Knowing When To Hold ‘Em…Or Fold ‘Em

Allison Nazarian Entrepreneurs, Life Lessons

Note: I wrote this piece in July as a column for an online business publication. They told me it was “too negative” and chose not to publish it. I decided to publish it here because 1) It is good, both the writing and the advice 2) The idea of knowing when to walk away/move on is important in business, as it is in all areas of life — and this is a discussion I would like to open up here and 3) This situation allowed me to see that I don’t need “approval” from anyone for anything I say, think or write. Someone else’s “too negative” is my “I refuse to sweep this under the rug” topic. Sadly, there are too few large-scale outlets for REAL talk on business or life for that matter.

I’m not much of a poker player, but I do understand enough about strategy to know that winning is not just about how you play the cards themselves, but also about how, when or if you “fold ‘em” and call it a day.

The same could be said for entrepreneurs and this game of business:
We’re determined. We’re dedicated. We’re focused.  Sure, these are all good and necessary traits for the entrepreneurial world. Yet, we’re so often tied to the “never give up” and “keep going at any cost” approaches that we can lose sight of why we are doing what we are still doing in the first place.

How do we know when enough is enough, when it is time to change or adjust course or, in some cases, to stop what we are doing altogether?

Fun. Perhaps you started your business based on something you were really good at or something that was a ton of fun. You loved the early days of your product(s) or service(s) but – let’s face it – it’s just not that much fun anymore. What’s more, you dread many or even most aspects of the business these days. How long can that last? And even if things can go on indefinitely this way, is this really how you, a freedom-seeking entrepreneur, want to live your business life?

Money. Profits. Income. Revenue. Remember money? It’s one of the crucial things that makes a business a business. It’s what separates a fun hobby or skill from a fun and profitable hobby or skill. At some point in the life of almost any business, there comes a time when “what we’ve always done” is no longer financially viable. If the only reason you are still doing something (such as selling a specific product, or offering a particular service, or pricing yourself far too low) is “I forgot to change it,” then chances are it’s time to adjust your focus and look to a more profitable path.

Time. For entrepreneurs, time can be a strange thing. Whereas working for someone else from 9-to-5 can seem like a Life Sentence each day, working for ourselves 12 or 16 (or more) hours in a day can seem like a blessing and a breeze…until it doesn’t. When all of your waking hours are being spent on your business, and you don’t have the money or the enjoyment or the non-business life you used to have…well, then, maybe it is time to change your course toward one with more (yes, I am going to say it here…) balance.

Bandwagon. Maybe you jumped into something within your existing business or even within the framework of a brand-new business because, well, everyone else was doing it. It seemed like a great idea at the time. But now that the dust has settled, it’s clear that this wasn’t exactly a perfect match. Instead of throwing more irretrievable time and money at the problem, consider swallowing your pride and doing the smart thing. Acknowledge where you went wrong, learn from your missteps, focus on what does work and move on.

Progress. Maybe there is a better or easier way of selling what you sell…and you aren’t offering it. Maybe out of habit or emotions you are tied to the traditional or “old school” way of doing what you do – but your bottom line no longer reflects that good-old way of doing things. It can be hard to admit that a new way could possibly be a smarter way – but this admission could potentially lead to some of the best business decisions you’ll make. In this case, objectivity is your friend; look at the situation for the business scenario that it is and make your next moves based on facts — not outdated emotions.

YOU. There are as many business scenarios as there are businesses. Across the board, however, there are several constants…and one is change. Recognizing when to change, when to detour and even when to stop altogether take courage, honesty, foresight and plain-old gumption.  This kind of recognizing also takes a crucial ingredient that cannot be substituted or replaced: You. Sometimes, you are the only one who can know and act upon the need to change course or stop the ride altogether. It’s not always easy, but your business (and the rest of your life!) will thank you for it later.