Do you ever wonder how people define success? In my experience, and probably yours, it’s usually by “quantity” numbers – profit, sales, assets, real estate, etc. Whereas all these are valuable indicators we seem to equate success with growth in size and profit. But do we loose perspective when we only look at these numbers? What about the “quality” numbers that deal with relationships, loyalty and significance. I don’t want you to think that I’m not interested in financial success. Profitable growth allows for us to fulfill our business and personal goals. However, I learned early in my career that we need to add numbers relating to customer and employee sense of connectedness into the success equation. But those aren’t as easy to define or quantify. That may be one reason many stick with the meaning of success as financial profit.
Years ago I had that privilege of working with Nobel Prize Laureate Milton Friedman, Economist at the University of Chicago. He is famous for his quote, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase profits.” I remember thinking it sounded rather harsh but I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Friedman and I found, thankfully, his definition of resources included the more variable assets of empowered employees and loyal customers.
One of my favorite business leaders is Bill Pollard, former chairman of ServiceMaster. In his book, Serving Two Masters? Reflections on God and Profit*, he says, “Profit is a tool for accomplishing our end goals of honoring God and developing people. As we manage with economy and care for those producing the profit, we recognize profit as a virtue of accountability, not a vice of self-aggrandizement.” There it is – profit and numbers can become a way to prove our human success rather than a way in which to serve our clients, associates and God’s plan for our businesses.
But the quantity factor is not only misused in business. Pastors regularly get the question, “How big is your church? How many members do you have? How many staff do you have?” So success in ministry is evaluated by “how many” rather than “how well”. Some see church growth by the numbers in the pews rather than the spiritual maturity and growth of those people.
So how do we include the less-tangible numbers of how well we serve our associates and customers into the success equation? It isn’t easy but here are some suggestions.
I would start with a baseline survey for customers and work associates that would ask emotive questions describing their reasons for working with you or purchasing your services/products. If the answers are given in a linear number scale you will be able to use this as the foundation. Follow-up surveys on a bi-yearly basis or other significant timeframes will give you the ability to put both quantitative and qualitative information into your success formula. There are other successful methods used to do this and I hope you will research the options that fit your circumstances the best.
The bottom line – don’t just think quantity – think quality. Both are necessary numbers to make a balanced equation of success.
*Serving Two Masters?, by William C. Pollard, Ó 2006 by the ServiceMaster Foundation. Published by HarperCollins Publishers.