Measure your success with external evidence

Success? Failure? What was your evidence?

I was a great baker – Why did I forget everything Granny ever taught me?

Too often as entrepreneurs we flog ourselves for failure when there isn’t any measure of our progress towards success. Heck, was the success even defined in the first place?

Both of my grandmothers baked. My Dad’s Mom, my Granny, was a prolific baker. She supported the church bake sales, the neighbourhood events, and of course her own baking cupboard. It was always full of at least three different kinds of cookies, a loaf of some kind and at Christmas, a fruit cake that was not only edible but yummy beyond belief. Not a single one was ever used as a door stop.

I loved to bake with her. It was my job to measure, exactly, the sugar, nuts, flour, baking soda. She taught me how important it was that we measured along the way – all the ingredients. Now that doesn’t mean a few more chocolate chips didn’t go in for good measure.

The biggest test always came near the end. Even with the care we took along the way, we never knew if they were going to taste as good as last time until they were done! We also didn’t want to burn them – that would not have been good after all that work.

Granny always set the timer for a few minutes before she expected them to be done. Once the timer went off we would open the oven, pull out the rack and she would stick her long wooden skewer into the center. I watched with anticipation to see whether it would come out clean. If it did then I knew the countdown was on for the baking to cool so I could taste it. If the skewer didn’t come out clean then back it went into the oven.

She was diligent about getting the cooking time just right; regardless of my assurances that it must be ready because my tummy said so.

Once she was convinced the baking was done, then it would come out to cool. The tasting was the final evidence of our success. It was so much fun to share our baking success with everyone.

Early on as an entrepreneur I seemed to have forgotten every lesson my Granny taught me about success.

Not once did Granny ever decide the cookies were a success because she thought so, or felt so. She measured. She knew in advance what success looked like and was diligent about waiting for it and actioning in the moment to ensure it happened.

It took a trusted and experienced adviser to point this out to us. It wasn’t something we saw from the inside. We just knew that our business ‘felt’ like it was succeeding or failing. When she asked us for our numbers we stood there with a blank look on our faces. When we were asked what we were planning on achieving at an upcoming conference we were attending we couldn’t answer the question.

She laughed, shook her head, and proceeded to explain to us about how leaders always use an External Evidence Procedure so they know what progress they are making. It was immediately familiar because of my time with Granny in her kitchen and after I stopped kicking myself uselessly, I found so many ideas on how we could implement this for us.

What a difference!

  • We set goals for each month and the quarter that are based on our annual revenue goals
  • The goals have been chunked down to activities that can be measured – I know how many people I need to chat with to find those with a need for my service.
  • Whether we feel things are going well or not, we go to the numbers to check on progress
  • We measure often and make course corrections
  • As goals are achieved we celebrate. When we learn from our experiences and understand why we didn’t achieve our goal – we celebrate. (Richard Branson agrees – link to his blog)

Summary

  1. When you have a vision you will not always know what the journey will be like.
  2. Set appropriate goals along the way and measure against them
  3. Measure your progress often
  4. Celebrate when you are on track
  5. Celebrate getting back on track

Success or Failure? What was your evidence?
How do you, or will you now, tell the difference between how you feel about your progress and your actual progress?

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