Last week, Geff walked into the studio with a case of cold beer. He offered one to each of the team members, and we all toasted a recent success. Celebrating wins is one of the aspects that I admire about Geff’s management style. With so much chaos and uncertainty in the United States at the moment, focusing on success, even a small one, can help maintain forward momentum. Afterward, I thought about success. What is it? What does it mean for me? What does it mean for our company? And just as important, what does it mean for our customers?

The GMS Media team spends its time telling the story of its clients by featuring their success. In order to do that, we need to know what success looks like for them. We must find how they define it in order to help them. I immediately considered my past gigs and thought about how I measured success within each of them.  I realized that any large-scale success was always due to a collection of small wins. Every single win was a step in the right direction.

I began teaching saxophone lessons when I was 17. At first, students are taught the basics: major scales, basic rhythms, and matching pitch. The small-scale success of just getting through the C Major scale without making any errors was a big step. Another small success would be when they could learn The Pink Panther by ear. We celebrated these! One of my advanced high school students won a solo competition. That big success was due to a massive amount of small wins on his part.

In my 20s, I worked for Delaware State Parks. Success as a horticulturist was measured in healthy plants and turf. My boss would see that the grass was green, the flowers were bright, and say, “nice job!” Meanwhile, I pulled so many weeds that I would dream about it. She also valued me being under budget on fertilizer and summer labor. Cutting down trees was a dangerous gig. Staying safe was a measure of success in itself. Each day of safely removing trees was a win! Another was dropping the tree in the intended spot, and not onto a truck, building, or another tree. She also valued a can-do attitude when the job needed to be done. Each that I was a good team member who kept his ego in check was a win.

Success in business development is typically measured by sales and/ or growth. While that is true overall, I found that the primary successes were helping people network, connect, and find a pathway forward. In my 30s, I started a consulting business with my father in his field of materials science. We found SBIR grants for start-up firms and did consulting projects for the big boys such as NASA and Boeing. A big success was finding funding for the start-up. We once partnered a rocket fuel company with academics in concrete to answer an SBIR to build runways in the developing world. Just connecting those teams together to solve the problem was a win. They also won a sizable grant!

Success is a collection of wins. You can scale this theory up to the macro or down to the micro-level. When we tell the story of our clients, we are featuring their successes. That being the case, we need to learn more about them. What do they celebrate with a beer?