writer there is no gauge of success. Is it how many people told you they liked your last column? Is it the number of “Likes” or “Tweets” on a particular piece? How much money for a story? Or is it when a major media outlet would like you to write for them? The way I see it, it’s all of those things…the praise is great, the money is as well, but most of all job satisfaction is what it boils down to. Like the people at Life is Good quote on their items: “Do what you like, like what you do”….

The real gauge is when your 8 year old daughter gets out of the car for school in the morning and says “Mom you’re a fashion writer, I want to be you when I grow up!”…..tears, literally tears, because of this small sentence. TODAY I am a wealthy, successful woman, now about tomorrow?

Thanks to Jill Mikols Etesse of JacketsandJIll & MomsToWork

7. What Is Success?

For me, success is measured by repeat business and business referrals. I love it when previous clients return with new copywriting, ghostwriting, or editing projects: it means that they liked the work I did for them and I gave them good value for their money. And when new prospects approach me and tell me that a client referred them, I know that what I do is valued, appreciated, and worthy of passing along. Sometimes a thank-you note is as good a frame of reference as a check!

Thanks to Jeannette De Beauvoir of Customline Wordware

8. Objectives Accomplished Aims Achieved

Success in business, to me, is having set goals and achieving them. As a personal dedication I measure success in business, as when my clients have been able to turn their ideas into viable businesses or grow existing ones, helping them to ultimately fulfill their dreams. I am also successful when a client attends my seminar, reads my book (“The Business You Can Start: Spotting The greatest Opportunities In The Economic Downturn”), and sends feedback of how he/she has been inspired, equipped with practical tools and principles, on how to look beyond the obvious, identify golden opportunities in almost every adverse situation, and turn them into viable businesses. If your only measure of success in business is profit earned, then am afraid that is limited in scope, because they do not last.

Thanks to Victor Kwegyir of VIKE INVEST (UK) LTD

9. “Success” Means…

… thoroughly enjoying my work

… since Day One, virtually all clients contacting my firm through referrals

… clients who stick with us over time, or who come back for projects year after year

… remaining profitable and keeping the doors open — even in turbulent economic times

… recent ranking by New Mexico Business Weekly as the #10 PR firm in the state

Thanks to Jane Blume of Desert Sky Communications

10. 3 Things Ultimately Measure The Success Of A Business

No matter how you look at it, a business can’t be successful without financial stability. Financial stability allows a business to attract and retain the best employees. While the best employees care about more than money, you need to provide great benefits, training and compensation to have the best team.

The next step is to offer great products or services. When a great team is armed with the right tools, you can do this. Our “smell test” for services is simple and consists of two parts: 1) Can we be the best in this category? 2) Is there a high demand? If so, we pursue.

Then, we look to have the best clients. What makes a great client? Someone who is as dedicated to the success of a program as we are. Someone who puts the people and budget into a program to make sure it works.

Thanks to Bill Balderaz of Webbed Marketing

11. Success = Reader Interaction

We measure success a bit differently than most newspapers. Yes, we are still watching the bottom line, but we really get excited about a new comment on an article or a Facebook post. We gauge success based off reader interaction and involvement. We check our Google analytics daily, if not a few times a day. Our growing numbers are really exciting, but when readers are commenting and engaging in discussion with each other on our news site or our Facebook page, that is really very exciting for us. It really takes something spectacular to engage readers and they won’t do it until they begin to trust you as their news source.

Thanks to Jen Watkins of St. George News

12. I Spell Success- B-A-L-A-N-C-E

Measuring success in your business can be a tricky and ever-changing affair.
However, at the end of the day, I think the most crucial metric is to evaluate balance.
This will differ for everyone. For me, it is achieved through sustainable practices of
creating a lifestyle that allows for personal and professional fulfillment; that resonates
with individual values; serves the world; limits harm to the earth and is economically sound.

Thanks to Lori Webb of Indspark!

13. Success – A Personal Journey

How do you define success in your business?

For myself and my company, success is measured by all who know me. My contact database was compiled by me over the years through networking, face to face encounters, phone consultations and web inquiries. In each case, this database has grown to over 5000 and includes lists segmented into men in business, women in business, legal practices, medical practices, associations, media and more. When I am out and about, when I tell people who I am, and 9 times out of 10, they say “I get your newsletter” or “XYZ company said I should contact you.” or “your name was just mentioned during my meeting.” And this is a daily practice.

