Entrepreneurship can be frightening, difficult, and often quite lonely. You’re on your own, and success hinges on your ability to not just execute, but iterate and push yourself to try and do new things. When sitting at a laptop in your home office or a local Starbucks, that can be a daunting proposition – it’s no wonder that nearly half of all startups fail in the first four years.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because you strike out on your own doesn’t mean you have to work in isolation with no outside support. An accountability partner can be the moral and motivational boost you need to overcome difficult days and get more done faster. Let’s look at what it entails to have someone help push you through your next milestone and how to get started.
The first step to success is setting a goal, but it can be difficult to follow through on a difficult task, especially when faced with hardships along the way. Accountability comes in many forms – there is personal accountability or your ability to measure and manage your goals internally. And then there is external accountability – bringing in outside advisors, groups, and partners to push you to keep at it.
While mastermind groups are a highly effective way to stay engaged with new ideas and accountable to your peers, many people find that a one-on-one partnership is more fulfilling. While groups rely on a leader and are often democratic as you focus on the needs of individual members at different times, a partnership is a direct discussion about your performance in relation to specific goals.
Specifically, having an accountability partner addresses many of the biggest challenges that plague small business owners including:
- Time Management and Productivity
- Delegating Responsibility
- Pushing Your Marketing Strategy
- Overcoming Self-Doubt
At the same time, just having someone who is in it with you can help when you need to vent about frustrations around cashflow, contractors, or down periods. It can help broaden your network and provide access to new resources as well.
So how do you find someone who can truly make a difference for your business and with whom you can work effectively? Here are three things to keep in mind.
- Have goals already in place and know what you want to accomplish. Your accountability partner won’t tell you what to achieve. If you’re unsure of your next step, you may need a business coach or consultant more than a partner to help track goals. Be ready to define what matters and why it matters.
- Create a system to manage and track your goals. Beyond setting goals, have a system in place to support your accountability efforts. This includes daily and weekly worksheets, quarterly reviews, short and long term goal management, and a regular cadence of meetings in which you can discuss each other’s goals.
- This needs to be a priority. Personal and professional development often falls to the bottom of the list for entrepreneurs that already wear a dozen hats. Accountability needs to be at the top of that list no matter how busy you get. Meetings should be a priority, and you should be ready to discuss not only your issues and concerns but those of your accountability partner.
The goal of such a partnership is to provide a sounding board for progress against your goals. If you’re successfully meeting your targets (or trying your hardest to do so), you’ll be excited to attend these meetings and eager to share what you’ve accomplished. If you haven’t, it will be tempting to “be too busy” for them, but it’s those moments in particular that can have the biggest impact.
Once you’re sold on the benefit of having an accountability partner and working together to improve your respective businesses, how do find one? Running a business can be lonely after all, and if you don’t have the time to network, you may not have a ready list of contacts to which you can pitch a partnership.
It partially depends on what type of relationship you want to have. Some business owners rely on family and friends to provide feedback. These are people you can trust who are almost always available. There is an inherent risk to doing this, though. It can be challenging to maintain a professional relationship with someone you already know and love, and you never quite know if their advice is honest. Your parents, siblings, and closest friends want to see you succeed, but they don’t want to give the bad news that you’re making mistakes.
For those who’d prefer a purely professional relationship, consider the following options:
- Coworkers or Ex-Colleagues – Whether you still have a day job or not, the people you work with or once worked with are a great starting point, offering an existing professional relationship to build on.
- Digital Relationships – You likely have a substantial social network online of clients, colleagues, people you’ve met at conferences at more. A digital-first partnership can be a great way to start.
- Existing Group Relationships – Your church, local volunteer groups, the PTA – whatever groups you are already a member of can be a great place to meet people who have similar goals and would be interested in working together.
- Dedicated Websites – There are several dedicated websites designed to help people connect with accountability partners. They typically charge a small fee but can be a great way to push yourself to act. A couple of sites include TaskTwins.com and GetMotivatedBuddies.com.
If you are ready for the next step in growing your business, an accountability partner can help. Whether it’s a much-needed perspective from an outside source, or legitimate motivation to dig in and push towards your next major goal, this is one of the most effective and fulfilling ways to get there.