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Susan Solovic, The Small Business Expert is an award-winning entrepreneur, an attorney, a New York Times best-selling author, a media personality and a highly sought after keynote speaker.

Is it Time to throw in the Towel? Before You Do, Read This.

Is it Time to throw in the Towel? Before You Do, Read This.

Starting and growing a small business is challenging. Frequently when speaking to groups of entrepreneurs I’m asked, how do I know when it’s time to throw in the towel and move on. While there is no easy answer, here are some approaches to take as you try to answer that difficult question.

Various systems designed to explain human nature have opposing or complementary elements, like the id and ego, and the yin and yang. Business is similar. There is the unforgiving “bottom line” and then there is the less tangible side, which includes elements such as your brand, innovation, and consumer acceptance/demand.

Dealing with the doubts

If you’re beginning to think that it’s time to fold your small business, then we know the profits you are generating are unacceptable in the long run. If you were to make your decision solely by this criterion you would close shop. However, you probably still have some nagging doubts about the less tangible elements of your business, so let’s put them under the microscope.

What did your market research say? You either conducted formal market research or considered your own ideas and observations as sufficient market research. If you had good reason to believe there is demand for your product or service, it leads to two questions:

  1. Is your marketing, branding and customer service (including your physical location) good enough?
  2. Is your product or service uniquely solving problems for your customers?

When the answers to both of those questions are “yes” and you still aren’t making it, it’s probably time to move on. If the answer is “no” to either or both of those questions, you may be able to turn things around.

Improving your marketing, branding and customer service just takes knowledge, effort and money. It can be something as simple as your location. I know a funky little hat store whose initial shop was on a quiet street where she got no business at all. She moved to a location that was experiencing a retail revival and she started to flourish.

Is yours a better mousetrap?

If your product or service isn’t really exciting your prospects and solving their problems, then you need to ask yourself if there’s a way to pump some innovation into it. Talk to prospects that haven’t bought and find out why not. Talk to existing customers and find out what they like or don’t like. See what more they need. You may find a niche you have overlooked.

If you’re struggling and yet you’ve “got the word out,” then there is a reason people aren’t feeling compelled to buy. How can you change what you’re doing to light a fire under your prospects?

And if in the end you decide to close, don’t feel too bad. While many of us love our Apple computers, none of us are working on NeXT computers, are we? NeXT computers; Steve Jobs’ company after he was fired from Apple, was a commercial failure. However, it set the stage for Jobs’ return to Apple and the outrageous success that followed.


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