What is success?

At the last Waterloo Region Web Design & Technology Group I attended I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people who were waiting patiently to ask me the same thing, “How did you start your own company?”

I don’t know whether I started seyDoggy in any traditional sense or not, but it seems my answers didn’t completely satisfy most people who asked. The process seemed too safe perhaps, or too long. I’m not really sure. But the common thread I could see each time I was asked, which seemed to be what they were really getting at was, “How long did it take you to become successful?”

So for weeks now I have been thinking about both questions and how, or if they are even related. I’ve decided the two do not belong on the same line of sight. Since I am no authority on the right or wrong way to start a business (I’ve really only started one and it seems I did it right), then I will address the other question here, “How long did it take you to become successful?”

First, let’s define success as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. I think that’s where many young people are getting it wrong today. They think success is getting rich. If that is your aim then I suppose getting rich would accomplish that but that’s not what success is to me.

For me, my professional successes as they pertain to this company, have come in stages. For starters, I wanted to start a serious company that would some day be my sole source of income. I wanted to be able to make as much, if not more then I was at the day job. I called it my 5 year plan.

That was in the summer of 2005. By September of 2005, seyDoggy was a registered company and by November of 2006 I was no longer on anyone’s payroll. The 5 year plan was truncated to a little over 1 year… that was a success to me.

But I had more aims that evolved as the company grew. I wanted to make a living doing what I wanted to do, not what clients wanted me to do. I wanted to have a product based company, not a service based company. This was my next 5 year plan. Within the next two years, however, I was able to realize that goal as well. I was able to limit or eliminate all client based contracts, consulting contracts and service contracts and focus solely on the RapidWeaver theme distribution division of seyDoggy. Again, for me, that was another success.

And how about the bigger picture? That all encompassing notion of success? That question, “Are you successful?”

That depends on what you consider successful I suppose. I am able to fulfil the needs of the family, pay the mortgage and the bills, pay my taxes, pay my contractors/employees, entertain and buy the little extras. We, as a family, don’t want for anything. But those are just the financial gains, a measure of which I have little use for. What’s more important to me, and perhaps what you could aim for as a measure of your own success, are the financial freedoms that I have earned with my company.

Here are my top 10 measures of my own success:

  1. I attend my daughters school assemblies in the middle of the afternoon.
  2. I take my children to their doctors appointments.
  3. I take the Fridays off that my wife doesn’t work.
  4. I take a few weeks worth of holidays and still make money.
  5. I go for an hour walk every morning and I am never late for work.
  6. I can take lunch at 10 am, 12 pm or 2 pm (or take lunch at 10 am and 12 pm and 2 pm).
  7. I can take a sick day and not call in.
  8. I stay home with the kids when they get sick.
  9. I can take 20 minutes out of the day to play a video game and call it professional development.
  10. I haven’t worked a weekend in over 3 years.

But do I stop here? Absolutely not. I want to be able to travel more, work less and hire more people. I keep making new goals, new levels of success to achieve and I have no intention of ever stopping. And maybe that is how I should have answered the first question, “How did you start your own company?”

I kept redefining my own measure of success. I kept setting higher goals and greater aims. I kept myself honest and my company genuine. I had a focal point for the company and at the end of the day, if I was happy with what I was doing then I was successful.

How about you? What do you consider to be success?