How did you feel about this title?
Did you feel surprised? Pissed? Relieved?
The first title for this post was "Should I quit?".
Should I quit.
Not that I am considering it at the moment, but that's admittedly something I ask myself from time to time.
Yep. Not just something I asked myself, but something I ask myself several times a year.
It feels a bit weird to share this with you.
Quitting isn't exactly the kind of topics that can be discussed openly in the entrepreneurship community. We don't want to lose face. We want to appear strong. To make you believe we have everything figured out and every little situation under control.
But the thing is: I doubt.
I have doubts about a lot of things. I wonder if I work with the right people, if we are fixing the right problems with the right solutions. And so many more things..
And it so happens that the single, most honest expression of these doubts is the question: Should I quit?
Sometimes I don't really mean it. I use it as a starting point for my reflection, or to initiate a discussion with someone I trust. And sometimes I do mean it because growing a business is tough, infuriating at times and often takes much longer than we'd like.
Last time I asked this question, I did mean it.
It was just before summer and the company was at a turning point. We had lost an important client, forcing me to reorganize the company, which is mainly the guilt-free language for firing people.
And not long after, oh the irony, we had the opportunity to sign even bigger contracts.
The rapid succession of positive and negative events affected me. Letting someone go is on the top three of responsibilities I hate the most that come with being in charge.
So here I was. Unhappy and exhausted.
The founder of a company that was breaking even and could easily be profitable again thanks to these new contracts. But a company that wasn't doing at all what it was created for. I wanted us to build and ship products. The agency activity was principally a way to fund that research and development process. But after six months, we weren't even working on products because client services were eating up all the available time.
I was feeling stuck, and this question rushed back to me: Should I quit?
Why not after all? What are my options anyway?
I could persevere and remain exhausted and unhappy for a while.
I could close shop. We had money on the bank account and terminating the company would allow me to leave with about three times the initial investment. Not too shabby for a one year old company, and an easy way to avoid a potential future failure.
Or I could adjust the service part of the activity of the company. Pick up my clients more carefully and limit the scope of what we'd do for them. And allocate time for doing what this company was really created for: work on product.
I vividly remember how appealing the "closing shop" option was.
I talked about it with a friend. I opened the conversation with "Should I quit?" and listed my options.
I guess I was expecting some sort of pep talk along the lines of:
"No, you should persevere. You've done great so far!".
But that pep talk never came.
He looked at me and said:
"Yeah, you should quit and take a job".
TAKE-A-JOB. I never thought about that. What would I do after terminating the company? Suddenly, this option didn't seem so appealing anymore. No way would I go back to working as an employee. I still had a lot I wanted to do as an entrepeneur!
The conversation ended on that. I probably defended myself a bit, telling him how I was feeling about his advice, but I don't remember it.
What I do remember is feeling sick. I could have thrown up.
It's unclear if his intention was to provoke me or if he really meant it. Maybe he thought I was too tired to turn things around. But his advice shook me and shortly after I knew I had to get my shit together and adjust the trajectory of the company.
"Should I quit?" is a very powerful question. It's violent and brutally honest. It forces us to assess who we are and what we want.
And it doesn't always have to be as extreme as the story I just told you. For instance, I sometimes ask myself if I should quit projects I'm a part of.
It's always a good way to corner ourselves and get answers.
I wish people were more open about it.
If you're considering quitting and feel guilty about it, remember you aren't alone. A lot of us do. We just often don't share it. Persistence is an important trait of character for entrepreneurs and it develops when you decide not to quit the things that matter.