Leads turn into business directly from networking and referrals from those who know me, know my company or are former clients.

I feel that the Fame Formula is present here and that defines success for me.

Thanks to Gayle Naftaly of

14. The Stampede to Succeed!

I’m a relatively new start-up as a freelance writer, so I know from experience that no two days are the same. I can go from making $120 an hour to just about making the coffee run in the space of an afternoon. As much as I might want to believe otherwise, it’s NOT all within my control, apart from the internal factors. So whether my day is unforgettable or simply regrettable, my measure of success is: Am I running the kind of business that I’d choose to do business with?

Thanks to Derek Thompson of Professional Writer

15. Spiritual Wisdom

In our non-profit business, we are successful when we achieve our mission – to increase our participants’ spiritual wisdom and sense of purpose in life.

Thanks to Alexander Seinfeld of Jewish Spiritual Literacy, Inc.

16. Finding Your Success Sweet Spot

As someone who helps others define what success means for them, I often check in with myself to see how my own definition is holding up (if I’m talking the talk, I better be walking the walk!). Here’s how I define success in both business and life: Success for me is when I have a blend of all the things that bring me joy and meaning, knowing there is no cookie cutter mold or balance other than the one I define for myself. When I am playing to my strengths in order to bring the best results for my clients, I feel empowered, joyful, and in the flow…now that is a recipe for success!

Thanks to Danielle Miller of ONESMARTCOOKIE, LLC

17. To Do The Most Good

Success is defined by doing the most good with the resources given. Even though times can be difficult and donations will rise and fall; success can always be measured by doing the most good possible.

Thanks to Scott Keatley of Nourishing NYC

18. What Did YOU Do For Africa Today?

At AFRCN APPRL, we make t-shirts in Africa, but we’re not really about selling t-shirts. I mean, we must sell t-shirts to stay in business, but we’re really about an idea: contribute to a bigger, brighter future for Africa. The continent has been down on its luck, but we’ve been there and we know how much pride, promise, and potential Africa has. So, at the end of the day, we don’t ask ourselves how many shirts we sold. We ask ourselves “What did I do for Africa today?” If we can say we did everything in our power to make for a better future for Africa, then we were successful that day.

Thanks to Ryan Findley of AFRCN APPRL

19. Success–it Is Not The Money, It Is The Lifestyle

Aristotle defined happiness as a balance of health, wealth, friendship, virtue and knowledge. Success in business should allow one to live a balanced, enjoyable, productive life.

While the goal of business is to provide a living for you and your family, it should also be something that you enjoy doing and are proud of doing. There is no greater blessing in life than making a good living doing what you enjoy.

Thanks to Beverly Solomon of Musee-solomon

20. Success Is More Than A Number

In my work as an Intuitive Coach and Counselor, I see a lot of folks who have tremendous success in terms of position, status, and wealth, but many times they end up on empty after going through a life crisis or challenge. This is when many of these people determine they don’t have what they truly want…most of the time it is someone to care about them.

One client broke his back and he was successful attorney, but the only people who came to visit were those he paid to do so. Another woman, a retired executive with a major food service company, is struggling during her retirement years because she doesn’t have a sense of purpose. Mind you, she has the finances to relax…but there’s something big missing. Success is much more than a number. It is defined by the life you create and how you feel about yourself. No one tells you that in business school.

When people come to see me and they are struggling with their “success,” I ask them two questions: What is your purpose? How can you serve? When you can answer those two questions the journey of life become a lot easier.

Thanks to Sheree Franklin of

21. Enough Money, Exciting Work, Enjoyable Clients

“Enough money” is my financial goal based on the lifestyle I like to live rather than any number determined by an outside source that is supposed to portray success.
“Exciting work” for me is work that is a good fit for my experience, talents and skills and stimulates me intellectually and creatively.
“Enjoyable clients” are clients who are diverse, interesting and pay promptly. At this stage in my career I am fortunate to be able to choose my work and ‘fire’ clients who are a pain to deal with.

I can design my work around my life, rather than live around my work. Looking back over the years of my career, I’m glad that I tried a lot of things, worked in a variety of industries and learned a lot of lessons about business and about myself. Now I can truly work with purpose, live with passion and make a difference. Author, Marianne Williamson says that our work is important because it’s the way we express ourselves creatively to the Universe. Success is being able to support yourself by being yourself.

