How to Know When to Let It Go?

Walking into that board meeting was one of the hardest things I had to do. Having spent the past six years working over 80 hours a week almost every day of the year, I was exhausted and feeling like a failure.

While our company started off on a really great run, it was now losing so much money I didn’t know what to do. My team of 15 employees and I were trying so many things to save it, I no longer knew which way to turn. Or how long to keep trying.

It wasn’t always that way, though. When we first started, I felt invincible. Grew the company quickly and before long it was known as one of the key businesses in our industry.

But now I felt like I completely lost my touch and nerve. And that I had no clue how to run a business.

During that fateful meeting, my board of directors took over from me. They said, “Stefan, you gave it a solid shot. It is now time to shut this company down.”

Hearing those words was really tough. I had a group of investors who put in about $1MM over the years and had many other stakeholders and obligations for another $1MM.

Talk about feeling like a failure.

The strange thing was, soon after that meeting I started to feel a sense of relief. That there was a conclusion to this intense ride. A conclusion I was not able to determine myself.

The year was 1998 and for the first time in a very long time, I felt free again.

Six steps to determine if it’s time to close down your gig:

  1. What Feels Right? To do this, you must clear your energy and head. You’ll need to take a few days off and away from your natural surroundings. Go somewhere to meditate and reflect in an objective way. Ask yourself what feels like the right thing to do.
  2. What Do Others Say? Find out from at least three people you know and respect in this area that have no stake in the outcome of the decision. That usually rules out investors, partners, employees, customers, etc. Allow your chosen people to weigh in.
  3. How About Your Stakeholders? This can be risky, but also can open up quite a bit of opportunities for you. Risky because if you “spook” them, they may run for the hills. Reward is you may get some really creative and cool ideas on how to turn things around.
  4. What Is the Overall Opinion? Create the two or three top scenarios and then compare with what feels right to you. If you have a board of directors, this is what they are charged with helping you do. Reach out to them.
  5. How Will You Label Yourself? As a looser or failure? Or as someone who gave it your all? And a success in going after your dream?   How you perceive yourself is up to you and will dictate how the rest of your business life unfolds.
  6. Can You Trust the Process? You WILL be OK. Most likely you will not end up in the Gulag or prison somewhere. And to know this can be very gratifying and helpful.

Lastly, put things into perspective. Here are some well-known people’s challenges:

  • Steve Jobs— had one of the most public firings an entrepreneur can have in his late 20’s before taking over again in the late ‘90’s and turning Apple into the largest capitalized company in the world.
  • Henry Ford—failed five times and was almost broke before starting the Ford Motor Company.
  • H. Macy—failed in business seven times before hitting it big with Macy’s Department Stores.
  • Walt Disney—fired as a newspaper reporter for lack of imagination and ideas, then started and either failed or bankrupted several companies before creating Disney.
  • Babe Ruth—ok not an entrepreneur, but similar concept: known for his home runs, 714. He is also known for a large number of strikeouts: 1,330.

So remember, just because you might decide to throw in the towel does not mean you failed. It just means that approach did not work.

Failure only happens when you give up all together.

Most importantly, look ten years out from today. Now looking back, will you be glad you went for it or not?

Most likely the former!

In my case, most of my investors from that business that closed in 1998 ended up investing in my other companies. In their eyes, they saw me as someone who was still trying to get it right.


Action Steps for the Week

If you’re considering throwing in the towel, you must do these steps:

  1. Take a breather. Clear your head. Shake off the dust. Then ask yourself a powerful question, “What is the right thing for me to do right now in regards to the business, keep working it, or let it go?”
  2. Meditate. Stay on it until the answer is clear to you.
  3. Pick your three. Core people you can trust, respect, and are not attached to the outcome of your business. Reach out to them for their take and advice.
  4. Consider involving your stakeholders. Decide if you want to involve your employees, vendors, customers, etc. Many times they will have ideas and suggestions that will surprise you.
  5. Make your decision. Avoid analysis paralysis. If it is too painful to make the choice yourself, assign someone whom you respect the task and then abide by it!
  6. Be “good” with the decision. No second-guessing. Be “complete” with it and your run with the business.

Regardless the decision you make, most likely you’ll be freed!