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When Is It Right To Stop Pursuing A Business Idea?

There’s an easy answer to the question posed by the article topic: we quit a business idea when it’s not working. Why? We don’t need a full-length article to deal with this, or do we?

Actually, calling out the lights on a business idea isn’t as straightforward as the answer above suggests. And that’s why many entrepreneurs aren’t able to tell when it’s time to give up on their dreams. The fact is, we’re not always sure what signs we should be looking out for, and when those signs are significant enough to warrant our ending a venture.

Here’s a scenario illustrating just how difficult this decision can be:

You have been running a fashion store for over three years. It hasn’t been doing well; sales are flagging, as they always have. Revenues are abysmal. The business sucks in so much money- whether it’s yours or from a creditor -but it’s yielding too little in return. You have tried every marketing and sales strategy you’ve come across, and they haven’t worked.

Some tell you to keep going on. They give you motivational quotes all the time and refer you to a big list of business moguls who finally cracked the success code after sinking unbelievably large blocks of their lifetimes into it. But there’s also the few who will tell you it isn’t worth your next drop of sweat. And you? You’re confused, and feeling very troubled about the whole thing.

This article is exactly about sorting out this uncertainty, and helping you know when to let go of a business you’ve either conceived of or tried to build. If you ever find yourself seriously considering winding down your business’s operations, you may go right ahead if you find the following are true of it.

These Signs Could Mean It’s Time To Quit

  1. You can’t recover your enthusiasm

It’s not uncommon for people to lose the spark they had at the time they were starting up their business. The excitement of novelty does wear off after a while. But the problem here is more about what takes the place of this initial buzz. Have you settled into the job with a quiet, goal-oriented focus, or have you slipped into a bothersome, lifeless routine?

We should point out that the loss of passion for your enterprise is a problem that can be fixed a lot of the time. But in some cases, it really can’t be managed or reversed. If the business pursuit isn’t aligned with your interests or doesn’t appeal to your passions, you may struggle- and fail -to sustain your enthusiasm beyond the first few months or year.

You will find it hard to build a business for long-term growth if you’re lacking the passion required to run it properly.

  1. It’s more work than you can handle

Maybe you set up your business with the impression that you could meet its requirements. You thought you had the right skills and knew what was needed to make your product and deliver the service. Then you got in and found that the demands were much greater than you had anticipated- and far more than you could possibly take.

Many people would want to keep pushing the project, in the hope that they would ‘grow’ into it. But this ‘growing’ may never happen. They might pour a lot of borrowed money into the enterprise, try to pick up skills along the way, and maybe outsource a lot. But then it still doesn’t work out.

If you constantly get the same feeling from running your business as you do from chasing a car on the move, it’s probably time to weigh the option of pulling out of it entirely. There’s a chance that it’ll work out fine in the end, but you should never try to ‘go for broke’ if it’s obvious that the project is beyond you. It’s okay to throw in the towel if you find there’s no other way out.

  1. There’s no market for your product

Ideally, this should never happen. No one should be making a business out of an idea that isn’t likely to work in the real world.

However, when people are encouraged to dare the norm and challenge the status quo, they may misconstrue as a permission to invent new things that no one really wants, and expect those new things to do well because, well, they’re new. Let’s be honest: if you do this, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. In a few instances, such ideas may become a success; there’s a lot to be said about what’s at play in those scenarios. The point we’re making is, these cases are the exception, not the rule. The rule is that building a viable business is about meeting people’s needs.

But if you’re currently grappling with the consequence of creating a customerless ‘niche’, you might want to think carefully about our options. If the situation is so bad that you’re not seeing any possible improvements in the medium term, you may have to lay it all to rest.

This problem doesn’t apply to new business ideas alone. You may have ventured into a saturated market, where there’s very little room left to manoeuvre. Quitting could be an option if you find that you don’t have what it takes to take market share off the established players in that space.

  1. Competition is too severe

You know that you have your work cut out when your competitors are plunging their prices to depths well below your production costs. You also get this feeling when you realize that they’ve smothered your breathing space with sleeker, smarter and more persuasive advert campaigns than you can afford. And when they’re doing this all the time, you know your business will struggle to survive.

We encourage you to stay in business if you can hold your ground and make steady progress in spite of the stiff contest. If you’re getting surrounded by the competition and it’s clear that you can’t win with the resources at your disposal, it could be a sign that winding down is the reasonable thing to do.

  1. You’re being shattered by the stress

Granted, you will get stressed out sometimes if you’re really pursuing your business idea as you ought to. But it’s one thing to feel exhausted after a long day at work, and quite another to get a severe burnout on the job. You don’t want to fall into the latter situation.

You can recover from a burnout. However, you can’t keep sliding in and out of burnout episodes; it could totally wreck you. Chasing the entrepreneurial dream is a worthy undertaking, but it should not come at the cost of your health.

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Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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