Thanks to Myra McElhaney of MYRAMCELHANEY.COM

22. Repeat And Referral Business Wins The Day

Clients that contact Wealth Building Academy, LLC and request that I deliver additional programs and or refer me to other associates at other businesses reflect success in the highest order. What companies are looking for is for our company to provide solutions to the issues and or problems their organization is experiencing, and/or request we assist them in putting systems in place to create a safe, employee friendly environment for their company, while maximizing their human potential. Success comes in the form of leadership training programs, workplace diversity train-the-trainer programs, life coaching.

Another great example of success is companies that invest in my inspirational book, Living on Higher Ground. Each year sheriffs department in Florida calls our company for 15-20 copies of my book, so new employees can use it as a case study for professional development. Wealth Building Academy, LLC measures success by the strong relationships we have with our current and prospective clients. We build strong business relationships with each and every organization and/or customer we work with.

Thanks to Paul Lawrence Vann of Wealth Building Academy, LLC

23. One More Child Reading

I feel successful when I know that one more child is reading because of a book I’ve put out there. Book publishing is a tough business, and there are so many ways a book can fail. If I focused on those things, I’d be missing the point, which is to encourage and foster a love of reading (and writing) in children.

In this business, the money may never come. I get paid in the form of children’s letters, telling me, “Thank you Mrs. Fliess, for your fun book. I’ve read it 12 times. I have shoes like the ones Hippo has. Do you?” For me, I’m only a success when I hear that my book has given someone quality time with her children, classroom, or even made bedtime less of a struggle.

Thanks to Sue Fliess of Children’s Book Author

24. Success Is…

A day when you don’t have to call the bank to make sure a check won’t bounce.

Thanks to David Klein of Can You Imagine That Confections

25. Your Success Is A Succession Of Successes

When you have a large task to tackle, it is best to break it down into small tasks. The same can be said of defining and achieving business success. When you succeed at several small, key objectives, you can expect to succeed overall.

It is similar to sports. The final score may determine a final win or loss, but it tells you little about how that result was achieved. How many hits did the baseball team get? How many yards in football? You can apply the same to business. How many sales calls did you make today, compared to how many during a successful season? What percent of bids were accepted? Measure the correct little things, adjust your effort as you go, and the big things will take care of themselves.

Thanks to Cliff Zugay of CliffsEdge

26. Success Can’t Be Bought; For Anything Else, Use MasterCard!

I used to define my success by the sales I made each week, the bonus I received at the end of the year, the shares my company would give me… until I realized my corporate and financial success did not define my happiness. Thus, I decided to make a huge change in my life and pursue the part of the American Constitution that always made me giggle: the pursuit of happiness! I gave up my corporate job two years ago and have since yearned to redefine myself professionally based on the pursuit of happiness.

Financial success has nothing to do with happiness. To make those numbers gel, I had to do lots of things I hated doing that were often close to unethical, pushy and disagreeable. I put up with a boss I disliked, a team I didn’t respect and long hours that amounted to a grumpy me in the morning and palpitations every Sunday when it was time to think about Monday. I thus decided to pursue what I love doing: helping people achieve their own success by sharing my knowledge of international business and image management.

I am fully in charge of my professional destiny, which has an immediate effect on my personal happiness. Its been challenging, tiring and at times frustrating and scary. But not one single day has my brain tried to come up with a reason why I shouldn’t report to work that morning. Instead, I reluctantly go to bed because there is so much more I would like to write down, create and compile. Never again will I judge my success by the amount of money I make, but rather by the amount of happiness in my heart every day. Through my professional change, I have discovered this tenet of success: success is contentment. Success is feeling proud of what you do and the way you do it. Success is assisting others in reaching their own objectives.

Thanks to Valerie Antoinette Berset-Price of Valérie Antoinette

27. Kickstart Your Success!

As the founder of the world’s first poi fire dancing academy, I already feel like I’ve achieved a level of success — the industry first and fiscally sustainable for just about 9 years now. That said, each year I look at different things to help me continue to create and strive for added success. This year success is defined by funding the 6th Annual Fire Dancing Expo externally, rather than out of my pocket, which I was successfully able to do using Kickstarter (! The fire dancing industry has gotten popular enough that in 9 days I was able to raise $4500 to fund this annual show we host in San Francisco’s Union Square (this year, it will be April 23), and it feels awesome to have built up what we do so effectively!

Thanks to Isa Isaacs of Temple Of Poi

28. Laughing All The Way To The Happiness Bank Of Success

At first, I thought fame and fortune would be the epitome of success. While I still strive for both those goals, I’ve come to understand, possibly in the last seven years, that happiness is definitely my definition of success.

