What Does Success Mean To You? 16 Business Owners Tell Us What Success Means To Them

When starting out in business, invariably you have a specific idea of what success means to you. You might have big money-related goals, things you want to buy, or a new degree of time freedom. Success means a lot of different things to lots of different people.

There’s a tremendous danger of defining success based on what other people think of us, such as from family, friends or our peers. Defining your success based on what others want rather than what you want will only get you so far.

From my own experience, I’ve felt the happiest and most content when I’ve worked towards goals that matter to me. My definition of success was very money-orientated in my early business days. I had an unhealthy focus on trying to be a millionaire. I worked far too hard, missed out on a handful of important moments and felt miserable. It took me a few years but I eventually worked out what does matter to me. I started working towards those goals just 7 years ago.

It’s good, healthy and OK to have a different definition of success to anyone else. That’s because it’s your life and therefore you get to make the choices that matter to you.

That’s why we interviewed 16 different business owners to share what success means to them. I’ll kick things off by going first.

Dan Harrison

(View Profile)
runs a development agency specialising in automation.

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

The biggest component of what success means to me is freedom. The freedom to spend lots of time with my son, going to his school events and day trips. The time to take holidays and long weekends whenever I like. I enjoy taking time off during the working week to do whatever I need to do, be it sleep, be it exercise, or seeing a friend.

The other big element of success for me is not to struggle with the money that I need and want each month. There have been times when I have struggled with cash, but I’ve reached a point where that’s no longer the case. Whilst I don’t have expensive tastes, being able to buy the things that I want and invest in the way I want are crucial to what drives me.

What are you working towards?

I’m saving and investing to buy my dream house that needs some love and craft to bring it up to date. My tastes are modest, and it’s just a nice 4-bedroom home I’m wanting to buy and renovate.

Hannah Illingworth

(View Profile)
owns Hi! Virtual, providing virtual business management and admin support to SMEs.

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

Primarily, success to me is to be able to contribute financially to my family, to enable my children to undertake activities such as music lessons, without the worry of how we might afford it. As well as setting a good example to my children, showing them that a good work ethic and trying your best will reap the rewards.

Secondly, it’s about enjoying what I do and being able to see the value it brings to my clients. Being embedded as part of their teams rather than ‘just a contractor’. When this happens, I know Hi! Virtual is successful.

What are you working towards?

I don’t really have a big goal such as a house or an overseas holiday. I want to afford the little things that allow us to enjoy life and give a good work/life balance, such as trips to the theatre, short breaks away every couple of months, and nice meals/days out with my husband and family. As well as paying for the activities my children undertake.

Ash Taylor

(View Profile)
is the Director of The Business Clubhouse, the author of the best selling book Hitting the Wall and international speaker.

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

I believe success to be something that is unique to the individual chasing it. Success should be something that is driven by a lack of comparison with others and being true to yourself.

Success for me is having options. The option to make choices about what to do next, what to do today and not be encumbered by the things we feel we “should” do.

Success is when I’m in a position to be selfish so my time can be spent in what way I choose to the benefit of myself, those closest to me and the wider community.

Success is watching clients get their version of success, on their terms

What are you working towards?

I am currently working towards building our client base to a greater level of sustainability and profit so we can do some projects around the house before my wife takes an early retirement.

Tracy Irwin

(View Profile)
is the owner of TI Accountancy, helping business owners understand their numbers.

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

Success to me means Flexibility. It means being able to choose when to work and for how long.

Living in Spain being able to work less during the summer months or for weeks when I choose to visit family, or they me, makes me happy.

Knowing that my business could run without me for months. Even if it would not grow without me, but I enjoy doing the sales, marketing and talking to prospects and am not ready to give that up just yet!

What are you working towards?

Cutting my usual working week down from four to three days, finishing my book on Creating a Legacy and to continue to spend time with my family as much as I can.

Christine Nicholson

(View Profile)
has built multi-million turnover businesses over the last 30 years

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

Success is choice – having the choice to work on what gives you joy and a sense of satisfaction, to be able to give back and help. those who are on their journey and not have to worry about financial security in the future. My mantra is “always do what makes your heart sing” – if I’m doing that, I am successful!

What are you working towards?

My current project is developing my garden to produce most of my own food. I’m experimenting with vertical gardening as well as keeping my tiny 81 sq metres of garden as wildlife friendly as possible.

My long term goal is paying off my mortgage and getting more involved in volunteer work with the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Keith Edmunds

(View Profile)
runs Tiger Computing Ltd.

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

My measure of success is freedom of choice. That’s not necessarily money, although money can be part of it. It’s living the life I want to live, working the hours I choose, and enjoying time with family and friends. It’s also having the time to pursue other interests.

