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When is it okay for entrepreneurs to quit?

Entrepreneurs never give up – or do they? Sometimes, knowing when to quit is the best move.

richard liew

Entrepreneurs love American football player and coach Vince Lombardi’s famous quote, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win”.

?But as with any piece of advice, I think this mantra can actually be quite dangerous if taken out of context.

Because as entrepreneurs we need to understand that sometimes the best thing we can do is to quit.

Confused? Well that’s quite understandable given that we have it drummed into us that persistence, resilience, sheer pig-headed stubbornness and a refusal to give up are key qualities for an entrepreneur to develop.

But we have to be careful not to confuse quitting with failure. Let me explain.

Quitting on your dream of becoming an entrepreneur is bad.

Quitting putting time and effort into a product that the market doesn’t want is good.

Quitting knocking on doors when you’re trying to get your first sales under your belt is bad.

Quitting on a poor sales technique is good.

Quitting pouring development time into all other potential services you could create, so that you can focus more time on making your core product amazing is good.

Quitting blaming others when things aren’t going right is good.

Quitting on a terrible CRM is good.

Quitting on a business idea that just doesn’t stack up is good.

Do you see the difference? 

All too often entrepreneurs continue to pour time, effort, money, blood, sweat and tears into things that don’t help them or aren’t working, just because they don’t want to be called a quitter. Be it a component of their business, a product line, a key customer, a disempowering personal belief, a team member, or a business idea itself.

In many cases it will actually be your refusal to quit that will be the cause of your failure. Many successful entrepreneurs can point to ideas, opportunities, initiatives they wish they had quit earlier, or not embarked on at all. I myself have experienced the pain of not quitting a business when I should have, and ended up wasting over a year of my time, effort and resources, along with that of my teammates. Not a great feeling!

If the horse is a dead one, you need to stop flogging it and quitting is sometimes the smartest thing you can do.

Quitting in this context is not failing. Quitting in the context of giving up on your dreams is failing. Quitting just because something is hard, uncomfortable or inconvenient is failing. Be careful not to confuse the two.

Richard Liew is an Auckland-based entrepreneur and founder and CEO at Espire Media. He blogs at richardliew.co.nz drawing on previous startup experience across a range of industries including media, software, recruitment, and learning and development

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