How can I not be happy? I get paid very well to travel around the world, be based in New York City, doing what I love, which is making people happy, and get to choose my holidays. I’ve also noticed that it’s a two-way street. When the audience is happy, it makes me happy because I’m aware that I am the catalyst.

So many performers are entrenched in this me, me, me mindset which only leads to misery. I was guilty of this in the beginning, but realized how much more rewarding it is when performances… whether it be standup, acting or otherwise… it’s always more rewarding when it’s from a giving perspective. I hope to do more with charities that I can trust at the moment. Finally, I believe that continuously growing, setting up challenges for yourself and keeping your head in the clouds, but your feet on the ground, is a win-win situation.

PS: I’m writing you this from my ship’s balcony in the Caribbean. 🙂

Thanks to Jim Dailakis of Aussie Comedian/Actor

29. Success = An Exchange Of Business Cards

MeetingWave’s success metric is when we help a member meet a new valuable, real world contact over coffee, lunch or other meeting activity.

Thanks to John Boyd of Meeting Wave

30. I Determine Success One Smile At A Time

My company’s success is measured by the amount of videos submitted by happy customers using my products from all over the globe. Each video testimonial means that they are content with the item they purchased.

Thanks to Michael Di Pippo of

31. Success Is…Creating Positive Impact!!!

Success to me is simply inspiring others to create “Positive Impact” in their community, company and culture! “Positive Impact” is defined simply as adding value to people, products and places. Any time a product is improved, a life is saved or changed, or a community is impacted for good, then “Positive Impact” has taken place.

I believe ANYONE can create “Positive Impact!” Doctors, nurses, attorneys, ministers, accountants, teachers, sales professionals, executives, drivers, in fact, anyone, anywhere has the potential to add value, thereby creating “Positive Impact!.

Success, to me, is measured by the amount of people who hear about (and implement) “The Positive Impact Principles!” as well as the amount of “Positive Impact” I bring into the world each year.

My personal “Positive Impact” might be as strategic as training non-profit leaders in SE Asia, working hands on in tsunami/earthquake relief operations, or inspiring marketing leaders for a major company that they too, in fact, are in the business of creating “Positive Impact!”

Thanks to Al Argo of Argo Global Pte Ltd

32. The 3 R’s Of Success: Results, Response, Regeneration

Success is defined through an integrated method of results, response and regeneration. Results are based on both the bottom line financially, as well as client feedback. Response is a combination of client feedback and social media networking interaction percentages. And regeneration is based on the viral expansion of the social media networking and client referrals/renewals.

Thanks to Karen Kleinwort of Therapy In Transition

33. True Success is NO Illusion

Success in business is being able to do what you’ve always wanted to do, since you were a kid, every day of your life. I found my passion early, when I fell in love with the art of magic at the age of five. From that point on, it was my dream to make magic my life and to entertain and amaze audiences whenever possible. As the years went by and I grew older, magic became my business, and it has provided me with many unique and memorable opportunities, including performing on national television, in sold-out baseball stadiums, and even at The White House.

I’ve loved every minute of living that five year old’s dream. However, what’s more meaningful is when I receive phone calls from around the country with requests to speak with students or entertain children in hospitals. That tells me that my childhood dream and adulthood business have transcended dollars and cents and found a way to truly affect people, hopefully making a positive difference in their lives. To me, there’s no greater success than that.

Thanks to Michael Grandinetti of

34. Even One Life Has Lived Easier…

To me success is defined by Emerson:

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a better place, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has lived easier because you lived, this is to have succeeded.”

Thanks to Ronald Kaufman of Ronald Kaufman Consultancy

35. The Secret Of My Subcess

For those who base “success” on income, I’d say I was a subcess at best! I do a weekly TV segment on dollar-stretching and I speak to a lot of church and civic groups on the same — Bargainomics, a word I created and trademarked. I’ve published 3 books, contributed to another, and keep up a busy website, plus Facebook and Twitter.

None of these have made me either fame or fortune, but finding my niche, which I firmly believe is my God-appointed calling, brings me enormous peace, joy, and satisfaction. I’ve met far too many people still desperately clawing for that brass ring, who are finding no peace, joy, or satisfaction in having accumulated wealth, stuff, or the accompanying debt. My husband, Larry, and I live debt-free on a modest income and thoroughly enjoy life as it is.

