For every young entrepreneur, the question of “when do I call it quits” inevitably arises at some point in the business. Typically it’s spurred by weeks where situations seemingly haven’t gone your way. It’s in these moments you begin to question if you’re on the right path, if all of your effort is in vain, and if this is what you’re truly meant to do.
There’s a risk to calling quits on something too early. The greatest things often take the longest time to build. And the reason for the expression “It’s lonely at the top” is because most people don’t have the patience and persistence to continue the journey. Yet at the same time, there are moments when a shift is necessary and it’s the right decision to call it day.
So how do you know when it’s the right decision to quit?
1. Give Yourself a Timeline
I like the strategy of setting a timeline in place and making a commitment that come hell or high-water, you’ll push through to that deadline no matter the circumstances. In each of my previous jobs, I’ve given myself a timeline of “a 3-year commitment” or “50 podcast interviews” and no matter how hard it gets, I know I’m going to complete it. Yes, the circumstances may suck, it may not be financially rewarding, others are seemingly passing you by, etc. but what I’m teaching myself is the greater skillset of discipline in sticking things out.
Rob Douk, now successful entrepreneur and founder of Behavior Health Works, gave himself 90 days when he first started his psychology practice after transitioning from insurance sales. He wasn’t sure if it would be the right fit, but he allowed himself the opportunity to test it out and it ultimately confirmed his calling. He’s now built a $10MM+ business helping children with special needs.
2. Track the Important Metrics
It’s often times easy to look at your business and say it’s failing when that may not be the case. Y Combinator, a well-known accelerator program in the tech space has its entrepreneurs dead-focused on the one or two metrics that move the business. (read their blog post on how to concentrate on what matters here).
It’s key to determine what those important metrics are as they relate to your goals. While increased revenue is always a good sign, what if the concentration needs to be on client acquisition and retention? Revenue is a by-product of you getting the other two metrics right. Concentrate on the important metrics.
If your business may not be cash flow positive, yet the metrics are showing your client acquisition is growing each week, then it may not be time to call it quits just yet. It may simply mean that you haven’t given it enough time.
3. Seek Guidance from Others
We as humans tend to operate with a myopia that prevents us from seeing the bigger picture. I talk about the importance of community and accountability quite often. I have a close circle of trusted individuals I know will be open and honest about what they see in my life. It’s important for any entrepreneur to have people who can provide alternative perspectives you wouldn’t otherwise notice.
Go to these people and ask for advice and perspective before making a decision. It doesn’t mean you have to do what they say, but in my experience, those closest to me often bring up an area of consideration I hadn’t previously given thought to. Certainly, before calling it quits, run it by your panel.
4. Trust Your Instinct
At the end of the day, the greatest attribute you carry is your own instinct. Trust your gut in tandem with all of the above factors. The most successful entrepreneurs I’ve known have been led by a principle or guiding belief that what they’re doing will ultimately pan out. It may not always feel that way, but the notion of setting the business down would gnaw at them until they picked it back up. This is one clear way to make sure it’s not quite time to call it quits.
“You might have 20 years before things blossom, but if there’s something inside of you driving you — knowing you’re doing the right thing and it will ultimately pay off — that’s the voice that keeps you going.”
— Wes Moss, Chief Investment Strategist at Capital Investment Advisors
At the end of the day, most of these decisions are all relative. There will be opportunities you could have called quits on earlier, there will also be opportunities where you quit too soon.
But if you’re going to try a lot of things, you’re going to fail a lot. Figuring out the difference in the failures of your judgment and the failures of not persisting long enough is a useful skill.
So learn the skill, hone it, and keep moving.
That’s the greatest lesson in calling it quits.