How to Measure Business Success Beyond Profit

Is profit the only indicator of business happiness & success for start-up business, or should we strive for bigger goals?

We live in a society that is currently celebrating the success of the entrepreneur. Instead of working for others, we are taking control by owning our own businesses. Many interviews and profiles celebrate the quick profit or large turnovers these new entrepreneurs seem to achieve in short periods of time.

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How do you maintain a positive approach to your own profit margin if your business is a slow and steady race instead of a fast and furious business sensation?

How do you maintain a positive approach to your own profit margin if your business is a slow and steady race instead of a fast and furious business sensation?

During the start-up period, we often talk about the need for life-work balance but the almighty dollar is often the driver for business success during the beginning of the start-up journey.

Happiness and profit are usually the main drivers in starting a new business. But these days happiness is considered a destination, not a feeling, and the benchmark for a ‘good’ margin profit always seems to be increasing.

So how do you measure business success when the goal posts seem too far in the distance to focus on?

Nail your creativity process and purpose

During the first year, you need to focus on that sweet spot between creativity, process and purpose. They don’t all turn up to work at the same time. Your creative muse is often AWOL when the deadline looms and your processes can get in the way of your creativity shining bright.

Organisation, business automation and staying true to your mission statement are the key in the early days of commencing your business.

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How are you going to achieve the balance where the business side of things remains a regular process and it gives you the freedom to create?

Creating automation or simply processes for invoicing, customer leads, social media, marketing, customer updates ensure that you have more time for the fun parts of your business – which are often your strengths.

Assess your mission statement (you do have a mission statement, don’t you?) for your business on a regular basis. Are your business dealings still aligned with your key message? Do your customer interactions reflect what your key intention is for your business? Often, your intended target market or key business can change in a short space of time. In the early months, your mistakes become obvious straight away and you need to act quickly to correct them.

In the early months, your mistakes become obvious straight away and you need to act quickly to correct them.

Once you are crystal clear on your processes and purpose, your business branding, customer message and offerings are easier to for your customer to acknowledge as well.

Take satisfaction in problem-solving

When was the last time you really listened to your customer and solved their problems? When did you last solve a business issue that was causing you stress?

Being an entrepreneur is really about problem-solving and putting out fires so your business can shine, and also being available to your customers.

You can take pride in solving the everyday problems of your business and customers, which means that you are one step closer to achieving business success.

Often the problems you or your employees have are the symptoms of bigger issues within your company, so don’t ignore them!

Celebrate tenacity during the first lean profit years of business

Are you aware of the statistic that 90% of small businesses fail within the first two years? Or is that one year?

Creating a business from doing something you love is hard work. Unfortunately, the creative and fun aspects of business are often elusive when balancing the books.

If you have survived the first year of business, it means you’re doing well – or you’re lucky!

Being tenacious is a great quality to have because it means you don’t give up. Mistakes will be made. You may have to change a process or the way you engage with your customers but if you really love what you do, then keep doing it.

Collect positive client feedback

Start collecting those client testimonials and positive emails after every client project. Not only will they look fantastic on your website for prospective customers, they also give you motivation when you have a bad day or feeling like giving up. Past clients have loved your work AND paid you for it. Go you!

You may start to receive word of mouth praise or referrals from past clients and friends that can be added to your portfolio. If your work is speaking for itself then your business has started to create a life of its own.

If you are growing, keep going!

I was once told in the early days of my freelancing career, when I was getting frustrated with my slow social media growth, “If you are growing, however small, keep going.”

During the first few months of your business, providing a quality product or service and getting a few quality testimonials behind you is key. For example, working with three or four quality clients who are happy to sing your praises and champion your business can grow your brand in a small amount of time.

If people are coming to you because they recognise your brand and want to do business with you then you are growing, even if you feel the bank account isn’t growing as quickly. It is better to do quality work with quality clients, instead of overstretching yourself to work with everyone and anyone if you can’t meet their needs.

Why not consider growing your brand with a new and exciting collaboration with a colleague or a business that naturally aligns with your brand message? You might be able to create a relationship where you can refer clients to one another, create a mutual product or service together, or conduct some workshops together.

Help another business, start-up, charity or solo-preneur

You can “pay it forward” and give a shout out on social media to another business owner with a similar ethos to you. I subscribe to a number of e-newsletters by online copywriting and freelance writing colleagues, and I often directly reply to their questions, share their articles on social media or simply fill out their customer surveys.

Another way to give back and create some good business karma is to align your business with a charity or cause close to your heart. Work out how you can support their cause for example: give a percentage of the profits a year to charity, raise money on their fundraising days, add their logo to your website and write some lovely words to entice people to donate.

Mentoring other up-and-coming people in your field can be a positive way to give back and be seen as a thought leader in your industry. We often think we don’t have the time or knowledge to be a mentor but people new to the industry are often looking for a sounding board or someone who has been in their shoes before.

If you are not up for something so formal, a simple coffee with regular clients keeps the communication open and relaxed (no obligations or underlying agendas please, slimy is out) and can be a turning point to bounce off ideas and keep communication flowing. They will think of you in the future when they require someone to solve their problem.

The first few years in business are tough, and profit margins are not always an accurate assessment of your growing business in the early months. Growing a brand takes time and you need to focus on other elements to keep your motivation alive to achieve business success.


lisa bersonLisa Berson

Lisa is a freelance writer, copywriter and blogger based in WA, whose writing interests are careers, women’s lifestyle, parenting and travel. Find out more at

Check out Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.

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