Thanks to Judy Bates of THE BARGAINOMICS LADY

36. In Do Time

Each day my goal is to complete at least 7 out of every 10 tasks on my to-do list.

Thanks to Derrick Hayes of WOE Enterprises

37. Business Success Is In The Numbers…Plus A Whole Lot More

The numbers in business tell you just about everything you need to know about whether what you’re doing is working, makes sense to continue and a variety of other things. Relationships are what make business run and prosper, and if you look at the number of clients who return to spend money with you, or the number of referrals your clients send you, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to whether or not you have good relationships with your clients or not. If you want to know if your marketing is working, no matter what media you’re using, you can easily look at your numbers to find out what your Return On Investment (ROI) is, how many new clients you got from the campaign, sales, etc.

We could go on and on and look at a lot of different variables in your business, but in one way shape or form, they all can be traced back to a number. That doesn’t mean you take the human factor out of your business, but it does mean you can take the emotion out of making decisions…for the good or the bad.

Thanks to Diane Conklin of Complete Marketing Systems

38. Paying Off Suppliers After My Business Crashed Is Success To Me!

Four years ago when economy went down, my perfume retail business almost crashed. I shut five stores and a 5000 sq ft warehouse. I then launched an online site,, learned SEO, and got on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
Three years later my site is on page 1 of search engines in 1000+ keywords, I have 120,000 followers on Twitter and 10,000+ Facebook friends and fans, between me and my wife. I paid off my debt to suppliers in 6 figures and never closed my business. From it, I launched a second business, through which I do SEO, social media coaching, etc. for clients (

To me success is being able to make a comeback when you are more powerful than before!

Thanks to Sonny Ahuja of Grand Perfumes

39. Success Isn’t Always Spectacular

Success is when our principles align with what we have attained. Success is accomplishing something we intentionally decided to do… and reaching the destination we sought. Success can be spectacular, but it often isn’t. We hit more singles in life (and in business) than home runs.

Thanks to Clifford Bailey of TechSoft Systems, Inc.

40. Cook Up Success!

On a monthly basis, we compile Key Performance Indicators to evaluate our performance. In this report, we look at the following information: revenue to plan and budget, gross profit, margin, net income, cash flow, accounts receivable, a trailing twelve graph, average event revenue by month, number of events by month, average food and labor cost per person, repeat and referral rates, web traffic, Twitter followers and Facebook fans, and lastly, customer event evaluation score. All this information gives us an accurate sense of the business and where we need to focus to improve.

Thanks to Bibby Gignilliat of Parties That Cook

41. Going For Gold!

Success for me is the compilation of thousands of victories, spanning millions of minutes, over the course of a lifetime. Like every Olympian, I have identified my fields of passion, expended extreme effort and energy into the perfecting of my skills, invested myself with intensity and clear vision, and have taken home the gold in my field of expertise as often as I’ve been the best performer on the field that day. At all other times, I have found success in the opportunity to compete at ever-increasing levels of expertise, and in the chance to learn from some of the most amazing people on the planet.

Thanks to Marnie Swedberg of

Thanks so much again to all our wonderful contributors for your valuable insights this week!  We hope to hear from you again.

How do I get involved?

Every Monday I will post a new Question of the Week. This is a great opportunity for you to bring your expertise to the table. Using the link below, please submit a one paragraph response before the deadline, and the following week I will share our community responses on my blog.


I look forward to your response to this week’s question! If you have any questions you know where to find me. Have a great week!


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  1. Posted June 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This post is interesting. Every person’s success is something different. I enjoyed most Beverly Solomon’s answer, that success is a lifestyle. This includes enough money and happiness. You can’t be really happy without having a certain amount of money. Mother Theresa knew how important money is. She collected huge amounts of money. She had her lifestyle. You can only be happy if you have found your specific lifestyle.

    • Posted June 29, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Christa, Thank you for reading and for sharing your comment. I agree that there shouldn’t be a separation between your professional life and your personal life. There is a way to successfully integrate the two, so that you can achieve that “lifestyle” approach. The Europeans have been doing it for centuries. 🙂

  2. Posted March 28, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great article, thanks for including us Shannon.

    We are currently seeking writing tips for businesses. All contributors are welcome:

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  1. […] is a very interesting article by Dr Shannon Reece in which she asked 41 business owners how they defined success in their business […]

  2. […] Dr. Shannon Reece asked how we define success.  Read how I, and 40 other business owners, define success. […]

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