I’m much more interested in creating memories than I am in material possessions. Visiting the Kennedy Space Centre and spending Christmas on the beach in Jamaica represent success more than a big TV (or any TV at all, to be honest).

What are you working towards?

My wife and I are planning to knock down and rebuild our house in 2022. That’s a pretty big project with lots of emotional involvement, but we (and our teenage daughter) are excited at the prospect.

I’m also working on making my business more self-sufficient and independent of me.

John Lamerton

(View Profile)
is an author of bestselling business & personal development books for "normal people"

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

My ideal job description is to do what I want, when I want, how I want, where I want… if I want!

That’s why I call myself an ambitious, lifestyle business owner – I’m a type-A, highly driven entrepreneur at times, determined to reach the very top and smash all my targets. I set big goals and I hit them.

But I’m also a lazy bugger – the opening line of my first book was “I hate being busy. I’m the laziest ambitious person I know”. I spend more time finding the easy path to my goals than I do working at them.

I work hard so that I don’t *have* to work hard.

What are you working towards?

I’m still working towards that ideal job description: to do what I want, when I want, how I want, where I want… if I want!

I want to write more books. (ambitious)

I want to have enough cash in passive asset investments that I don’t *have* to work. (lazy)

I want to spend at least 12 weeks a year (mainly winters) outside of the UK. (lifestyle)

I want to leave a legacy. (ambitious!)

Martin Gladdish

(View Profile)
is the Business Ghost: BookPlan wizard and ghostwriter of business books

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

Success is a synonym for satisfaction: Am I happy doing what I’m doing right now?

I’ve learned that making success a destination will always fail because even if you arrive ONE DAY the moment will pass, leaving you nowhere else to go. The furthest ahead you should plan to be successful is the end of the current day (and if you follow that logic to its conclusion, you will understand that today is the most important day of your life).

You can have bigger plans, but you can only achieve one day’s worth of success at a time. So pick one thing that means something and be successful TODAY!

What are you working towards?

I love being creative, finding value in business stories, shaping and structuring them into BookPlans and sharing them through the written word. And fortunately, I can earn a living doing what I just described.

But I also have other loves in life and am limited capacity in mind and time.

So, I am working towards a daily lifestyle where I plan one or two books per month; I write when (and what) I want, and I have space (in mind and time) to apply to the real value in my life.

Emma Hollings

(View Profile)
is the Director of EH Photography Services

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

Success is always ongoing, I don’t believe there is one success or one big goal, these will always change as you grow as an individual and a business.

Thinking back to the days when I first launched EH Photography Services, success was to survive the first year…. it’s safe to say my view on success is now very different and it continues to change as I grow as an individual and as a business owner.

Right now, success is to have options and flexibility in my life, to be able to pick and choose when I want to work. To be able to go on holiday and spend time with family.

What are you working towards?

We are working towards building a sustainable, scaleable business and ultimately we are very much working towards purchasing new investments (4 houses) every year. Our big aim is purchasing our forever family home, a spacious 4/5 bed with garden, a great space for us to host family gatherings and have friends over regularly.

Lorraine Ashover

(View Profile)
is the Director of Minerva Procurement Consultancy Services

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

Lots of people consider success to be their business turnover exceeding certain levels, their car/house/holidays/salary etc and whilst I strive for the best in all of those areas, success for me is my happiness. Sounds cheesy but it’s true.

Each year I sit down and decide what I would like and having that focus has really helped me to achieve what I want. Sometimes it’s a certain holiday but often it’s around spending more time with my daughter, having time to read or for a hobby (apparently my PA tells me work isn’t a hobby)!

So if I achieve my ‘wish list’ that, to me, is success.

What are you working towards?

My next ‘big goal’ is to secure my future financial stability.

The past few years have been focused on developing the business and now that’s on a solid foundation I’d like to focus on my own financial wellbeing. This includes getting back on the property ladder (before it’s too late!) as well as revisiting my pension provision in readiness for the future. Oh my, I sound terribly old and sensible so I will also throw some more great holidays in there too.

Sheryl Andrews

(View Profile)
is an award winning motivational speaker, published author and Personal Performance and Relationship Coach.

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

Success is that moment when you can punch the air and dance around the kitchen because you have achieved something or witnessed some kind of change or transformation that brings you joy.

Success comes at the end of a series of actions or an event when you feel satisfied with the outcome. It could be that I reached a financial goal or that I had time to listen to a stranger in a coffee shop that was lonely and needed someone to hear their story.

Success is having the time to be the kind of person I want to be.

What are you working towards?

