Small Businesses Owners: Celebrate Your Losses Too

We’ve all heard the phrase, If it were easy, then anyone could do it. That certainly applies to starting a business, running a business, figuring out what to do next in a business—well, depending on the day, it could apply to just about anything in a business. Let’s face it: entrepreneurship is tough. If you don’t find a way to celebrate the small victories, it will make things even more difficult. Relishing in the small victories gives you confidence and motivation to continue climbing the mountain; a sense of optimism to build upon.

Over the years I’ve seen companies do many different things to celebrate wins and milestones. In the military, every once in a while we would get an extended weekend—a 72 or a 96 if we were lucky. In the corporate world, I saw everything from ice cream socials to lavish parties. One department in a lot of companies that does a good job of celebrating wins is sales. Sure, most organizations have some sort of “president’s club” where they roll out the red carpet for the top reps and where people tend to rally around the individual sales as well. It builds momentum across the team in the short term. In the sales world, many organizations have a bell that reps ring when they close a deal. Each sale, big or small, leads the team closer to their goals. (For related reading, see: The Power of Networking for Small Business Owners.)

Celebrate All Types of Milestones

Here are a few examples of bell-worthy moments that may occur in your business:

  • An individual signed up for your service after an employee's T-shirt peaked her interest. Ring the bell!  
  • A competitor signed up for your service to simplify their own business. Ring the bell!  
  • An early adopter client decided not to renew his subscription. Ring the bell!  

Wait. What? That's right. Ring it. It is a milestone worth celebrating. Don't get me wrong, I'm not encouraging all of our clients to cancel service. But this person was the first client who decided not to renew my service. It didn't come as a surprise. He told me to my face before it happened. He was one of our first dozen or so clients, but he wasn't ever really the right fit for our service. He mainly purchased it to support me, which was/is appreciated. He provided insight, feedback, and encouragement. He helped us get past proof of concept. A valuable client, for sure. A friend. A mentor. So why celebrate that he is not renewing?

It comes down to time. It is hard to scale a business based on clients who just want to support the owner but aren't the right fit for the service. Those people are important to get a business off the ground, but they are hard to duplicate. At the end of the day a business needs to focus its time on the clients and prospects that are right for its business. This allows the firm to create efficiencies and find duplicable processes. It allows business owners to focus on serving a niche really well. As business owners, we naturally want to serve anyone and everyone. However, we must resist this temptation because it will leave us scattered all over the place and disorganized. The more focused your target market is, the better. Ideally you’d be able to position yourself as an expert to your subset of the market.

Being an entrepreneur requires some level of creativity. Whether it’s identifying a niche, thinking of a clever team building exercise for your next milestone or turning a perceived negative into a positive, if you don’t find a way to celebrate the small victories, it will make things even more difficult.  Entrepreneurship is tough. That's a fact. If it were easy, then anyone could do it. Now if I could just convince my boss to give me a 96 for losing a customer. (For more, see: Starting a Business? Embrace the Discomfort.)