Winners Know When to Quit

4 situations where it's OK to walk away

Back Web Only Sep 17, 2014 By Kelly Azevedo

Business owners and entrepreneurs are often lauded for working against all the odds and being too stubborn to quit. But in reality, there are times when quitting is the best option available.

Instead of discussing the value of perseverance, let’s just discuss four excellent times to quit:

1. Your return on investment is lackluster. Or negative.

You think: “This is the greatest invention ever. Someday buyers will show up.”

In reality: Some ideas are better in theory.

Every fan of ABC’s Shark Tank has this thought once an episode, and it’s easier to spot as an outsider. Entrepreneurs tend to have a problem with perspective, because it’s a little like trying to cut your own hair: Sometimes you just can’t see the hot mess you’ve created.

During these times, turn to the numbers. If you’re investing more money than profit you’re earning, it’s time to quit.

2. Your time is better spent on other projects.

You think: “Someday I’ll finish that other project, write my book, follow up with that lead…”

In Reality: It’s a little harder to measure time because, although we all have the same 24-hour day, it’s easy to think “I can multitask” or “it’s not that much time.” In fact, failing projects can be incredibly time intensive.

And it’s not just direct work time either. While a product line or program that’s sinking fast needs helping hands to keep it from going under, it also creates a lot of mental anguish. Thoughts are invaded in the bath, dinner burns while you’re jotting down ideas to implement, and you spend a lot of time complaining to others—you know you do.

Most of all, you are leaving other perfectly good ideas to suffer from a lack of attention. Quitting a project to refocus your time is an excellent reason to throw in the towel.

3. This project doesn’t fit into your future.

You think: “It’s just a side project; everyone has them. Get off my back!”

In reality: Every business changes direction at times.

About once a month Google announces that one of their software projects is closing.  Services such as Orkut social networking, Talkbin, Schemer, Notifier, Google Checkout, Reader, iGoogle—and that’s just in the last year.

Some of the most popular Google features, such as Gmail, were cultivated during the 20-percent of employee time the company used to allot to creative ventures. While these “side projects” were a well known perk until 2013, even Google understood that when a project no longer supports your goals and vision, it’s time to let it go. This doesn’t mean you have to scrap it entirely, but recognizing that the end is near is the hardest part.

Hint: Google doesn’t lay off those employees, it redirects their attention and energy.

4. Your passion lies elsewhere

You think: “I started this company, it would die without me. I am the company.”

In reality: Letting go of businesses or segments that you’re not passionate about can be the best thing for both of you.

Entrepreneurs like to think of their business as their baby: If you don’t love it until the day you die, you’re a failure. But while a business should be nurtured, guided and allowed to grow, there may also be a time to entrust its future to someone else.

For some business owners that means stepping down as CEO, for others it’s selling the business to investors or a new owner/operator.  If you’ve set up your business with the right systems and processes, this transition can be smooth and quitting can feel much more like moving on.

As stubborn as we are, every entrepreneur is faced with the choice to quit or persevere everyday. It’s okay to let go of what’s holding you and your business back.


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