Where are you when it comes to Effort vs. Success?


Every now and then it’s a good idea to take a step back from your day to day focus and take a look at where you are in terms of the success you’re trying to achieve. For business owners, the definition of Success is very personal, but usually it’s going to be measured by how much money and freedom your business generates for you.

“The road to success runs uphill.”  – Willie Davis

Mr. Davis makes a great point – you can’t achieve long term success without effort and in a lot of things you do, your success is a directly tied to your effort.

The more effort you put in, the more success you’ll get. If you’re the equivalent of an hourly employee, the more hours you work, the more money you make…it’s a straight line equation (although arguably as an hourly employee you don’t have much freedom, so success in that particular example may only be measured in money).

Where are you on the chart right now?

Take a look at the chart above – where would you put yourself right now?

A lot of business owners I talk to would put themselves into the top left or top right quadrants. They’re putting in a lot of effort and they’re seeing varying amounts of success.

That makes for an interesting discussion, but even more interesting is to project where you’re going. If you look out a year or two, based on how you currently operate your business – where are you on the chart? Are you in the same place? Moving to the right (more success), but with the same amount of effort?

Where are you going to be on the chart in a year or two?


The 2nd chart shows the typical growth patterns of a business.

  1. If you’re just starting a business, you’re in the bottom left blue quadrant, heading towards the top left red quadrant – you’re putting in effort with minimum success because you’re just starting.
  2. If you’ve been working at your business for a while, you’re in the top left quadrant, hopefully heading towards the top right quadrant. You’re working hard…maybe even getting close to maximum effort…you’re achieving some success, but the work isn’t commensurate with the gain.
  3. At some point you figure out how to make things work and a little extra effort translates into quite a bit more money / success, you’re working a lot of hours, but at least you’re getting paid for it.
  4. Finally, the most successful business owners figure out how to build the business that mostly works without them. They maximize their success and minimize their efforts. They have the right team in place, they’ve built all of the infrastructure (systems, relationships, organization, etc.) that allows them to spend less time working and they focus on building and improving the business while it pays them back in spades.

Everyone goes through stages 1 and 2, you can’t really skip them. Most businesses get stuck in either stage 2 or 3…and eventually that’s what causes them to shut down or sell what they have if they’re lucky. It’s exhausting to run at full speed for years…especially when your payout is what you’d make if you had a good job (or less).

There’s an old joke about business owners that applies here:

“Owning a business is great. You get to have flexible hours – just pick the 80 hours you want to work this week and you’re good to go!”

If that makes you flinch…even just a little, it’s likely that you’re stuck in stage 2 or 3 and not trending towards stage 4.

You can have it all – but it’s not normal

Stage 4 is when you’ve built a business that you could easily sell…for a premium, but you probably won’t want to. You have the ability to take long vacations and your business grows while you’re gone. You have a business that pays you well without putting in huge hours just to keep things running. You may choose to work a lot, but you don’t have to and you could transition the whole thing over to a new President/ CEO / General Manager and designate yourself as the Chairman of the Board.

If all of this sounds unlikely, that’s because it is. Very few businesses successfully make it to stage 4, the top of the mountain – so it’s clearly not the ‘normal’ outcome. But it is possible – and even if you don’t make it all the way to stage 4, any movement in that direction is going to dramatically improve your life.

How do you get there? 

It starts with the clear intention to get there. Most business owners think about how they can make more money. Instead they should be thinking about how they can build a business that will make more money without them. A subtle difference, but it’s that difference that moves you from Stage 2 or 3 to Stage 4.

Just as a side note that might not be obvious – our job here at Aspire is to help business owners develop their business into a stage 4 business. If you’d like to talk about that – give us a call.

What do you think? Is this kind of analysis helpful? Unsettling? Are we missing anything? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Where are you on the charts? Where are you headed? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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