The definition of accountability, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is, “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.”
Whether you work for someone else or as a self-employed small business owner, accountability can make the difference between getting stuff done and not getting it done. It can also mean the difference between succeeding and not succeeding.
Accountability is important.
The challenge of accountability in small business
Having worked in a corporate environment for seventeen years, I used to take accountability for granted. It was a given. It was built into the employment environment. Responsibilities were well defined and progress toward goals and objectives were measured and reported. Often, financial incentives were at stake if we weren’t putting our effort into doing what we were tasked to do.
But solopreneurs and small business owners don’t have managers or C-suite executives tracking their progress or giving them performance reviews. Accountability needs to come from within. You have to pull your own weight when you’re self-employed or you won’t meet the needs of your customers—and you won’t keep up with the myriad of administrative and operational responsibilities that come with running a business. Fall short on either of those and you’ll be headed for trouble.
So how do you hold yourself accountable? Here are a few tips for keeping yourself on track:
- Set measurable goals for accomplishing work that’s critical to moving your business forward. (e.g., number of sales calls/emails you need to make, number of blog posts to write monthly, etc.)
- Create processes so you complete work consistently and accurately. Having a defined way of doing things helps prevent “pilot error.”
- Plan your work and set deadlines. Don’t rely on your memory alone to recall what you need to do today or the next day or the day after that. Reserve time on your calendar to work on specific client projects, create invoices in Quickbooks, make phone calls, engage on social media, etc.
- Find a mentor. Having a mentor with whom you openly share your ambitions and progress can give you that extra nudge to put your nose to the grindstone. While you might fudge on follow through when you’re your only taskmaster, you might be more motivated to accomplish what you’ll say you’ll do if you have a mentor to report to.
Accountability: It’s all you!
Staying accountable to yourself as a self-employed professional takes discipline and effort. It’s not always easy as distractions happen and motivation wanes from time to time. The key is to remember how mission critical it is to the wellness of your business. If you, as the boss, don’t demonstrate responsibility for doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done, how can you expect anyone else to as your business grows? Accountability is everything.