One of the hardest traits for an entrepreneur to maintain is accountability. The desire to be one’s own boss runs exactly counter to the willingness to be accountable to others. The energy and focus to move an idea into the marketplace profitably leaves little room for asking others for advice, especially if the advice is not what you want to hear.
Here’s the irony. The best way to ensure success is by increasing your eyes and ears in the marketplace to counterbalance entrepreneurial tunnel vision. Building a group of advisors in the planning stage always beats time spent building your slick business plan; the more diverse the eyes, the better.
The criteria for your advisors can vary and here are my criteria. My board of advisors all met the following criteria:
- They were trustworthy.
- They had enough experience in business and life to have learned some things I had not.
- They understood something about my target market.
- They were interested in seeing me succeed.
- They had a generous spirit.
Once I assembled my board, I followed a simple approach to start my latest venture. I sent each an outline of my plan and approach, as well as, my SWOT analysis of me and my plan. I asked each advisor for 30 minutes at an agreed upon time. The time would be spent providing me with feedback on the plan and would end with this question: What should I do in the next thirty days from your perspective?
Once I received the information, I schedule a monthly follow-up meeting. The meeting was to report on the results of following their suggestion and discuss the biggest problem currently in front of me. The key, of course, to making this work was my willingness to actually do what they suggested.
The results to me proved invaluable. My original idea on target market changed and my product offering changed. I invested my marketing dollars in a more effective way. Here’s the kicker: One of my advisors became my first client and to this day remains one of my best sources of referrals. So every day I thank God for not allowing me to follow my great original idea.
A word of caution, success can get in the way of long-term growth. Once I got going and achieved some success, I got so caught up in the game. I quit following the formula that made it possible. Like a sugar high, I loved the initial rush and never thought about the long-term effects of my health. When the high ran out and I lost momentum in my market, I realized that my monthly calls had dwindled and then disappeared. So now I am in the process of reviving my accountability group and this time I expect to make this a permanent part of my operations. To maintain success, I need to maintain accountability.