Currently the kind of person I want to be is a generous and fun one.

Generous both financially and with my time. I want to have more time for people, causes and activities that bring peace to myself and the world as a whole.

And I want to have fun and be fun whilst doing it.

I want to be able to laugh at my mistakes and have time to dance in the kitchen and celebrate the small wins along the way.

Robbie Richardson

(View Profile)
is the owner of Richardson and Paige, distinctive upholstery and soft furnishings

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

For as long as I have been in business it has always been about the pride of my craft and my customer care. It is so important to me that the craft I love is properly represented and valued. Most importantly, it’s about being understood for the skill that both myself and many others bring to our wonderful trade.

It matters a great deal to me that my customers are looked after and feel the R&P love, that is my version of business success.

My personal success means a lot of cycling and time in France.

What are you working towards?

Right now we are working towards building a better business that we can sell to enable my retirement.
This is a five year goal that is not without its challenges but is massively motivating and has given my business the drive and direction it needs.

My personal goal is to live in France and enjoy cycling and family life.

Mike Essex

(View Profile)
is the founder of Devise Marketing, who specialise in marketing strategy and training

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

I used to define success by job titles and salary. Which is useful in your 20s as it can help with growing a career and making sure you’re paid fairly. However, it’s hard to influence. If your boss is never going to leave, then you can’t get promoted to their role, for example.

Nowadays I define success on metrics that I have more influence over, such as managing my time and freedom. So, whilst I want to make a wage that is comfortable, I also pick projects that ensure I’m not working late and can spend time away from my computer too.

What are you working towards?

I’m hoping to become a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing this year. This will include finishing a Level 7 qualification that I’ve been working on for the last two years and completing my 10th year of senior strategic marketing support.

It’s the highest level of membership they offer and tough to get, but I’d love to achieve it this year to reflect the efforts I’ve made in moving away from tactical marketing and towards strategic consulting in the last five years.

Robin Adams

(View Profile)
runs a specialist Mailchimp Marketing Agency, Chimp Answers

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

Success is something only I can define for myself, and I try to avoid generating validation from those around me – it’s personal.

When it comes to success, for me, it’s not about an “end goal” or something to work towards, but it’s more a feeling that things are moving in the right direction. When I think about it, I’m not sure I ever want to actually ‘succeed’ as that implies that the journey has ended and there’s nothing left to do.

Success is something I can strive for every day and a validation of have I progressed forward in some way… but I get to define the terms.

What are you working towards?

We’ve all got material goals and objectives and I’m no different on that front, but I guess I’m working towards that feeling every day of moving forward, of making something of my life and impacting those I love positively.

I may not have a clear vision of what I’m working towards, but by the end of every day, I know whether I’ve moved in the right direction and progressed forward (or not!)

Karen Williams

(View Profile)
is The Book Mentor at Librotas

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

Success is about being able to do what I love every day, with the people I love to work with, and to get paid well for doing it.

It means that I have freedom, flexibility and fulfilment. I can take time out when I wish to do so, and go for walks along the beach, have lunch out, or go travelling, and conversely, I can knuckle down and work hard when I have priorities.

Success also means that I can focus on the things I enjoy, like writing my books, and delegate the things that don’t fill me with joy!

What are you working towards?

To achieve greater success for me and my clients, I’m working towards consistently running the Smart Author Fast Track (an online 12-month group mastermind programme for business owners writing their non-fiction book or memoir).

This means that I can support more business owners to write their books in the easiest possible way and share my wisdom more widely. Ultimately this enables me to run my business from anywhere in the world – ideally a beach in the sun!

Stephanie Fosh

(View Profile)
Award winning MD of an independent HR, training and recruitment consultancy, Pure Human Resources

What do you consider to be ‘success’?

What success looks like has changed for me over time. When I set up Pure Human Resources I had been made redundant from a corporate HR Director role. The desire to set up a business was to provide me with flexibility whilst having two small children rather than working very long hours (easily 55 to 60 hours per week). Now, 10 years on, it is more about financial stability whilst enjoying the game of business. As a team we still do a happy dance when we pick up a new client! We have won a number of awards too and this has provided us with so much satisfaction and accolade as a team.

What are you working towards?

The mythical £1 million turnover milestone! I have always been a competitive person and this target was set by us when we started working with a new coach. We have a five year business plan to support this target and progressing well. I believe we will make it!

On a personal level, I am currently working my way through a bucket list and have a number of challenges planned over the next 18 months, including hiking Machu Picchu. I can genuinely say I have crossed a lot off recently too!

What matters to you?

  • What does success look like for you?
  • Is it about freedom? Time? Money? Something else?