The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What must every entrepreneur know about startup success?” is written by Jodi Goldstein, managing director of Harvard Innovation Labs.
When you ask entrepreneurs what startup success means to them, you’ll rarely get the same exact response twice. Some will focus on getting rich, while others will talk about making a difference in the world. Early-stage entrepreneurs might mention securing their first customers, or finding the right co-founder.
The interesting thing about these different answers is that they underscore something about success that all entrepreneurs should keep in mind: Success is fleeting.
Whenever one goal is reached, there’s always a new milestone to hit. Even when founders achieve significant accomplishments such as selling a company, securing a big partnership, or growing to a certain revenue number, they will quickly find themselves tackling the next set of challenges.
Once entrepreneurs understand that the nature of success is fleeting rather than a long-lasting state, they can take steps to make sure their relationship with success is one that helps them grow a healthy business. Here are a few tips:
Pause to recognize successes
When your startup experiences successes, take the time to acknowledge and celebrate them with your team.
Particularly in the beginning stages of a startup, it can be tempting to keep working full steam ahead even when you do achieve success. For instance, if your colleague who leads sales efforts comes to you and says, “We just hit our goal of securing 10 new customers this month,” a tempting response can be, “Great, but we need to get 20 wins next month.”
While looking ahead is certainly important, pausing to fully acknowledge accomplishments is critical for keeping morale high amongst your employees, and motivating them to achieve their next goal. Not enough can be said for taking your team out to lunch to celebrate an achievement, or organizing an after-work gathering.
Share your success stories
Whether you’ve just raised a seed round or had a great month of winning new customers, be open to sharing stories with other entrepreneurs about how you did it, as well as some of the setbacks you experienced along the way.
Often, when you share your moments of success with entrepreneurs, you’ll form beneficial relationships where you exchange ideas, and learn from each other’s successes and failures. Ideally, these relationships will help to speed up your entrepreneurial learning curve and will allow you to experience more success as a startup.
When you do succeed, don’t rest on your laurels
As your goals and aspirations grow with your business, keep in mind that the resources your team needs to achieve success will evolve. In other words, just because you won your 100th customer doesn't mean that you'll secure your 1000th customer using the same methods.
Once you hit one goal and take the time to acknowledge it with your team, make sure to both quickly set a new goal and form a plan of attack for achieving the goal. For instance, getting to a new revenue level might require you to hire additional salespeople or change your sales process.
Be wary of constantly experiencing success
When starting a business, it's important to push yourself to build the best product or service, and sell it as effectively as possible. If your venture is always meeting or exceeding expectations, and celebrating successes every day of the week, ask yourself if you should be setting loftier goals.
Analyzing how your competitors are faring in the market is a good way of judging whether your bar for success is high enough. If success for you means securing 10 new customers each month, but it’s clear that your competitors are achieving at least five times that, you might want to rethink your metrics that define success.