Owning a business is a challenge day to day. Sometimes there are great rewards, huge accomplishments, amazing opportunities, and it feels great. Sometimes there are great disappointments, huge losses, and a feeling that path was lost. And often it is simply routine. Doing what has to get done, over and over. No gain, no change, and no closer to your desired goals. It can feel like there are only two options: Win or Lose.
So when is it time to “throw in the towel” and give up the race? When the losses are greater than the rewards? When there is no future vision that can be found to get you out of your current situation? When it is not fun or enjoyable any longer? If your business is not making money, month after month or year after year?
I believe that every business owner has a moment (or a day or month) when they think:
- What am I doing here?
- Am I doing the right things in my life?
- Can I be doing something else that will make me more money and be easier?
- Is there something else that would make me happier?
- Should I go back and get a job?
All valuable questions and worth evaluating for yourself. If you are like me, that last question (Should I go back and get a job?) makes me wince. Not because ‘job’ feels like a four letter word to entrepreneurs but because I cannot see any future for myself inside any other business. What would I do? What position could I hold? Who would I report to? I have no answers for these questions.
When faced with the feeling that your business may not be a viable way to live your life you need to ask yourself the questions above but you also need to evaluate your business and not on your own. Take these three steps to evaluate if your business is even a viable revenue generating idea and get to the answer of ‘Grow it’ or ‘Give it up’.
Research and Evaluation
Go back to your original research for the development and launch of your business. Were your estimations and evaluations correct about your marketing, your sales, your product, your customers’ needs, etc. If you did not do the research initially then this is an indication that you are not as serious about business as you may actually believe. Go and do the research and evaluate it with your known operations and sales. What are the real trends? What are the real costs? Who is your primary and secondary competitors and what are they doing?
Take your challenges, issues, research, and current numbers to a trusted sounding board for brainstorming. These people should have an experienced understanding of business (not just your business). Invite them to spend a few hours just focused on your business. Let them know all the numbers so they can tell you directly if you are on the path of potential or if you should shift your focus. Take all ideas as plausible. Don’t discount or discard ideas because they feel small, redundant, or impossible, just listen and capture the options.
Strategic thinking comes from having a bigger understanding of the playing surface (your business) than what is currently visible to you right now. If you could see the way out you would have done it already. Find all options and play with them in your business plan. What have you tried and how can you try it again with a small twist on delivery? What haven’t you tried and how can you make something new in your business? What is the expected outcome of trying something different and is it worth the time, money, and effort? Are you willing and able to step up, because I guarantee that every possible option is going to require you to get a little more uncomfortable than you are right now.
Make the Decision
With understanding and options now available to you the next step is to decide what to do.
Keep the business and make changes OR move on?
To make the right decision you have to know what you want. Yes, what do you want in your life? What are you willing to sacrifice (time, more money, relationships) to make your goals reality? Are you willing to do what it takes? You have the answers so what are you going to do with them? The answer, which ever it is, will not feel comfortable. Again, if it was you would already be doing it. Making changes, giving up more, or closing something down does not feel good, but it should feel right.
If the outcome of your brainstorming was that you should invest a lot more money and you didn’t also define a plan to get that money or you are unwilling to get the money, then closing it down is likely the only option at this point.
If reducing the size and focusing on a niche or smaller market was the option, and you did not define a plan to reduce the size and exactly who and where the niche market is, then this is not a viable option either.
Whatever you decided as the most potential option for keeping your business you must also have created the plan to make it happen. Without that plan you do not have an option.
The key to implementing the plan is that it must be working towards something you desire. Without a desire on your part to make it happen, there is a lack of effort to do the hard things required. Honestly, if it were going to be easy everyone would do it.
The reality is, you are doing the hard work so you can focus on work that feels more like play. With both passion around the work and a desire to fulfill your goals you will have the drive to make it happen. It will not be time to give up.