Defining Success

Richard and his wife, Clare, run Talbot Jones Risk Solutions, based in Felling, Gateshead. In this blog, Richard shares how they define success in their business and how they set out future successes to achieve.

When we’re young we have dreams of fame and fortune (or perhaps delusions of grandeur!), but often as we grow older our priorities change, our interests develop and we find ourselves chasing new dreams.

Most people would say they would like to be happy or successful, but this begs the question “What is successful?”. There are many ways in which we can define success, and yet more ways in which we can measure success (for example, the dreaded Key Performance Indicator!).

In many ways, it is up to us to define what success looks like for us, and this was how Clare and I approached our own targets when we launched Talbot Jones Risk Solutions Ltd.  However, it would be pointless to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, when our clients and potential clients didn’t recognise the same success.

In this article, we aren’t looking to give the reader an exhaustive treatise on success, just trying to give an overview of our own successes, and how we categorise them and then turn how we set out future successes for us to achieve.

Broadly speaking we group successes into 3 key areas:

1. Externally recognised business success

2. Internally critical success factors

3. Personal successes

Externally recognised business success

Formal recognition

Externally recognised business success are those achievements which people external to the enterprise can recognise. These fall into many different categories, and can range from nationally recognised standards such as awards, down to the simplest form, such as a client referral. This recognition directly impacts reputation. It might include being voted one of the UK’s top employers, being awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, winning industry awards for excellence or simply being recognised as a major employer. The categories, and scale, of recognition vary dramatically.

Informal recognition

Initially we eschewed pursuing awards as a marker of success, as I have become quite cynical of the value of such recognition. In our particular industry, with our particular client-base, we don’t feel they have much impact. What breeds trust (and more business!) for us, appears to be client referrals. One of Clare’s proudest moments to date was meeting a new contact at a networking event recently. Although we hadn’t met him before, he had heard of us and described us as ethical and professional.  Our reputation precedes us, even when we are a micro-SME! It’s evidence to us that someone has recognised our success, spoken of it to another person or business, and they have approached us to work with them. Success breeds success.

Internally critical success factors

Internally critical success factors are somewhat different. Often, they are not visible to those outside our enterprise but failing to achieve these critical successes can cripple a business. We’ve seen many a business launch with a big PR firm and budget, pick up new entrant or start up awards, and then fail because the business ran out of money (or cash in the bank more specifically).  These successes are make or break – is there money in the bank, are client’s paying on time, can we pay our staff?

Financial targets

When we launched our business, we identified several critical success factors. We worked out the minimum income that we needed in order to survive financially. Having calculated this figure, we could then work out the revenue we needed, based on the average commissions (margin) we would receive. From that we could further extrapolate (based on average conversion rates, commission and fee income, and premiums) how many clients we needed to win, how many quotes we needed to issue and how many prospects we needed in the pipeline. These figures aren’t shared with our clients, but we know what we need to achieve. If we can’t hit these targets the business will stall, and eventually fail. These are very clear markers and signposts for our success.

Personal successes

So, we have our business that clients love and is paying our salary- isn’t that enough? Well, no, not really. The question remains – What’s the Point?  This is where identifying personal successes come in, what are you trying to achieve. Sometimes these objectives are aligned with reason you want to start the business, sometimes they run parallel.

We wanted a business that could support us financially (internally critical success factors) and we also want to keep growing the business with a solid reputation (externally recognised business success). We also wanted to achieve better personal health outcomes, for which we needed flexibility over working hours, we wanted to spend more quality time with our kids and we wanted to help support our local economy. These are our personal objectives, and succeeding in achieving them will keep us motivated and happy- albeit whilst probably having some wider benefits too. When we notice that we are working such long hours in pursuit of our other success goals that it is impacting our personal goals, we take time to step back and refocus at the earliest opportunity.

If you’ve read our previous articles in Think Enterprise you’ll know that Clare and I like to plan and set measurable objectives. For us, this is the key to success- it shouldn’t always come out of the blue. If you can identify an objective and achieve it, you’ve been successful! Sometimes these are small achievements, other times they can be huge. For us, we think it is important to note and chart success. Sometimes, if we’ve had a frustrating week and we feel fed up, we can look back over past successes to pick up our motivation again.

Finally – mark your success! Have a posh meal out, take an afternoon off, go to the beach with your daughter for an ice cream, whatever works for you! Take stock and enjoy what you’ve achieved, whether it’s a swanky national award, a dream new client or sincere and grateful customer feedback. You’ve earned it!

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