*Join us for this topic on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog. We’ll start the discussion on Friday, October 28, 2011 at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT or add your comment below.

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting a business planning workshop to small business owners. While talking about  living business plans , I urged the participants to identify what needs to be eliminated. We don’t talk enough about how to let go of the parts of our businesses that are half-alive. And quitting? Forget about it!

For the sake of this conversation, I’m going to use the word, quitting. It’s a word with so many negative nuances. WLet Go, Quit and Decision Pointithout critical thinking, we accept these nuances without knowing if they are true to our experience.

What’s not working as well as you would like?

When you set your business goals for 2011, you had certain things you wanted to achieve by December 31, 2011. There were positive results to celebrate. But what produces lackluster results?

  • Holding onto a product or a service that very few purchase
  • The marketing plan didn’t produce the expected results
  • People just didn’t want what we offered
  • You fell in love with your product or service and didn’t allow for adaptation or iterations of your product or service

Could you let go of something you loved developing?

Some of what we offer to our customers means more to us than simply a revenue source. Maybe all is good for awhile and then you’re doing your quarterly review. You notice  it’s not moving the way you expected. After a couple more quarterly reviews, you’re seeing a downward trend.

By letting go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go.

But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning. -Lao Tzu

When letting go becomes quitting…

There’s an interesting behavior among entrepreneurial business owners. When someone decides to close their business and return to working for someone else, entrepreneurial colleagues often respond with suggestions to keep the business on the side or urge him/her simply to not quit. Failure still seems to be taboo, for all those who claim that this gives you some kind of street cred.

Imagine quitting isn’t failure.

Of science and the human heart

There is no limit.

There is no failure here, sweetheart

Just when you quit

-“Miracle Drug”, U2

That’s the premise of the Freakonomics podcast, “The Upside of Quitting”. They state that there is a fallacy of weighing sunk costs. This concept is that we’ve sunk too much of our time, money, and/or energy and we can’t leave without getting something back for our efforts. One of the people interviewed for this podcast is Justin Humphries, a former baseball player, who now assists baseball players outside of Major League Baseball decide when it’s time to quit playing. Many baseball players who are at the end of their career struggle with accepting that they aren’t good enough or too old. Part of this seems to stem from lacking a broader sense of identity. Instead of seeing how they might transfer their skills to another part of baseball or find another career entirely, many players keep playing baseball.

Knowing when to ” shut it down”.

Stephen Dubner captured underlying belief for these baseball players, “Wow, that’s particularly poignant in my view… because baseball’s one of those rare sports that because it doesn’t have a clock, no game is ever out of reach…You could be behind a thousand runs in the bottom of the ninth and theoretically you can still come back and win. So that’s part of the ethic of baseball is never, never, never, never quit. Quitting is  not an option.”

The dissonance between “science and the human heart”

Entrepreneurs and business owners are often like these baseball players. With the recent severe recession and snail-like recovery, many startups and businesses are at a decision point. There are glimmers that things are just beginning to ease up and it’s exhausting trying to keep things afloat. And yet, quitting may not be seen as one choice.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we derive much of our identity and a sense of competency from our business. We see the financial reports spelling out the science of our business. But, in our hearts, the challenges evoke emotions of grief, helplessness and powerlessness. We’ve put too much in to close the doors. We’re given so many messages that shames us out of quitting. And yet, quitting may turn out to be the best decision we could ever make for ourselves and our businesses. As it is urged by the “The Upside of Quitting”, imagine “there is no failure here.”

Setting goals for 2012

No one would ever say that letting go or quitting are easy or even pleasant experiences. Nonetheless, it is essential to identify any deadweight or mediocre performers. These could be things (or, ouch, people) you are fond of or just have out of habit and these are compromising your business vision. There is an intersection between deciding to let go or quit and your business goals. Aligning your metrics and your heart is an essential task when setting business goals.

What messages do we hear when we’re at the decision point to let go/quit/continue?

How are these messages helpful or  harmful?

How do you let go of a product/service in your business that’s not performing well?

How can “science and the human heart” become resonant with choice to quit?

As you plan your business goals for 2012, how could letting go or quitting assist planning?

 

*Join us for this topic on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog. We’ll start the discussion on Friday, October 28, 2011 at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT or add your comment below.





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