If at First you Don’t Succeed, Do Not Redefine Success

The old saying is true – if at first you don’t succeed, try try again. I used to pick on people who I thought gave up too easily, by putting this in their mouths: “If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.”

That sarcastic rewording came back to mind when I spent time with a former client. He’s got a small business-services firm that also sells to residential customers. He’s struggled for years with cash flow, with finding good people, with having reliable results, and so on.

At the same time he always seems to have the latest gadget or toy, and he’s gotten very “woo-woo” spiritual on me. When I asked about the health of the business, he surprised me by admitting that it was even worse than usual, but he felt it was a success – because he “defined success differently” in terms of happiness, fulfillment, and the like.

Don’t let me rain on your happiness parade, and I didn’t get in my former client’s face over this, but that’s a dumb definition of success for any business. A business like that will go out of business. Because – while it’s perfectly okay to have additional goals (life balance; happiness; spiritual fulfillment; perfect nails) those can only be successfully pursued by a business owner whose business is making a profit.

Making a sustainable profit is the absolute prerequisite for other, higher forms of success. Without positive cash flow, you are dead. With positive cash flow, many many other things are possible.

Take this as a warning sign for all business owners: if you find yourself searching for or inventing alternative definitions of “success” because the basic one, running a profitable business, eludes you, then you are in deep trouble.

If this is you, stop trying to redefine success and get back on your basics. Hire a coach, or seek a mentor, or call your dad, or toy with a series of business consultants who offer their first hour free (as many of us do) – you can get a lot of good free consulting that way – and figure out where you’re going off the rails, get back on, and make a profit.

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