I like starting things, I don’t like ending them. So maybe I’m not the right person to be writing a post on walking away. But I’ve seen many businesses begin and fail. On my way home from work there’s a building that has housed a revolving door of different restaurants. In the co-working space at which my company resides, I’ve seen businesses move in, but very few move onwards and upwards. And as a start-up lawyer I have helped many companies incorporate, but I’ve also seen many companies get stuck on a shelf or even dissolve. So, I know how hard it is to succeed “out on your own.” I also know that entrepreneurs will think about walking away from their companies from time to time.
From the entrepreneur’s perspective, this is the typical thought process around walking away or staying the course:
I’ve come a long way from where I started, and all that progress we made will go to waste.
I have staff and customers who rely on me.
The business is are just about to break through to the other side.
Folks, you’ve come a long way from where you started, and all that progress we made will go to waste. But is that just “sunk cost”? In MBA I was taught that sunk cost should not be a consideration with respect to future decision-making. But conversely, what is sunk cost for Start-Up 1 can be a barrier to entry for Start-Up 2, giving Start-Up 1 a massive head start.
In favour of walking away:
My idea is weak. I’ll never make it.
I’m running out of time, and I’m going to get swallowed up by my competition.
My team is too big and expensive. I am unfocused and my competitors are super-focused.
I can’t help you decide what to do. Often external factors (for instance, running out of money) will make that decision for you. Maybe there’s just no light at the end of the tunnel. Getting close to the point of walking away can be very stressful.
Here are some tactics I am using right now to help me to find that light.
Stay optimistic. On Mondays – no matter the challenges I was dealing with at the end of the prior week, I find that I will naturally start my week optimistically. This might not be a tactic so much as it is a personality trait.
Break it down. On week days – If I’m overwhelmed, I’ll work through my to-do list one item at a time. I’ll also ask my team for help. And very importantly, I’ll take breaks to give my mind some space – whether it’s a break to chat with a friend, a visit to the gym, or home time to relax with my family. I am a big fan of after-work planning of my to-do list for the next day.
Rethink everything. On weekends, I take Saturdays off to embrace the regenerative power of the weekend, and I try to use Sundays to think about the business as the forest (not the trees), about new products, hiring, and about who I should ask for help.
Staying the course
If it’s your vision, then press on, faltering entrepreneurs. If you’re like me that will mean that you will press on until you’re out of money, out of borrowed funds. Rethink, pause, reallocate resources, spend less time, ask for help, take a break. Listen to your advisors but if you really believe in your company then press on. Remember, you’re the entrepreneur, and nobody knows your business better than you.