Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When Is It Time To Close A Business? Part 2

Yesterday I printed a letter from a baker who was asking for advice about whether she should close her business or keep going with it. I obviously can't answer that question for anyone else, but I can try to help clarify the situation (I hope).

For most people, the resistance to closing a business comes from the fear of looking or feeling like a failure. If you're closing when you're making money, you might also feel like people will think that you're not thinking it through, and that if you just give it some more time you'll change your mind. Or you might feel like you'll be disappointing people if you don't continue on the same path.

Remember that the only opinions that count are from the people your paycheck supports.

Whether your extended family will feel like you're "throwing away" something that you built is irrelevant. They have no skin in the game. It's like the audience in a game show...It's really easy to yell "go for the car" at someone else when you're not the one under pressure. Your spouse and children are the only family members you should take into account when making a career decision.

Also remember that closing a business doesn't mean that you'll lose the experience that you gained while running a business on your own. That's something that can't be taken from you, and can be used in the next work experience that you have.

Another issue is that people have been trained to think they need to "follow their passion." This isn't exactly the best criteria to use, though. That philosophy came into vogue in the 70's and it's accepted as truth for some reason, but it's wrong. While it's nice to love what you do, most jobs aren't loveable 100% of the time. The fastest way to make something you love into something that you just tolerate is to make it your job, so let's leave passion out of it for the moment.

Well then...Where to start deciding?

There are a few times when closing a business is a no-brainer. If you're not making money after two or three years, if you're developing physical problems because of it that could become permanent (like carpal tunnel), or if you really, really hate it and it's draining the life out of you, just stop.

Basically, if you would tell your kid to stop doing it if it was their business, or if you're doing things that you wouldn't want to make an employee do, then you should take your own advice and stop doing them too.

If it's not that simple, like the situation described in the letter the conflicted baker wrote to me, you'll have to rely on something much more basic. Listen to that little voice in your head or the feeling that you get in your gut when you think about your options.

This should be YOUR reaction, though, make sure that you're not taking the opinions of other people into account.

Your gut often knows what your head doesn't want to admit.

Now think of your options. You can basically go in three directions. Maintain, slow down, or speed up. Maintaining will involve the least amount of effort, obviously, but it probably won't be the best choice if the situation you're in is making you wonder about whether to keep going or not.

Slowing down can mean either closing entirely, reducing your workload and going part-time, or even getting another job and only doing a couple of cakes a month.

Speeding up could mean expanding your business by taking on more orders, hiring someone to help you with some of your workload, or opening a storefront.

Consider each option and just pay attention to which one makes you feel best. This might sound really simplistic, but humor me. If the idea of staying the course and doing what you're doing makes you feel sick, that isn't an option. If one of the choices makes you feel better than the others, that might be the right direction to take.

If the option that makes you feel better is to close your business and get a job somewhere else, then that could be what you should do. 

If you're stuck between two choices, take your spouse's opinion into account. If your spouse really, really wants you to do one thing and you just feel total resistance to it that might help you decide what to do as well. Keep listening to your gut while you're talking about it and things might be clearer.

If thinking of  closing your business gives you a huge sense of relief, but you're afraid to pull the plug, you can always just take a sabbatical. Keep your business license active but go get a job working for someone else. If, after a year, the thought of starting your business again makes you sick, you can end it entirely. If you feel like you want to get started again you'll still have the paperwork in place.

No matter what you decide, remember that you'll ALWAYS wonder what would have happened if you took a different path, That's human nature. Not making a decision because you're afraid that you'll do the wrong thing is, in and of itself, making a decision. Trust your instincts in this decision, because when it's time to quit we usually know it before we know it.


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,  online cake supplies at  www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

3 comments:

Jennywenny said...

I feel like another option is to consider taking a break. That gives you a chance to get things in perspective and figure out if you're missing it and ready to get back into it when you return, or if you hate it, then it might be time to close.

Eva Farragher said...

You made some great points, Kara...good 'food for thought' for anyone caught in this situation.

Isn't it ironic though that so many cake makers start their businesses on a 'gut feeling' (rather than with a business plan, and plenty of rational thought), yet when it comes to closing shop, or embarking on change, that same gut feeling is ignored or rationalized away?

Kara Buntin said...

100% true...