Accountability: Powerful Ingredient to Small Business Success

The Power of Accountability Windy Lawson

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Short of finding a genie in a bottle on the beach, there is no secret to achieving success as a microbusiness owner. But there is a secret ingredient that can stack the odds in your favor: accountability. Ironically, one of the biggest perks to being The Boss- complete independence- can also become an albatross when getting stuff done.

Many microbusiness owners struggle to make the leap from employee to CEO. And it’s a lot easier to stay on track and meet deadlines when there’s someone else watching. Having a boss = repercussions. But, as a microbusiness owner, you’ve got consequences for not staying on track. And it’s called not making any money, yo.

Unfortunately, that’s the view too many people take of accountability. But, accountability is so much more than responsibility.

At its core, accountability is empowerment. Sure, it is accepting responsibility for the direction in which your ship is sailing, but it’s also being empowered to course-correct if you want to change destinations.

The New York Times bestselling book The Oz Principle looks at accountability as the “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.”

Looking at accountability this way, you can see how powerful accountability can be for the microbusiness owner. Incorporating accountability may be easier than you expect.

accountability is empowerment

Ways to Incorporate Accountability

#1: Plan for Success

Have you ever wandered aimlessly through the grocery store, hoping to find inspiration for a week’s worth of dinners? Up and down the aisles, checking out what’s on sale and mentally reviewing what’s in your pantry at home? Of course, you have.

Now, think about your grocery shopping experience two weeks before Thanksgiving, when you roll into the store with a list created from your Pinterest-worthy recipe plan.

The difference? You have an obvious outcome you are working to achieve. When you know what you want to create, you assemble the right ingredients.

Too often, microbusiness owners struggle to get shit done because they can’t see what it means to the bigger picture. And if there is no bigger picture, they throw any old BOGO into their cart, confusing busy with productive.

What do you want?

Empower yourself to dream big.  What is the vision you have for your microbusiness? If vision feels a little too woo for you, call it your long-term goal. You started your microbusiness for a reason, and the clearer you can be on that reason, the easier accountability will become.

Consider what you can do this year that will put you closer to achieving your vision and how you will measure the impact it has on your vision.

Then, what you can do this quarter.

Then, what you can do this month.

Then this week.

Then today.

Then right now.

It sounds so easy, so why is it so hard?

We know how to set big goals {I’m going to make a million dollars} and how to create a To-Do list {post on Facebook ✔️}, but we aren’t taught the in-between.

You need a big picture goal to know what you are working towards. But you also need mid-range and short-term goals that support the big picture goal. If the big goal is five years away, create a sub-goal in support of the larger goal that can be achieved in the next 12 months. Then, using the annual goal, create a quarterly goal, and from that a monthly goal. Your monthly goal leads to your weekly goals, which become tasks.

  • Big goal: Make one million dollars
  • One year goal: Make $100,000
  • This quarter’s goal: Make $10,000 through a signature program
  • This month’s goal: Launch program
  • This week’s goal: Finish sales page
  • Today’s task: Write copy for the sales page

When you can see how your tasks are the individual stepping stones on your path to success, it becomes easier to hold yourself accountable.

#2 Track Your Time

Have you ever lost track of time? You sat down at your desk and the next thing you know, three hours have passed. Time is our most precious resource and our brains suck at gauging how long things actually take.

I can write a blog post in an hour, my lying brain says, as I’m looking at my daily task list.

In my dreams, maybe. But the only way I can be certain is to track my time.

How tracking time supports accountability

First, tracking your time ensures your expectations are realistic. Too often, microbusiness owners get stuck because they believe they can complete 60 hours’ worth of tasks in a 40-hour workweek. It’s impossible. They set unrealistic goals, based on faulty time assumptions.

If you believe a blog post could be written in an hour, writing four in a four-hour period would be possible. But, if it takes you two hours to write that blog post, at the end of four hours, you’d only be at 50% of your goal.

You must be clear on how long tasks take to complete before you can start allocating time to complete them.

Second, most people are not nearly as productive as they believe they are. Whether it’s getting sucked into unplanned conversations because of a Pavlovian response to the ding of a notification, accidentally scrolling Facebook for an hour, or ping-ponging through hundreds of Pinterest pins while doing “research,” distractions and interruptions eat up more of our time than most people realize.

