Becoming an entrepreneur, owning your own business, setting your own hours, being the boss … for many of us, it’s a dream come true. At the same time, though, many business owners wake up one day and wonder, “How did I get here? And how can I get out?”
People strongly attracted to the idea of creating and growing a small business of their own one day probably can’t imagine feeling a pervasive need to flee from that business. Some balk at the mere suggestion that sometimes quitting a business might be the right thing to do.
It’s wise to have an exit strategy in place, and you also must know when it’s time to implement it. While the right answer in any individual case will vary, there are some common circumstances in which leaving or shutting down a business you’ve built might be the prudent course of action.
1. You’re so busy that if you take time off things start to fall apart.
Starting a business of your own requires a lot of hard work and long, grueling hours. However, if you’re still pulling all-nighters and working straight through the weekend five years later, that’s not a good thing.
Before you throw in the towel, explore ways to get your life back in balance. Delegate responsibilities to trustworthy employees, and train them well. However, if you’ve tried this approach without success, it might be time to consider selling the business and moving on to the next dream.
2. You’re experiencing more frequent health issues and stress.
For all our strength and adaptability, human beings can be fragile. Our bodies tend to suffer for our persistence and drive. Additionally, stress makes entrepreneurs even more susceptible to mental illnesses such as depression.
If you’re constantly feeling run down, exhausted or ill on a regular basis, it could be your body’s way of signalling to you that it’s time to lighten that load, or drop it altogether.
Make an appointment with your doctor first to take care of your mind and body. Then, give some serious thought to cutting back on your duties, phasing yourself out of the CEO position, or selling the business altogether.
3. You constantly need new customers and it’s hard to hang on to existing ones.
If your business is constantly engaged in a hunt to convert more first-time buyers, and simultaneously failing to keep past and current ones satisfied, your business is in danger. Paying more attention to marketing and customer service departments can alleviate these issues.
However, if you’ve tried these approaches without success, it may be time to call it a day altogether. The worst response is to throw good money after bad in a futile effort to plug the leak. With the experience you’ve gained, you may now be in a much better position to make a new venture a long-term success.
4. You have to force yourself out of bed in the mornings.
Everyone has those mornings where nothing sounds better than spending the day on the couch with Netflix and a pint of ice cream. That’s a sign that you’re human and maybe you need a break.
If you’re experiencing a string of those kinds of days, though, that’s a sign that something much bigger is at stake. It’s time to examine why you’re continuing to pursue something that no longer makes you happy or fulfills you.
Bad days will come and go, but when that’s all you seem to have, it could be time to move on.
5. Your business runs fine in your absence – and you actually prefer time off.
When your business runs like clockwork, whether you’re there or not, you know you’ve done your job well. You’ve built a sustainable business. However, just because you succeeded at something, that doesn’t mean you absolutely must continue to keep doing it indefinitely.
If your business gets along just fine without you, and you find yourself looking outside your company for new challenges and opportunities, it might be a good time to start thinking about exiting altogether. In doing so, you’re following the time-honored path of successful entrepreneurs everywhere.
Obviously you don’t want to take the decision to exit your business lightly. It’s as serious a decision as starting a business in the first place. However, by the same token, don’t dismiss the idea altogether if you’re experiencing one or more of the above circumstances.
Create a workable exit plan that takes into consideration not just your own interests but also your business and its employees. Then you can start thinking about what’s next.
By John Boitnott
The author is a Journalist, Digital Media Consultant, Investor and a VIP Contributor to www.entrepreneur.com