Entrepreneurship tends to be an isolating experience. Even for a small business with many employees, decisions fall to the owner; that can be heavy, and it can feel lonely. Community is crucial to combat this isolation. A community of other entrepreneurs can also facilitate accountability.
Why is self-imposed accountability so important? Not only does involving others in our leadership reign us in when necessary, but it also provides for better direction (their advice), an outside perspective (they often see what we cannot), and more efficient progress (they encourage us to hit goals and meet deadlines). Many of us are really bad at some of those things, and having people hold us accountable can help. That’s why accountability is such a significant part of addiction recovery programs. Without accountability, people fail more often.
How to build accountability into your business life can be a little tricky. First and foremost, remember that we are all accountable to God. He is the first layer of an accountability strategy since He is the real owner of our businesses. How would the Owner want us to operate? How would He feel about our customer service, treatment of employees, strategy/direction, fiscal management, and follow-through? Although it can be somewhat ephemeral, most of us can take an honest look at our business from this shifted perspective and see where we are not doing our best.
Other business owners are another key source of accountability. Join or start a group of non-competing entrepreneurs to meet regularly, share ideas, and hold each other accountable. There are probably several in your area already. Some are industry specific (NADA 20 Groups for Auto Dealers), and others are centered more around an ideology (C12 for Christian business owners). Even some networking groups (Porter County Business League) can provide a pool of business owners. Meet some who share your desire to be a better entrepreneur and invite them into an accountability partnership.
Talk with them about your strategy/direction, key projects, and major decisions. Share your goals and deadlines, and give them permission to check on you. And, of course, return the favor if they want you to do so.
Finally, a caution about friends & family regarding accountability: engage them in a very limited capacity (especially those who are not entrepreneurs.) The last thing you want to do is damage personal relationships while improving your entrepreneurial acumen. Accountability can be awkward. Friends and family may be reluctant to speak up when necessary. Or there is the opposite end of the spectrum… being overeager to criticize or shoot down ideas. Often non-entrepreneurs are risk averse. That is not an ideal perspective from which to offer an entrepreneur advice.
In these relationships, I suggest keeping it simple. “Hey, John, I have an important project I’m working on. I want to have it done by the end of the year. Would you please check in on me every Monday to help keep me on track? A quick text message or email will suffice. Thanks!” Keeping it fairly innocuous like that can be very effective while also helping the friend or family member to feel more engaged with you and with your business. They will likely see it as an honor that you asked them to do this for you.
In some ways, many entrepreneurs are like recovering addicts. I heard a business owner say yesterday, “If I didn’t stay busy, I would be a crack head.” Although he was joking (I think), we business owners do tend to get addicted to our business/work. When it comes to being better entrepreneurs and better humans, accountability matters.
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