Advice From the Greats: Deciding When to Retire a Product

Here's what sports icons like Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Derek Jeter have said about the subject.
Advice From the Greats: Deciding When to Retire a Product

Derek Jeter

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Sometimes, even the greats have to retire. Take, for example, the Gmail messaging service Google Talk: That veteran product has been around since 2005, but Google is discontinuing it because it believes its Hangouts service has a better future and will be a stronger business-messaging tool to put up against rivals such as Slack.

Related: Google Suspends Modular Smartphone Project

Google was wise to do this, and its action illustrates how CEOs of huge companies and small startups alike sometimes have to retire a product or service to make time and space for something better.

All the money in the world can’t buy more hours in a day, after all. If an exciting potential new venture sprouts up but brings with it tons of tasks, most business leaders won't consider trying to pile it onto an already full plate.

Newer businesses also often outgrow or outpace their original concepts, so their resources and focuses need to be shifted to the projects gaining steam. One of the worst things a business leader can do is allocate resources to products that do nothing to move the company's needle in a positive direction.

In short, when you narrow down your list of products or services, you’ll have the time, space and peace of mind to devote resources to what’s most productive.

Related: Is it Time to Give Up? Here's How to Know for Sure.

Certainly you might hesitate to retire a product you’ve worked on for a long time, but sometimes that's the best option. Athletes especially understand that while retiring is difficult, it's eventually necessary. So, we turn to the sports world for some of the best quotes uttered by athletes who knew it was time to leave the stage -- er, arena.

1. Jeter

"The last thing you want to do is finish playing or doing anything and wish you would have worked harder." -- Derek Jeter

Business connection: You might not succeed and become the next billionaire-entrepreneur, but if you give 100 percent of your effort, no one can ever say you didn’t try your hardest. Unfortunately, you can’t devote your best work to your business if your focus is split among too many products or services. So, direct your best efforts toward the projects that produce the best results and hold the most potential.

2. Jordan

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." -- Michael Jordan

Business connection: While you might view retiring a product or service as a failure, every failure gets you one step closer to success. Whether it directs you to do other things or shows you what you need to improve so you can succeed, every outcome serves as important evidence you can use to make future decisions. If a failure occurs, it's up to you to focus on the positive effects of the loss.

3. Pelé

"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do." -- Pelé

Business connection: You have to genuinely love and be passionate about what you're doing in any facet of life if you want to be successful. Most of us possess the ability to persevere, but we rarely exercise it to its fullest. Sometimes, pushing yourself to be successful means sacrificing the old way of doing business -- it might be the only way to move your company in the right direction.

4. Gretzky

"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." -- Wayne Gretzky

Business connection: Change is normal -- especially in business. When considering product retirement, CEOs often have to consider where their businesses are truly headed. Think about where you want your business to be in five years and how you’ll position yourself and your employees to get there. If you don't, you might get scored on and knocked out of the playoffs before you make it through the regular season.

5. Favre

"You're never guaranteed about next year. [When] people ask what you think of next season, you have to seize the opportunities when they're in front of you." -- Brett Favre

Business connection: When you narrow down your products or services, you save on one of the most precious resources you have: time. Time is nonrenewable. Never waste a moment on something that won't help your business move forward. We have only 24 hours in a day, and splitting ourselves into five people isn't possible. So, why waste one second on something with no future or purpose?

In every business, there comes a time when some expenses will outweigh income. Most CEOs of companies, both large and small, will have to choose when to shut down a project to focus on other ideas due to simple economics and time management.

Related: How Long Should You Push Before Giving Up?

As your business develops, you may find there’s a different way of doing business, so shifting your focus toward more productive services is the best option. If you clear out the parts of the business that take up the most time but produce the fewest results, you'll have the time to dedicate to the work needed to get your business from newborn to thriving adult.

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