My millennial entrepreneur daughter Julia has been hanging out at our house for an extended Thanksgiving visit. Since we are both solopreneurs right now, you can imagine what the conversations have been like.
We’ve talked about our respective business challenges. A lot.
Julia is launching an education consulting business to help Chinese students who want to attend US schools. Her first small client cohort just went through the November 1 early application deadline for colleges. She finished her year-long online course in education consulting from UCLA over the Thanksgiving “holiday.” Now, she is ready to add clients as she “jumps off the cliff” to do this full time beginning in January.
As for me, I’m getting serious about launching a podcast in early 2018.
The Need for Focus
Anyone who has been an entrepreneur knows just how hard it is to focus on executing “the next thing” when there are SO many “next things” to be done. It’s pretty easy to do lots of “work” that feels like progress, kind of, without making actual progress on the most important things.
One solution is to hire a coach. I have a friend who is a high-end coach for (mostly) business executives. He’s amazing. He’s also beyond my daughter’s budget. And mine, for that matter!
There is a free option. An accountability buddy, also known as an accountability partner, can provide you with a piece of what coaches provide. It’s a simple idea: communicate regularly with another similar entrepreneur, share your struggles and your goals, and hold each other accountable for doing what you plan to do.
14 Business Accountability Buddy Tips
Like lots of simple ideas, it’s not so easy in practice! Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned from reading a bunch of blog posts about accountability buddies.
- Look outside your industry – fresh eyes keep you from falling into conventional wisdom or feeling inadequate in competitive comparison.
- Find someone you can trust – it should go without saying, but trust is essential for the process to work.
- Find someone with a different personality – the differences can help keep you from mutually supporting problematic behavior or thought processes.
- Seek a (brutally) honest buddy, not a comforter – empathy is great, but sometimes accountability is about kicking butt with tough love.
- Set clear expectations about time and topics – this is key to making sure the relationship is sustainable and satisfying.
- Talk about business goals – start with high level goals but then get specific about short term measurable goals. For Julia it’s 20 new clients in 2018, 5 by January. For me it’s reaching out to 20 entrepreneurs to interview for the podcast, and doing one interview a week starting in January.
- Be specific about actions to achieve the goals – entrepreneurship is all about taking action, and your buddy’s job is to make sure you did what you said you would.
- Put the goals and actions in a 30-60-90 day plan – if you write them down they will seem less overwhelming, and they’ll be easier to explain to your buddy. Here is a free template in Excel: download 30-60-90-Day-Plan-template.
- Make sure there is equal “air time” – entrepreneur buddies each have their challenges every week. Plus, you learn by helping others.
- Agree that each is responsible for following, or not, the others’ advice – accountability is all about personal responsibility, which extends to whether or not you follow anyone else’s advice. Not all advice is right, or even consistent. It’s your job to decide.
- Set clear consequences for inaction – what happens when planned actions are not taken? There need to be consequences. Sometimes it’s who buys coffee, sometimes it’s cash, sometimes it’s pushups, sometimes it’s just the embarrassment of admitting inaction to your buddy.
- Plan regular check in times – make it a regular priority but with enough flexibility that it happens (for example, “before noon on Friday”).
- Keep check in formats flexible – text, email, phone calls and coffee meetings can all work, and sometimes mixing it up works best.
- Revisit goals, strategies and actions – once every three months is a good pace for setting aside one slightly longer interaction to review and revise where you are going based on what you’ve actually done and how the businesses are actually going.
Free peer accountability is extremely valuable no matter what color of money you need next for your business.
Do you have an accountability buddy? If not, what’s your action plan for finding one??