Often a business is started with no idea of what success looks like. You get more clients than you can serve on your own, so you bring on an employee, and then another. You find yourself working more and more hours, often doing tasks you never wanted to do, like bookkeeping and sales.

Over time, you realize that you are not running the business. Rather, it is running you. And doing a bad job of it, as all the increased activity does not result in a decent salary for you or significant net profit.

But the business might look "successful" because of its high volume or all the job signs you have around town, or some other far-from-meaningful metric.

I have talked with many business owners who finally realize what constitutes real success. Here is some of what I've observed and also experienced in my time as a business owner.

You Do What You Want to Do
Growth can bring the need for the owner to do tasks and take on responsibilities that they never wanted to. But if they don't do that work, it won't get done.

Showing up feels like you are getting worn out, day after day. "Success" includes the owner doing what they want to do in the business and what they are good at. And very little else.

You Feel in Control
There comes a tipping point as a business pushes to get a greater and greater volume. Suddenly, the company is running the owner instead of of the owner running the company. This is very scary.

Not feeling in control results in a lack of sleep for you and you generally being unpleasant to be around. Your family knows something is not quite right, but don't know how to help you.

Feeling in control is essential to a business owner experiencing success.

You Hire Solutions, Not Projects
I don't think many business owners start a business so they can hire employees. What happens is that with increased demand, the owner learns how to hire employees from the mistakes they make trying to do so.

Some owners never learn the needed lessons. They hire "projects." By that I mean they hire employees who will never turn out to be as good as the business owner wants them to be. But the owner is so tired of looking for new employees that they keep the employee, trying endlessly to make the employee into something they will never be.

This type of remodeling work is not what a remodeling business owner is good at.

Success here is hiring "solutions," employees who come to work on time, do a good job, are grateful for the compensation and benefits they receive, and continue to learn and grow from year-to-year. And the business owner is not settling for anything less.

You Earn as Much or More Than You Wanted
Often as a business grows, the owner actually ends up making less and less. The growth of the business requires investments in infrastructure, like a larger office, and in greater overhead.

The owner thinks this is a temporary problem, but it can go on for years, with the owner actually investing their own personal funds in the business to keep it afloat.

The owner getting paid a salary as much as—if not more than—they planned on is a good way to measure success.

Your Company Has More Net Profit Than You Planned On
Even with all the hard work the business owner has put into the company, this translates to little or no net profit. With come combination of what I've described above, net profits just seem to vanish.

If you were to invest in stock in a larger company, would you do so if the company was not making the net profit it planned on? Likely you wouldn't.

Success in this case is ending your business year with the net profit you projected or, better yet, more.

You Have a Life Outside the Business
I have talked with business owners who work 60 to 70 hours a week. Or maybe more. All they do is work, eat, and sleep. They typically have a family but never spend time with them.

Success in life and in business means you do things outside the business that bring you joy and satisfaction. If you don't have that in your life, you are a slave to the business, serving it instead of it serving you.

Success Is Simple. To Achieve It Takes Focus
What do you want from life? Be clear about that and stay focused on those goals. Make decisions that are consistent with those goals.

Most of all, don't let someone else's idea of success become your goal. Remember that green grass on the other side of the hill looks brown once you get close enough to see it clearly!