“No problem is so formidable that you can’t walk away from it.”
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
It’s a giddy feeling when you first start out your own business. There’s so much expectation, hope, and anticipation that you can barely wait to get started. You blast through 15 and 18 hour days like it’s nothing because there’s usually so much to do (or so much you think you need to do) and you go to bed excited and can hardly sleep because you just can’t wait to get back up in the morning and get at it again.
At some point, in some instances, you start to notice, after a while, that something just isn’t right. You’re hustling. You’re working hard. You’re gripping and grinning. You’re networking. You’re coming up with great ideas.
But, there’s one little problem.
There isn’t enough money coming in the door (if any at all) to pay for your expenses. Your ship is slowly listing as it’s sprung a leak.
I know this feeling. I’ve been there. Three times. I’ve had three different ventures which I started and eventually had to wrap up.
There are two things which Monkey Brain hates in this scenario: numbers and admitting failure. You’d think that the numbers would be pretty irrefutable. Money in is less than money out. Unsustainable, right? Not according to Monkey Brain. He’ll tell you anything to distract you from the cold, harsh reality which your bank account sends you every month.
MONKEY BRAIN: “LOOK! UNICORN BEING RIDDEN BY JACKALOPE WEARING BACON ARMOR!”
YOU: “Ooh! Where?!?”
The other aspect which Monkey Brain doesn’t like is failure. He’s never wrong, after all, so stopping the business would be an admission of failure. Monkey Brain will tell you all sorts of things about why you should fear failing. He’ll tell you that it’ll be an embarrassment, that your friends will view you as a failure, that your identity is completely tied into the business you created, and that you’ll never, ever, ever be able to start a business again. He’ll remind you of horror stories of terrible bosses and convince you that working in a job with an employer will cause brain damage.
You listen. You listen because you don’t want to give up. You had all sorts of dreams for this baby, this little venture of yours, and like the scrappy little garage band that became the next One Direction, you want to make your little small venture a wild success.
It’s an emotionally tough place to be in. You’re emotionally invested in your small business. You probably started it because you had some sort of passion for it. Passion doesn’t occur without emotion, and so you intertwine your persona into your business, particularly if it has your name in it. Widgets, Inc. isn’t nearly an enveloping to you as Bob’s Widgets, Inc., especially if your name is Bob. Now, faced with the possibility of the end of the existence of this enterprise, you’re facing fear and mourning.
Here’s the common trap that I see people in this situation fall into.
I know I’m about to turn the corner. I have this lead and that lead and the other lead and just one of them has to come in, and BOOM! Money! Then we’ll be off to the races.
That might be true. Or it might be delusional.
The best approach is to have an exit plan in mind before you even start.
Here’s what you should have nailed down in advance of even starting your business, and certainly if you’re just treading water or, worse, about to go under: