When Is It Time to Call it Quits?

Cat at Window







Have you ever had days like this when your life just wasn’t going quite to plan? Problems with customers, cash flow, employees, vendors, investors, and on and on… it sometimes feels like the whole world is hosing you down.

I’m sure everyone in business has occasionally felt like the poor fellow above… but what if it starts happening on a regular basis?

Obsession and passion are prerequisites for becoming a successful entrepreneur, and so is perseverance—up to a point!

But, if your business is just not performing according to your planning, and you have tried everything you can think of, maybe it’s time to change your plans.

It’s one thing to persevere in the face of obstacles in order to achieve your dream… it as something altogether different to continue pursuing a dream that may never be realized.

The best example of this situation I know of is Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop. She left teaching, was kicked out of an Israeli Kibbutz, failed at running a Bed & Breakfast, failed at running a restaurant (later ran a successful restaurant, but sold it), and then, started a small enterprise selling body lotions she bottled in her kitchen.

Anita’s little home startup later became one of the largest cosmetic companies in the world, and Anita Roddick was considered one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the day.

Should Perseverance Ever Stop?

What might have happened if Anita had not given up on the several endeavors she tried before creating The Body Shop?

With her talent and perseverance she likely could have had some modest success at any of her other businesses… but they didn’t satisfy all her desires in life—she always needed something more.

She obviously found it in The Body Shop.

The point here is that, when your best-laid plans fail to provide the results you expected, or desired, maybe you should review not just your business planning, but more importantly, your life plans—what is it you want out of life?

This may even mean closing down your current business and looking for something else to start up… making the decision to call it quits. This also could be the most difficult decision you ever have to make as an entrepreneur.

But, there are a couple of things you can do to help you determine what to do if you find yourself in this kind of quandary, as follows:

Seek Outside Counsel

Of course you have some sort of advisory group that you regularly use to bounce your ideas and concerns off of—don’t you?

These are the people you turn to when you need to hear a voice of experience… especially when things go awry.

But, if you have never formed any kind of advisory group you should at least sit down with your accountant; attorney; investor; partner; etc., and seriously discuss the situation.

Sometimes just talking things out with your advisors can help you make the final decision—whether it is to make some changes that you might not have thought about previously… or to close down your business,

Don’t Drag Out the Situation

Know when to quit. Your problems won’t just improve with age—you’re going to need to take some action.

Knowing when to cut your losses and shut down your business is difficult and is different for every business situation.

The important thing is to not drag out an inevitable outcome. That’s why outside advisors and counselors are so vital.

The mantra you should adopt is “Fail Hard, Fail Fast.” Make any changes you and your advisors think might get your business back on track; set a specific short term target date for success; and then give your business 100% effort to achieve the desired result.

If your efforts don’t achieve the expected success by the target date—start shutting down the business. Forget “well if only,” or “maybe if I try a little longer,” and the like.

Fail Hard, Fail Fast. Often the time and expense involved in trying to salvage a business could be better spent on starting a new one.

“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”      —Warren Buffet

Sure, you need to be passionate about your business—even obsessed—but you also need to know when to make a major change in your plans… when to stop beating a dead horse.

How many of you have ever had days like the poor fellow in the photo above? What did you do?


2 thoughts on “When Is It Time to Call it Quits?

  1. Great article – Thanks! I only wish I had actually LISTENED to this message many times through the years instead of driving my dreams into the ground until they became nightmares. Slowly learning this now and moving on and refocusing instead of trying to drag a dead carcass along because I believe it’s still alive!

    1. Thanks for the comment Jeff. Making the decision to close a business, or a major segment of a business, is a really tough call, because so many people “in the know” tell us that success is just around the next corner–if we work a little harder and try a little longer. Actually, that may be true, but I think the success will usually come in the form of a new, or much changed, business. No one could say this better than Warren Buffett did in the quote shown in the post.

      Thanks again for the comment.

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