What does success look like to you? This has got to be one of the most difficult questions to answer. I say it is difficult to answer because so often, we as entrepreneurs, can get caught up in defining success as what others deem success to be. We catch ourselves thinking that we need to achieve a certain goal or accomplishment in our business because that will make others view us as successful.
This is an area in which I have personally struggled. I completed my Master’s in Business Administration and at the time thought success would be completing my M.B.A. with Beta Gamma Sigma Honours. After all, this was an International Honours Society, among the highest and most respected designations that is reserved for the best of the best. Once I achieved this, I have done well I would think to myself. Then my definition of success soon turned to winning awards – if I could get recognized for being Top 40 Under 40 when I was only 30 – that would be success. Been there done that and still not satisfied. I strived for perfection in all I attempted because this is what success meant to me at the time. Always being better. I achieved it and then moved on. Like many goals in life, you establish a great desire to achieve and then once it has been satisfied you move on to the next great thing… however temporary that thought might be.
Once I established my company, Kaizen Marketing & Creative Design House, I thought success would be in landing that first big client – someone that had a name and that people could immediately connect. As if establishing a solid client base of companies that were recognizable somehow built my credibility more or made me better at what I did for a living. As my client list grew, the awards accumulated and my goals achieved, the feeling of success never seemed to last for long.
Similarly, at the time I thought success would be found in hiring that first full-time employee… and then a second, and a third and so on. This went on until my team grew to nine.
This mentality of chasing success kept going. It was in building a better office, in a better location, a more diverse team, an even larger client base with projects that had increasing scope. I soon realized, if you can consider seven years at this pace being soon, that I was living a vicious cycle of striving for perfection and through this continuous need for improvement I was never happy with the success that I had achieved.
This past year is when I finally learned that you are not happy once you achieve success but that we have it all wrong. Instead, be happy and success will follow.
Earlier this year, I took a leap of faith and invested in a start-up that was as far from my day-to-day work as I could get. I used my skills as a marketer and business developer to tackle that next big project. I jumped into this entrepreneurial venture thinking big on a really small scale.
I knew that I wanted a change. I knew that I wanted to be out of that perfect office I had built and that I wanted to be away from the team that I developed. I wanted to be outdoors. I wanted to be around people that were happy and carefree – as opposed to the serious side of business that typically surrounds me. I just wanted to be.
I woke up one morning and decided that I was going to change, and I did exactly that.
I did some research, established the brand and launched my first venture in the concession business. It was decided. I was going to spend my weekends travelling from festival to festival, all across Southern Ontario selling lemonade. But this was not going to be just any lemonade. Mine was going to be the best fresh squeezed lemonade anyone has ever tasted. I found the best type of lemon (who knew their were so many varieties!) and began testing recipe after recipe. I learned the best way to prepare this old-fashioned drink with a modern spin… I became a “mixologist”… and with this Quench Premium Lemonade & Teas was born!
My days were soon filled with hard work, long hours and battling all types of weather. I was happier standing behind that counter serving up lemonade than I had been from accomplishing many of the things I thought represented success. Over the summer we soon developed a following. And, at our last event of the season we held a line up of people – 20 deep – for nine hours straight. Suddenly, that was success!
Success to me was no longer about what someone else deemed to be successful. And, let me tell you… when an established business owner with an M.B.A. tells people that they are now selling lemonade, there are more than a few snickers and giggles. I can’t say that I was surprised. I had done a complete transformation and for once, I was happy with the low(er)-stress business venture that I had built.
Now that it’s Fall and the lemonade season is over, I am back to work as usual but this summer I was able to enjoy so many different aspects of business than I had experienced with my full time company. With that I learned that success can be whatever challenges you and it doesn’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations except your own!
If you keep an open-mind, you may just find success in the strangest of places. Don’t be afraid to go where you imagination leads you… you might just end up being happy with the new definition of success that you discover!