8 Real-Life Ways To Measure Startup Success

Believe it or not, not every startup founder today is building their company just to cash out with a big exit. Some entrepreneurs are actually in it for the long haul.

But which metrics actually inform these founders' long-term vision - what keeps the lights on and keeps them personally committed, for years at a time, to their current ventures. We asked eight entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share the yardsticks they use to measure their success.

1. A Little Something Called Profit

Building your company 'to sell' is like playing Russian roulette. The fate of your company's success or failure is up to chance, not you. There is, however, this other metric for success that some of the tech community seem to forget about - it's this little thing called profits. I've been in meetings with companies using terms like user acquisition, use cases and engagement to define success or failure, but if they aren't supported by profits, then there really isn't a point. Focus on making money and regardless of whether your company gets sold or not, at least you'll have one. - Liam MartinStaff.com

2. Company Stability

Real Bullets Branding is a service-based agency that I started because I wanted to build a company that I actually wanted to work at, not sell. Our first goals were around creating processes within the company that allowed us to develop products and services that made clients happy and didn't cost us too much time and resources to produce. Our next goals, and one we always continue to work on, is company stability. Anytime we grow, take on new employees or new costs, it's important to keep our incoming and outgoing finances stable. The more stable we are, the more we can focus on innovative new products and creative ideas. - Caitlin McCabeReal Bullets Branding

3. The Best Seat In The House

Chances are, if you've built a successful company, you have given yourself the opportunity to sit in any seat you want. I personally love creating relationships with new clients and having my trusted team provide them with top-notch custom Excel, Office and database applications. If my staff and business processes are correctly implemented, the company will run like a well-oiled machine, and I can sell indefinitely. Waking up every morning excited to do the job I created for myself? That to me is the ultimate success. - Russell KommerExcelHelp.com

4. A Lasting Legacy

In order to sell a business, it has to successfully survive once you leave - but a business that isn't built to sell can accomplish the same outcome. Instead of viewing my company, She's Got Systems, as a business I will run until death or retirement, we're building the structure to incorporate more teachers, coaches and a support team that will eventually make my involvement redundant. Instead of selling the business and moving on to the next, you can continue to contribute to a business built to last and enjoy recurring revenues for many more years. It's our goal to continue serving and growing with our clients for decades to come. The success factor is how well we can do that sustainably. - Kelly AzevedoShe's Got Systems

5. Knowledge And Business

We believe that knowledge transforms lives and that capitalism is the greatest tool for social change. So we help businesses see and understand their numbers in order to grow and, in turn, make the world a better place. As such, we measure our success by the number of businesses that we've helped grow, improve and succeed in what they set out to do. Our big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) is to contribute to 10% of the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies list. That's delivering knowledge to 500 companies that get something to show for the result. How's that for a metric? - W. Michael HsuDeepSky

6. Clients

While revenue, profit and deal flow are easy metrics to "measure success," as a service provider, the number of satisfied clients is the ultimate indicator of how my company is performing. Every new client is an opportunity and every successful transaction is a real win. While the first project we work together on may not be a $1 million financing, every entrepreneur who walks through my door becomes a partner going forward - their success is my success and vice versa. - Peter MintonMinton Law Group, P.C.

7. The Three Pillars: People, Planet And Profit

Even if you’re building to sell, triple bottom lines are one of the best ways to measure success. The three pillars of people, planet, and profit should be at the forefront of any CEO’s analytics. The Global Reporting Initiative and the Institute for Sustainability have developed methods for companies to measure these seemingly qualitative statistics. Even if you don’t get analytical about them, think, “Is my company making the world, and the people around us, better?” If so, you’ve found success. - Matt WilsonUnder30Media

8. Repeat Business

Companies like ours that are not looking to sell must focus on building a strong brand and a strong channel. It is very easy to buy customers - paying for ads until they show up and severe discounting are two methods. In building for the long haul, we think that a key goal is to continue to achieve a high percentage of our sales from returning customers. Second, third and subsequent purchases occur only if the customer believes in the value that you provide. Having a steady dose of returning customers allows you to experiment and build your brand for the long run. - Aaron SchwartzModify Watches