Having an automated way to track your time creates an impartial judge that can report back on how you actually spent your work time.

There are several apps you can use for free, and I recommend RescueTime. It operates in the background and keeps track of every application and website I use throughout the day.

Success Tips: Tracking your progress keeps you accountable

#3 Track Your Progress

Tracking your progress is another way to strengthen your accountability muscles. But, only if you are tracking the right metrics.

Focus on the metrics that determine if you are on pace to achieve your goals or that can indicate performance improvement.

If your goal is to increase revenue by 20%, tracking how often you post on social alone isn’t meaningful. But, if you track how many web visitors came from your website through those posts, you have a meaningful metric.

#4 Carrot or Stick in Accountability

The phrase “carrot and stick” is a common analogy for the use of reward and punishment to encourage new behavior. Originally depicted as a jockey dangling a carrot in front of his donkey to win a race while his competitor used a stick to beat his donkey. The carrot and stick analogy ties into the basic human trait known as the Pleasure Principle, the instinctive seeking of pleasure and avoiding pain.

Everyone is motivated differently, but you can use the carrot or stick approach to develop task-related accountability. I specify task-related because you can only be accountable for that which you control. Using the example above, I can hold myself accountable for the work product- did I write the sales page copy, did I launch the sales page?– but whether or not someone purchases is out of my hands. If I meet my goal, I can give myself the carrot, but I should never use the stick.

Using Carrots

If you are waiting until you achieve your big honkin’ goal to celebrate, why? Why wait until the end to be happy when you can get some joy along the way.

Develop a list of rewards for doing dreaded tasks and achieved milestones or mini-goals. Rewards don’t have to be big to be meaningful. One of my first jobs after college included creating a database of past advertisers. I spent weeks doing data entry and used M&Ms to keep myself going. I would line up the M&Ms on my desk and get one piece of candy every time I completed 10 entries.

Using Sticks

The goal of creating a negative repercussion is to create a painful situation you are willing to push yourself to avoid. One of the most effective methods I have found is committing to making a donation to a non-profit organization that you would never support if you do not complete tasks in the selected timeline.

The donation needs to be large enough that it’s painful but small enough that you have access to the funds, and the organization should be one that you really, really dislike.

Imagine if you had to send $150 to the opposite political party you supported if you didn’t write that email you’ve been putting off or creating that video you said you were going to do.

This works best when you have someone else who is in charge of making the donation at the designated time. It’s kinda like paying a ransom; if you don’t call them by 3 p.m., they are using your credit card to make a donation to The Deadbeat Dads Legal Society or Save The Cockroaches.

#5 Don’t Do It Alone

Just because you are in business alone doesn’t mean you have *cue Celine Dion* all by myselllfffff. Ultimately, you are accountable only to yourself, but having someone else providing accountability can help you stay on track, especially when your big goal/vision is years away.

Accountability Partner

Creating an accountability partnership with one or two other microbusiness owners can help you show up daily for your business and give you the push you need for those dreaded tasks. Knowing someone is going to ask you for a progress report can be just the motivation you need to GSD.


This is a sneaky, sneaky way to hold yourself accountable, but really only works if you are thrifty. If you are paying someone to complete a task that requires input from you, and they get paid regardless of whether they work or not, you can use that to your advantage.

Growing my Pinterest and YouTube presence are two of the goals I am focused on, so I pay monthly fees to have someone else manage those channels for me. They get paid whether they post or not, and the only way they can post is if I provide the resources. Knowing that the cost is the same whether they work for me or not is enough of an incentive for me to get them what they need each week.

Accountability Coach

Just like using a personal trainer to meet your fitness goals, working with an accountability coach can support your business goals.

An accountability coach can help you build healthy productivity habits, and actionable strategies to achieve your goals. Checking in with your coach on a weekly basis is an opportunity for you to focus on what’s working, and get help when you need it.

Takeaway: Accountability is Empowerment.

For a microbusiness owner, accountability is more about empowerment than simply responsibility. Using these five ways to incorporate accountability can make the difference between success this year and success eventually.

Ready to find a kickass Accountability Group? Join us in The Accountability Co-Op!

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