When to Fold ‘Em
Business is sometimes tough. When your business is your passion, as the experts tell you it should be, what I have to say may be even more difficult to hear but sometimes you’ve got to know when to quit.
I should get a reaction here; after all I’m the guy who keeps saying “never quit,” right? Let’s not call it quitting then; let’s call it a “tactical re-deployment!” Just to make things a little more complicated, I’ve also traditionally been the guy who says not to listen to the detractors when they’re telling you to lay down. Today I’m going contrarian on that view as well.
In my brief and painful career as a near-middle age amateur boxer I was scheduled to fight a guy who was a good match in years and lack of experience as well as weight. I found out the night of the fight he had to scratch due to a case of the flu. I was introduced to a tall, strong young fighter who was willing to take the match. Tall is important as my nickname of “Penguin” was tagged not because I wear a tuxedo, but because my arms look like the vestigial wings of said bird.
At any rate, it was apparent early in the first round that this was going to be a painful experience! My nose broken, my pride wounded, my younger stronger opponent connected with a shot set me back a day or two. Laying on the canvas and staring up at the lights I could hear the voices of my cheering section; my best friends, yelling “Get up! Get up!”
These loyal friends of mine treated me to a post-fight celebration. After a couple of drinks I told them that while I appreciated their loyalty and their support, that if they really cared about me, they’d have been yelling “Stay down!, Stay DOWN!”
As I said, I’ll usually preach that you should surround yourself with people who encourage, nourish and support your drams and ambitions. There are times, however, when the prudent move in the big picture is stop, reassess and sometimes re-deploy. That sometimes means shutting down all or part of a business. It may mean laying people off or selling assets. It may mean recognizing that you’ve got a “buggy whip” business; that is a business that time or a market has passed.
In these times we need the friends who have the vision to yell, “Stay DOWN!” instead of calling you back to your feet to take another pounding! To find these friends you’re going to sometimes search outside your current circle. Find a trusted advisor who has been down this road before; one who knows how to take the knocks and knows when it’s time to throw in the towel.
Because I’m running out of boxing metaphors and because my cab ride is almost over it’s time to wrap things up. Most of the time I’m going to tell you that the mark of a champion isn’t how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep coming back. Hey, got another boxing cliché in! When it really is time to stop, reassess and re-deploy, as hard as it is, that may be the best option.
When you’re business is your passion it’s hard to place rational consideration above emotional feeling and it’s not always prudent or appropriate to do so. However, you can weigh your emotional response to a potential decision as part of your rational consideration of the situation as a whole. Most of the time you’ll come out on top if you can hang in through the tough times and keep going in spite of any obstacles; just remember that insurmountable obstacles may be part of your ultimate success; provided you survive the battle to fight another day!