Success Only Means One Thing… It Ain’t What You Think

How’s your business doing?

Are you making money? Signing deals? Impressing your LinkedIn followers? When you talk to your friends and your family, do you feel successful?


I ask because I know “success” can be a trap. When we founded Far West Capital in 2007, our goal was to be successful. And we did it. We reached our goal and thought, alright. We’re good now. We’ve got great clients, great people, the money’s flowing, times are good. We’d found success. That’s where we effed up.

It’s still a painful story for me.  A few years ago, a multimillion-dollar bankruptcy occurred in our portfolio. Now, we’ve had clients go into bankruptcy before, but we’ve always gone into it as partners, because it was the right move for their business. But that’s not what happened with this particular client. Let’s just say this got my attention, big time.

Simply put, we weren’t connecting with this client. Not to our standards, anyhow. We make a promise to deliver success, earn trust and do that with zero surprises, and we weren’t delivering on that promise. That’s what matters.

Success often lulls you into believing your own bullcrap, and boy, did we step in it. We created all these core values and purpose statements that were supposed to carry through. And they got mistranslated. We weren’t engendering the right culture because we got lazy about enforcing it. We took our success for granted. We thought that everyone on our team would act as we did when we were “small”, and we learned a huge lesson about scaling values in the business.  

Also, we learned a huge lesson about hiring great people: it ain’t that easy.  We had to let some people go that did not share our values and commitment to client success. (More on that soon.)

Nothing matters but the daily work.

After that embarrassing debacle, we reworked our entire organization. We reassessed. Where did we go wrong? How could we take responsibility — and change?

One of the big mistakes we made was believing our goal of success was an end goal. It wasn’t. Because there’s no such thing.

Here’s a fact: Even when you finally lose those 20 pounds, you still have to exercise and eat right. Otherwise, they’ll come right back. We thought that once our business was a success, our systems just worked and they could hum along in the background. We were wrong.

These days, we keep our goals focused on “the grind”, not the pie in the sky.  We created a system to hold ourselves accountable to those goals. It hinges on a weekly check in — what progress did we make toward accomplishing our goals? Do they need to be adjusted? (Goals, like businesses, are living things.)

100% of the company does these weekly check-ins 100% of the time. It doesn’t matter if we’re on vacation, working remotely, handling an urgent client problem, or running 100 miles over 9 mountain peaks. We still report on our goals. We hold a rhythm and we don’t break it.

That consistency is the key. It’s all about that daily work. If we don’t follow our system faithfully, day in, day out, it doesn’t matter how good it is.

If there’s one thing I wish more of our clients’ businesses would adopt, it’s this. It shows when a business has a long-term view and sets consistent expectations.

On our end, when we fail, it’s usually because we weren’t doing that consistent work toward a goal.

I’m happy to say that the client we failed is still our client – in fact, they just signed a new long-term contract. In the end, I’d much rather have failed hard, recovered harder, and still have that client, than have backed out of that relationship when it got tough.

What is your company’s brand promise? How have you failed – and learned – as you deliver on that brand promise? Give back by sharing with your fellow entrepreneurs here in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here, and we’ll give them a call.

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