Why accountability matters
By 2020 it is predicted that the freelance workforce will be up to 43% which is made up of solopreneurs, freelancers and independent consultants, etc. If you find yourself in this category it is reassuring to know that you aren’t alone and there are many others facing the same challenges of running a business alone.
Accountability is the difference between setting out to achieve a goal e.g. outsource admin work by end of year and actually making this goal happen. The part in between the two is completed when we hold ourselves accountable. Often, this is linked to rewards e.g. set time aside for personal interests once it is completed.
Why accountability is so difficult in small business
Accountability comes with the territory when working in big business but for solopreneurs the responsibility for accountability lies with them. Yet, a study by ASTD shows we are more likely to achieve our goals if we share them with others.
Big businesses ace accountability because the CEO holds the team responsible for their designated tasks and likewise the team and their manager expect the CEO to structure the business so that it succeeds. Unfortunately, for solopreneurs the biggest advantage of working for yourself is also the biggest obstacle to accountability. There is no one else to hold you accountable for your to-do list or promises you made to yourself.
Making accountability work for your business
No matter what size your business is there are some steps you can take to drive accountability in your business. Have a read through my top tips and let me know if there is something you took from it.
Top tip #1: Define SMART goals.
Being accountable starts with knowing what you want to achieve, that’s where SMART goals come in. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Make sure any goal you set for your business meets these criteria. Each one is as important as the other. So, if you plan to lower your churn rate by 3% then set a deadline for when you will review this. If your goal is to be better at sales by the next quarter than make it specific, e.g. will you aim to generate more leads, or do you need to work on your close rate. Always go back to SMART when checking if your goals are suitable for driving your business forward.
Top tip #2: Make a clear plan for your goals.
Decide on your goal and then set a very clear plan for how you will achieve this but also work to accommodate speed bumps along the way. For example, if you are going to use new technology to help with your goals who can you ask for help. Or, if you plan more public speaking but need help who could you ask for advice.
Top tip #3: Measure and track your SMART goals.
You can use the traditional method of pen and paper to measure how well you are doing or you can go digital and use APPs like Strides, GoalBuddy or Trello. Either way it is really important to determine how close or far you are from reaching your goals, so you can step it up or begin to think about what your next steps need to be. To help you stay on track when working on your SMART goals try Kill News Feed plug in created by Google Chrome to block interruptions.
Top tip #4: Share SMART goals with an accountability group (maximum of 6 people) or an accountability partner.
The biggest factor in making your goals work is accountability. Making yourself accountable to others will make you more likely to meet your goals. There are two ways to do this: through an accountability group or an accountability partner. An accountability group doesn’t need to be business people only, it can be friends and loved ones. Those that know you best and will also hold you up to your promises to do your tasks etc. An accountability partner could be a fellow entrepreneur or professional and they don’t need to be in the same industry as your business.
Top tip #5: Plan in monthly meetings with accountability group or accountability partner.
Use these meetings to go over the previous month’s tasks and set new tasks for the following month. Your accountability partner should be asking the difficult questions and helping you to focus on the long-term impact of your decisions for your business. For example, if you buy the latest Apple Mac what impact do you expect it to have on productivity? If you choose your accountability partner carefully, they will see through your excuses and really make you think through decisions.
Top tip #6: Agree rewards and consequences with accountability partner.
In the initial meeting use the time to set rewards and consequences for failing to deliver or for not completing your monthly to-do list. The consequence could be financial e.g. donate cash to the pot for a night out.
Top tip #7: Be honest with your accountability partner.
For these meetings to work and be useful in your business growth you need to be honest and not pretend to do things you haven’t. Yes, it might be painful, but your accountability partner can ask those questions to help you understand why you haven’t completed your tasks and how to make sure they get completed before the next time you meet. If you aren’t honest and you keep saying yes to things you haven’t done the impact will only affect you and your business.
Top tip #8: Update your business plan to keep your goals relevant in long-term.
Your SMART goals are important to keep you accountable and to drive growth in your business’ future so always link that to your business plan and update it as necessary. Being accountable to someone else will make you more productive which will help you to get to each milestone sooner than without accountability. Your business plan will change as your productivity increases.
For more great information and advice take a look at my blog and join us in the Sales Mindset Group on Facebook where we discuss topics every week. The aim is to help small business owners grow their business by focusing on making sales enjoyable again.