Entrepreneurship is a difficult path, and even if you start out optimistic, with a great team and a solid business plan, you may one day find yourself hitting your personal limit. Whether your business is struggling to grow, your team is starting to falter, you start to lose confidence in your direction, or you’ve simply burned yourself out of being a business owner, eventually you may wonder whether it’s time to call it quits for good.
Don’t feel ashamed. Don’t feel alone. This is a moment almost every entrepreneur will eventually experience, and how you respond to the situation will determine where you go from here. Essentially, you’re going to have two options when you hit your personal limits: you can either change something, or you can call it quits. But determining what, if anything, can change, and how you would go about quitting is a difficult task in itself. That’s why I’ve come up with these five big questions, which can help point you in the right direction when you feel lost or demotivated:
1. What is the biggest problem with your business, and is it fixable?
Odds are, if you’re struggling, you either can’t pinpoint a fundamental problem (otherwise, you’d have fixed it by now), or you have so many problems you don’t know where to begin. As such, it’s hard to find one problem as the “biggest” one holding your business back. Is it a lack of capital? A lack of visibility? Slim profit margins? Too much overhead? Try to narrow it down to one factor, and ask yourself if that factor is fixable. If you find it’s too much to fix at this point, it might be time to walk away. You may also be facing personal problems, meaning your business isn’t failing and there’s no problem with what you’ve actually built.
2. How long have worked this company, and how far have you gotten?
This could be a disheartening or inspiring question, depending on your answer. When you’re in the thick of things, it’s hard to get a bird’s-eye view of your company, but this question can help you rediscover your true place. How many years have you spent on building this business, and where are you today? From here, you can ask yourself an even harder question: was it worth it? If it hasn’t been, then something needs to change.
3. What’s the worst that could happen?
Think about the major changes you could make. Could you restructure your team? Could you abandon one of your biggest product lines? Could you change your brand? These are all big, scary decisions that could change your business for the better or leave you worse off than you were before. But it’s important that you consider them seriously and ask yourself: what’s the worst that could happen under any of these scenarios? Any situation that cannot end in total disaster is worth considering further.
4. How many sacrifices have you made to get here?
This is another hard question to answer, but it’s important to take an inventory of everything you’ve left behind along your journey. How much of your own personal finances and resources have you put into the business? How much time have you invested that you can’t ever get back? How have your personal relationships changed since you became an entrepreneur? Becoming successful demands some sacrifices, but there’s a point where the cost-to-benefit ratio is egregious. You cannot sacrifice your entire self in order to make a company successful. If you find that you’ve made an inordinate number of sacrifices and haven’t gotten much in return, it’s time to draw the line.
5. Are you happy?
This is the vaguest question here, but it’s also the most important. Your revenue might be tanking, you might be working 80 hours a week, and you might be struggling with some very tough decisions right now, but are you happy doing what you’re doing? Do you enjoy being in the driver’s seat of your own business? Do you feel fulfilled when you think of all you’ve done? Unless there’s an insurmountable barrier blocking your company from success, this answer should determine your path forward. If you truly aren’t happy with your position or your business, it’s time to move on.
Once you answer these questions and come up with a possible solution to your dilemma, you can take a breath and feel good about your decision, but the work isn’t done yet. Even if you decide to close-up shop, there are still many steps you’ll have to take to see your decision through to its completion. Stay focused, and remember that every great challenge in life is just another opportunity to grow.