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Your Best Business Asset: An Accountability Partner

An accountability partner is someone who can help you stay on track toward reaching your goals and creating a life and business by design rather than default. January marks three years that my accountability partner and I have been meeting, and I cannot say enough about how much it has improved my business.

  1. I’m more focused. I’ve become a lot more targeted with my efforts. I concentrate more and more on moving the big rocks, rather than counting the hours I’ve clocked or getting bogged down in busywork. For each call, I want to have something to report. I don’t want to have to say, “I didn’t really get that much done over the past two weeks,” which really helps keep my feet to the fire.
  2. I stay the course. I used to be much more likely to change course. I had a serious case of entrepreneurial attention deficit disorder (EADD), and I jumped around way too much to see any kind of success. While I still start new things on a regular basis, I’ve become much more dedicated to seeing current projects to completion (or at least to a steady pace toward success) before venturing into new territory.
  3. I’m more honest and real. My accountability partner has come to know quite a bit about my life and vision for it, which helps to keep me grounded in reality. I can talk myself in or out of anything, so if I’m trying to make decisions, there are times when it’s easy for me to talk myself into doing something that might not the best choice. My accountability partner calls me on it and forces me to be real with myself about my intentions.
  4. I make greater progress in less time. Since we have regular meetings, it’s easy to keep things moving forward. There’s natural momentum built in, so we actually get things done.
  5. I concentrate more on results. I no longer work for work’s sake. We’ve come to realize that the meat is in the results. We’ve both slowly moved away from set hours and arbitrary notions of how our days should look and have instead learned to focus on making progress. We set our intentions, and once we finish what’s on the list, we’re done.
  6. I’m less likely to get stuck in ruts. As an entrepreneur or business owner, it’s easy to get stuck in my own thinking or get stopped by difficult times, but by having someone there whose job it is to keep me moving forward and striving to reach my vision, I’m so much less likely to stay stuck. My accountability partner and I have both had times where we’ve found ourselves stuck as a result of mental blocks or obstacles within our lives or businesses, but by working together, we’re able to get through them much faster.
  7. I’m more balanced. Because we stay in tune with the overall vision we both want for our lives, we don’t allow each other to get very far out of balance. We know when we each have big projects going on, and when those wrap, we make sure to tell the other person to take care of the other areas of our lives. If we’re struggling, we consider that it might be something outside the business, say our health, that might be holding us back.

There are many untold benefits of having an accountability partner. If you value the relationship and honor your commitment to it, it can be the single greatest asset for your business.

Do you have an accountability partner? How has it helped you?

Image from Flickr by suvodeb

40 Responses to “Your Best Business Asset: An Accountability Partner”

  1. Amber, I think one of the reasons our relationship works is that we became accountability partners first and friends second. It removes the possibility of an alternate agenda when you really don’t know a lot of personal information about your partner. You focus on the business and stay clear-headed about that and what your partner has started are her goals.

    I moved away from my hometown about 10 years ago after a divorce, and it was amazing to see how differently I was treated in my new location. I finally realized it was because people were seeing me as I was at that moment, not the way I was 5, 10, or 15 years ago. It also helped *me* see what the current me was like without a filter from the past. Sometimes in our personal relationships people focus on what we used to be instead of what we are, which is why having an accountability partner who can see you as you are *now* makes all the difference.

    Your accountability partner has to clear-headed about who you are now and where you are going in the future, and you owe them the same courtesy.

    • Amber Riviere

      I couldn’t agree more, Betsy. It was actually very helpful to our partnership and businesses that we didn’t know a lot about our individual personal lives for a while, even after becoming accountability partners. It let us get a sound foundation for where we both wanted to go business-wise, since that was the first goal of the partnership, and then we added in the balance of the rest of our lives over time. It was a very important transition, I think.

    • Amber Riviere

      I missed you somehow earlier, Nick. Yes, I agree. If my accountability partner is expecting me to complete something, I hate to have to say that I didn’t get it done. It makes it much easier to actually reach my goals that way!

  2. Great post, very insightful. I’ve had my coach for 3 years too but the dynamic is slightly different. I do like the symbiotic nature of the dynamic you explain, this keeps you on track and ensures that the AP keeps you on track too, cause as we all know enterprising people can easily be swayed.


    • Amber Riviere

      Thanks, Congo. Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to explain in yesterday’s response (sorry, I’m sleep-deprived this week)! The dynamic is somewhat different between coach/client and accountability partners. It’s very much symbiotic, so I think it can potentially be a life-long relationship, where (as Trina mentioned) you wouldn’t want a dependency to develop with a coach. They’re different in that way, I think.

  3. Amber,
    Now that you’ve sold me on needing an accountability partner, I would love a follow-up on how the relationship works and how to go about establishing a relationship.
    I’ll echo those who say friends and family aren’t great for accountability, mine are way too lenient on me!

    • Amber Riviere

      Thank you, Tyler. I will do just that. I’ll write the post over the coming days (hopefully tomorrow), but it might take a bit for it to get published (not my department). Please, if you have specific questions, email them to me so that I can cover what will really help you (mail[at]amberriviere[dot]com). The same goes for anyone else who is curious or has specific questions.

  4. Great post Amber. Reading your replies to comments shows that you are coming from a position of authority.

    More and more companies are bringing coaching into their organizations. And not to just the C-suite executives but to front-line staff. That’s where the real benefits are (according to a 2009 study by McKinsey & Company). And one way that this is happening is that front-line staff are becoming accountability buddies.

    It’s not full-on coaching because neither party is particularly well trained in the skills of coaching but the value is derived from the desire to be supportive and helpful. If the intention is there, that’s at least the 75% solution.

