In a way that many entrepreneurs can understand, I’m at a crossroads.
My startup has single-handedly been the most incredible and difficult thing I have ever done. It did fantastically well and then stalled; equally as fantastically. Now, I’m faced with a difficult decision. Do I reinvest or let it go gentle into that good night?
Rather than write this article six months from now, when it’s (hopefully) a raging success once more, and I pass on my pearls of wisdom with a warm, slightly smug glow; I’m choosing to write now. Now, when uncertainty is the only certainty. Now, when risk is the only given.
So, how do you decide whether to throw in the towel or give your business one last nudge? Here’s how I made my decision.
1. Do the Rocking Chair Test
The rocking chair test is simple, really. Flash-forward to a time when you’re old, gray, and cozy in your rocking chair. I like to imagine I’m on a sweeping porch, looking out on a plump pear tree. I have a warm breeze on my face and a glass of sherry in hand, naturally. Not bad at all.
Now, as you rock away, start reflecting on the decisions you made and actions you took that made you proud or happy. What made you smile? If I think about my startup, I know I wouldn't be proud or happy that it died because I didn't give it one last push. I do know, however, that I’d be proud I tried and happy I gave it my all. Think of it as the entrepreneurial equivalent of “it’s better to have loved and lost.”
So, as you’re making your decision, get rocking, and get thinking: “Will I look back at this 50 years from now with pride and happiness?”
2. Consider the Door Effect
I like doors. I like them as a band and as a metaphor for opportunity. Doors are more than just a smart way to hedge bets and expand options; they’re also a way to keep things interesting.
When I thought about reinvesting in my startup, it was clear that I would not be closing any doors, and even more obvious that I would be opening a whole host of new ones. Ones I cant quite fathom just yet. Already through my company, Never Liked It Anyway, I’ve had fantastically exciting experiences—from meeting mentors I could only dream about to pitching my own TV show in Hollywood. None of which I ever deemed possible.
In my case, reinvesting in the next phase is not just investing in the product; it’s investing in a whole set of new, exciting doors.
3. Take on the Worst-Case Scenario
Throughout this process, I started embracing the little voice of doubt that gets off on telling me I’m going to fail. I listened to it and let it play out its whole story. And it went something like this: “It will fail. It won’t work. It will be a waste of time and money.”
But you know what? That’s about all it had to say. Apparently, my worst-case scenario is losing my time and money.
But let’s just look at that for a moment, as this worst-case scenario is in itself a fallacy. First, I’ve already decided I’m comfortable gambling that money; and second, I know it’s the exact opposite of a time waster. Just think about all those doors I’ll open!
Take time to listen to, and then dispel, your worst-case scenario. Then ask yourself, what is the real downside? Often, it’s one you can handle with ease.
4. Put Your Ego Aside
With a business, everything gets intertwined: your passion, time, money, energy, and, of course, ego. It becomes part of who you are. Part of how you, and others, identify yourself. So, when things don't work out, the knee-jerk reaction is to react to that failure as a totality and as a reflection on you.
However, remember that a business closing isn’t the failure of your life’s work. It’s the failure of one idea, right now, in one particular context. So, take a step back and ask yourself objectively, how would I feel about this if I weren’t afraid of failing? Most of the time, you’d be overcome with sheer excitement and passion. This has the power to paralyze even the most deep-seated fears. Be sure to take your ego out of the equation, and give that passion and excitement a little extra airtime.
5. Look at the Idea DNA
This may sound obvious, but take time to ask yourself whether you still love and believe in your idea. Really, really believe in it. A lot has probably changed since you first launched; the market has matured, consumers have evolved, and competition has probably become more varied and interesting. Have a long, hard, look at the world around you and ask yourself whether you still think your idea is a true gem. It’s OK if it isn’t. It’s better to know now and not reinvest than figure out you were pushing a dud halfway through your efforts.
And if your idea is solid? You’ll benefit from drawing inspiration from the current market and breathing fresh life into its DNA.
To continue on—or to move on? Many entrepreneurs will face this conundrum. There are many great ideas out there, many of which have demonstrated strong proof of concept. However, it doesn't necessarily mean you have a robust business on your hands. If you’re trying to decide whether or not you give it one more shot; the real thing to measure is your own passion and personal conviction (grounded, of course, in the reality of your knowledge of the business). Passion for the idea, for making it happen, and for the adventure set to unfold is a more reliable indicator of success than looking at business metrics alone.
When I looked at my decision through these “softer” filters, it became clear I had no alternative but to reinvest and give it another push. So here we go. Wish me luck!
Photo of window courtesy of Shutterstock.
Annabel Acton founded the website Never Liked It Anyway in January 2012, after working for 7 years as an innovation and branding consultant in Sydney, London and New York. Naturally entrepreneurial and inspired by ideas, Annabel soaks up the energy of the startup world and enjoys meeting, developing and partnering with other entrepreneurs.More from this Author