Climbing Steps, progress over perfection

Focusing on Progress Over Perfection in Your Small Business

Starting a small business or running a department within a small business can sometimes feel overwhelming. There are many moving parts and, inherent in most small businesses, you’re likely wearing multiple hats.

While the to-do list is long—seemingly without end—it’s important to realize that your goal is not perfection but, rather, progress.

I had this thought while I was out running. Actually, my wife and I decided to go out for a run during the heavy rain and winds of Hurricane Henri. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of dedication or stupidity, but we had fun and, thankfully, made it back home safely. 

During this run, however, my mind was going through the typical runner’s checklist—assessing how I felt physically and mentally, what the environment was like, how my pace was holding up, and the like. What I soon realized was, given I was running outdoors in a hurricane, there was no way I was going to set any personal records on this run. I immediately realized that setting a personal record was never the point of the run and that it was okay to just be out there, going through the motions. 

See, I understood that with this run, progress was more important than perfection. I didn’t need for this run to be better than any run that preceded it. Instead, I just needed to be physically active that day. The progress gained by running versus not running was more than enough to justify my efforts. In the end, staying active would make me a better runner. 

My legs got stronger because of those 4 miles I ran, my mental ability to push through the challenge got stronger, my heart and lungs got stronger…you get the idea. 

It was during this run that I could see the parallel between running for fitness and running a business. Similarly, the connection between progress and perfection within the context of work. 

And this inspired me to talk about what we’re discussing today. 

Perfection is Often Impossible

It’s difficult to be perfect all of the time. As a matter of fact, many would say it’s impossible to be. Yet, we’re all guilty of self-imposed perfectionism when it comes to building a business. We want things to be perfect and, of course, we should strive for perfection, but we need to manage our expectations appropriately. 

If perfection is the only metric by which we measure success, we will never be satisfied. 

In addition, focusing on perfection may prevent us from seeing other opportunities that spring up around us. These opportunities may hold the power to propel our business even further but, if we can’t see them we can take advantage of them. 

Setting Goals

When you’re managing a team—or even yourself—it’s important to celebrate the little achievements on your way to success. To be clear, this does not suggest that everyone deserves a participation trophy and everyone’s a winner. 

Instead, this underscores the importance of progress and acknowledges that change is incremental. Growth is often tiered and it’s wise to understand that your goal isn’t a 100-yard touchdown but, rather, to move the ball down the field. 

Achieving goals has a positive impact on staff morale and motivation as well as the strength of your entire team. 

Progress Within Departments

It’s easy to understand the concept of progression and growth for your company overall, but don’t forget how it affects—and often spawns from—your individual departments. 

Since I focus a lot on marketing, let’s start there.

There are tactics your marketing team will employ within your larger marketing strategy that inherently take longer to come to fruition than others. Meaning, patience and an understanding of what progression success looks like is key.

For example, you may be accustomed to the speedy reporting you receive after a mass email is deployed. Something like email has a pretty quick burn. You send it, hard-bounces come back almost immediately, recipients that have an interest in your email usually open it quickly, and, even though the email can still perform, within a few days to a week, you usually have a statistically-relevant snapshot of its performance. 

On the other hand, if the strategy is focused more on building social media reach, setting a long-term goal of achieving X followers, for example, will likely take months or even years. It involves different tactics with different timeframes and, therefore, requires different expectations. 

If you’re looking for substantial growth in social media followers but expect to see that within just a few weeks time, you will wind up prematurely declaring those marketing efforts a failure. 

Instead, preparing for smaller increments of follower growth or, better yet, simultaneously increasing engagement with your followers would better exemplify progress. 

And, no, you’re not simply lowering the bar—you’re acknowledging progress over perfection will get you to your end goals. 

The same would apply to an accounting department, the teams in your warehouse, and the like.

As individuals, we all have the opportunity to learn more and grow. And, the same applies to our professional lives.

Failures are those moments we elect not to try or to grow.

To circle back and conclude with a running metaphor; running your business is a marathon and certainly not a sprint. So, collect those one-mile, 5K, and half marathon finisher medals along the way. It will keep you motivated and help you strive to achieve your marathon goals.

To learn more about marketing your small business, check out our What you need to know to market your small business article.

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