Whom Do You Report To?

Think you have it tough as a business owner? Imagine being the CEO of a publicly held company these days. You have a demanding board of directors and investors to answer to.

Every 90 days the entire world measures your performance. Then there are persistent annoyances like the media, analysts, Sarbanes-Oxley and now, for some high-profile CEOs, having to testify before the United States Congress. While we small business owners have our own headaches, we have to answer only to ourselves (and our clients). After all, that is why some of us went into business in the first place. But I think we are missing out on one of the benefits that come with running a public company — accountability.

Once upon a time we each had a dream of doing things our way and building a better mousetrap. And we did. But it is human nature to take your foot off the gas pedal at some point. Sometimes this happens for the right reasons, such as when you decide that you want to limit the number of hours you spend at the office. More often, you get comfortable. This happens because there is no pressure. There is no pressure because there is no accountability.

This is not to say that we don’t come up with good ideas to “take our company to the next level.” The problem is we often don’t do much more than make half-hearted attempts to put those ideas into action. Is being comfortable a bad thing? It depends. Are you in an industry where technology and the Internet are changing the game? Are your employees getting bored? Are they leaving? Are your profits declining?

If your answer to any of those questions was yes, maybe you need some accountability yourself. The good news is you have several options, including joining peer groups, having an informal or formal board of directors, or consulting with a group of trusted advisors. At the most basic level, their role is simple: to hold you accountable. To be effective in holding you accountable, they will probably need to make you uncomfortable. Are you comfortable with that?