    Furthermore, research in positive psychology suggests that by helping your friend, you benefit. Being other-focused leads to all sorts of physical and mental health benefits. Read more about the science of giving here –

    • Amber Riviere

      Thanks, Stephan. It’s taken a lot of dedication and tweaking to get our partnership to where it is today, so I now think she and I both have learned a lot about how to make an accountability partnership work. I need to email her and get her in on this conversation, in fact! :)

    • Amber Riviere

      Flyblown Crisis – I know for some, a spouse or family member might end up being an accountability partner, and it works. It’s great that your wife focuses on profits! I would say that if you are going to have a friend or family member be your accountability partner, then you definitely need to have some objective metrics (like profits, web traffic, subscribers, etc.) to track. That way, you’re focused on numbers, not emotionally-driven and subjective things that might get biased opinions/feedback.

  5. I see a lot of freelancers and startups relying on their friends or spouses to provide emotional support. Sadly, instead of offering constructive criticism or affirmative challenges, friends and spouses tend to let those freelancers and startups get away with murder. I believe every business professional needs an executive coach, a business mentor, or what this piece calls an accountability partner. If you’re not prepared to be challenged and questioned, you’re not ready to be in business for yourself.

    • I think what Amber is describing here is something different than a mentor. Being accountable means being in integrity with your word – doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it. I don’t think the accountability partner’s role is to critique your work or business plan.

      • Amber Riviere

        Hi, Khürt. For me, my accountability partner was not intended as a mentor, but she does offer a lot of constructive criticism of my work and plans for my business. I can see the benefit in a mentor, a coach, and an accountability partner. They all serve different (even if similar) roles in my mind, but I think they could all offer tremendous value to a business, if one could be so fortunate (or smart) to develop a dream team of all roles. As for choosing an accountability partner, I think I personally was just very lucky. We created a partnership very soon after meeting each other, and it has just stood the test of time. Maybe the key is keeping your eyes open for those business owners and entrepreneurs around you who inspire you and who you have a comfortable connection with. Start asking to see if any of them would be interested in testing the waters a bit. Start with a short time frame, maybe three to six months, and then reevaluate as you go.

    • Amber Riviere

      Hi, Heather. My accountability partner and I have talked many times about the issue of relying on advice and support from friends and family when it comes to business. We talked about this a lot when we first began the partnership and realized that we had built up a lot of resentment toward friends and family because of it. They either wouldn’t tell us what we needed to hear because they didn’t want to hurt our feelings, they’d tell us to give up too soon because they were worried for us, or they’d barely listen to us because they were bored to death by it all. It put a lot of strain on our relationships, and we came to realize that there was no way our friends and family could provide objective advice. I highly recommend finding someone who is not a friend or family member and who is also in business so that they understand what you’re going through.

      • Amber, I have to agree with you about not choosing a friend, spouse or family member as your accountability partner. No matter how hard they might try, they simply can’t be neutral where you are concerned! And in some case (e.g. spouse or boy-/girlfriend) they may have their own agenda when it comes to your overall vision, as well as the road you take to achieve it.

        If someone is not going the route of working with a professional coach/mentor, I would strongly suggest looking to partner with another business professional whose judgment, integrity, and business acumen you trust implicitly!

        I also believe that the questions you have to ask yourself before making a final decision are pretty much the same whether you are planning to hire a coach or looking to co-partner with a business acquaintance.

  6. I agree with Jeff that you have outlined some of the key advantages of working with a coach. However, as you have discovered, an good accountability partner can literally be anyone who will not shirk when it comes time to ask those difficult questions we tend to prance around ourselves. It’s that same objective point of view that makes it possible for us to accept not only that question, but also feel motivated to seek an honest answer that will lead to an actionable solution.

    Congrats to both you and your accountability partner, Amber! What better testimony to a system that works than your satisfaction – and your success!

    • Amber Riviere

      Hi, Trina. Although I can definitely see the benefits of a good coach, my accountability partnership serves an entirely different purpose for me. I intend to have an accountability partner for life, where I personally would hire a coach for a shorter term (maybe a year or so). I think I just look at the two relationships in different ways, but I see the benefit of both.

      • Hi Amber, I totally agree that an accountability partner need not be a professional coach; esp. if you want to take advantage of that kind of partnership over an extended period of time. Coaching is all about help to self-help, and not about establishing a dependency on the coach. That’s why I automatically “down-grade” my coaching clients to quarterly or half-yearly “maintenance sessions” once their coaching objective has been reached, if they feel they need any additional support at all.

        Long-term co-partnering on accountability can be inspiring and empowering for both parties, esp. where entrepreneurs are concerned. And it can make all the difference between chasing your own tail and moving with a good pace, great ideas, and sensible benchmarks towards your business goals.

    • Amber Riviere

      Hi, Trina. Just following up on your second comment. That’s a great strategy, weening your clients off coaching, because I agree that it could easily become a dependency, whereas an accountability partnership is more about the maintenance, as you suggested (with occasional “coaching,” if you want to call it that). That should probably be something entrepreneurs and small business owners ask of their coaches before signing up with them. Great points.

    • Amber Riviere

      Just saw your comment on the spouse/family/friend thing, too, and couldn’t agree more. They can definitely have their own agenda at times, so that’s another great reason to find an unbiased third-party. Great point!

    • Amber Riviere

      Hi, Jeff. Simon’s right. Although a business coach could serve the same purpose, my accountability partner and I have a give and take relationship. She has a business, and so do I. The partnership helps both of us, where it would be one-sided with a coach. Of course, some might choose a coach over an accountability partner for that very reason, to each his own.