Is it time to quit?

Failing is an important part of succeeding. Listen to any successful entrepreneur’s story and it will be a list of the missteps, failures and lessons that eventually led to that success. But how do you know when it’s time to give up on your business and move on to something new?

You can also hear this article as a podcast

Running a business is hard. Speak to any successful business founder and they will tell you about the stress, the long hours and the sheer effort and tenacity it takes to build a business. And they might even say that if they knew back then what they know now, they would have just gone and got a job instead.

But there is something inside people who have their own business. There is this want for freedom and control that you can’t get by being employed by someone else. And it’s part fallacy, of course. When you have your own business you can set your own working hours, but the reality is those working hours will be far longer than if you worked for someone else.

The pain and reward cycle

Building a business is a pain and reward cycle. The joy you feel when you get your first order for your own business makes you forget all the pain of getting to that first sale. When you see your profits increase from one year to the next, that feeling of progress makes you forget all the long hours and stress it took to make it happen. When you watch an employee go from their first day on the job knowing nothing to now being a key member of your team, you forget all the other people you hired who were not a good fit for your company. When a new idea you had works out and starts to become successful, you forget all the other ideas you had that were dead ends. And that’s what keeps us going in business: that continued development and progress that keeps us coming back for more.

So when you don’t have that, that’s when building a business becomes really hard. If you can’t see progress or can’t feel you are having any success, then that pain and reward cycle just gives you the pain.

And when you find yourself working weekends while your friends and family go off on picnics, when you set your alarm realising that you’re only going to get five hours sleep because you’ve been working late and you need to start early again tomorrow, that’s when you start to ask yourself – is it time to quit? Is it time to just give up and go get a job with all the uncountable benefits that working for someone else brings?

Well, the answer might well be yes. It’s fair to say that some people didn’t actually set out to build a business, they just wanted to build a better job for themselves than the one they had working for someone else. And if that’s the case for you, then just go find a better company to work for. You will be far happier and there are plenty of great, ethical companies out there that look after their employees and allow for a healthy work/life balance.

 

However, if you have a vegan business then it’s not quite that straight forwards. If your business is part of your vegan mission then it’s not just a company – it’s something much more. And it may be that the only way that you can use your skill set to move the vegan cause forwards is to build your own business that does just that. At the moment, for many of us, the only way we’re going to be able to work for an ethical vegan organisation that is looking to end animal suffering is to create our own.

So if building a business is about effort and reward (when you get success then the time and effort you are putting into your business become worth it) then if you are not seeing success, you are not getting that dopamine hit. The human brain hates giving effort and getting no reward in return. It’s hard-wired into us, it’s part of our evolution. Energy is a limited resource (and it was even more so to our ancestors) so if you keep doing something that takes energy but you see no benefit for doing it, then your brain will very quickly start telling you it’s just not worth the effort.

The dangers of comparing your rate of success to others

You may have heard the phrase ‘fail fast’ in business. It’s an important concept – why give the next three to five years of your life to something that was always going to be a dead-end? Instead, your job as an entrepreneur should be to either prove or disprove your business idea as quickly as possible. But the important takeaway from this is that you need to prove or disprove your idea, not your business. The two can be separate. You might start a business doing one thing but the thing that brings you success is an opportunity you have yet to discover. And finding out what this thing is might take time and it might take exploration.

So if you hear stories of people just quitting their day job and their business being successful straight away, then one of two things are true: either they are lying or they started building the business (or building up their contacts in a specific sector) long before they officially launched it. Remember what we said about pain and reward? The reward makes us forget the pain and that is true of successful entrepreneurs telling their stories.

 

They forget the hundreds of unanswered emails they sent before they got a response that lead to a crucial opportunity. They forget the long slog of creating contacts and building their network for a number of years before they got the opportunity to pitch their business. So this means that if you have heard all these success stories and your experience isn’t matching them, then you think that what you’re doing isn’t working. When the reality is you’re likely following the very same path that they did, it’s just that they skipped all the pain and negatives out of their success story.

So if you get the chance, talk to the successful people in your industry and get the real story of how long it took them to find that success. I guarantee it will be longer than you think. Go listen to Podcasts like NPR’s How I Built This with Guy Raz, which really quizzes the entrepreneurs of some of the world’s biggest brands about how they built their companies. Each interview is a long tale of missteps, failed ideas and learnings that paved the pathway to the thing that the entrepreneur eventually found success with.

So as long as you are seeing progression then it’s probably not time to give up on your idea yet. But you need to be prepared for the long game. It’s probably going to take you longer than you think to find success so you need to make plans and preparation to accommodate for that. You might need additional sources of income, so don’t just quit your job with a few months’ worth of savings in the bank and expect to have replaced your income with your new business before that money runs out!

Knowing if your business is progressing or not is key. You need to track key performance indicators to see if you are moving forwards. Growth has a lot of inertia - it often starts small and slow and is easy to miss in the early days if you are not paying close attention.

Monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Knowing if your business is actually progressing or not is key. You need to have key performance indicators (or KPIs) that can be tracked and monitored to see if you are moving forwards. You need to keep clear records of your progress. Track your sales month to month, quarter to quarter and year to year – paying real attention to the longer trends rather than the shorter ones. Compare your sales quarter to quarter or year on year, not week to week. Growth has a lot of inertia – it often starts small and slow and is easy to miss in the early days if you are not paying close attention.

And those key performance indicators don’t have to be just your sales, there are many indications of growth and progress within a business. Monitor your cost of sale (ie how much it costs you to make your product or deliver your service) and if that’s going down then your business might be growing without you actually seeing an increase in the number of sales. Track the number of visitors to your website, the number of social media followers you have, the number of enquiries you are receiving or the number of mentions your company gets in the media. Record the number of podcasts you’ve been interviewed on and your average product review scores. And if all of these less-tangibles are going up, then sales will follow.

But success isn’t just about money (although you can do a lot more good in the world with a profit than you can ever do with a loss!) so you should also monitor the positive impact in the world that your business is making too. Keep a ‘wins list’ of all the positive change that you know your company has made in the world, all the great feedback you’ve got from customers about how you have helped them and all the ways you’ve moved the vegan cause forwards – or even a tally of all the vegans you know you’ve helped create!

So there are lots of ways to monitor the progress of your business – and you need to make sure you are doing this so that you are not giving up on something that is actually starting to work without you realising it. And understand that this will take time, but as long as you can see that progress then that will give you the reward your brain needs to put up with the pain.

So if you are looking at your key performance indicators (and not just your sales but everything else you are monitoring too) and they are showing growth then just keep doing what you’re doing but find ways to expedite that progress. Compare where you are now to where you were twelve months ago, not just sales and money in the bank but in terms of learning and experience. If, however, you are tracking all these things in your business and at the end of the year you are in no better place than at the start, then don’t just hope it’s going to get better, you need to actively do something about it.

 

Deciding to take action

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and again and expecting to get different results. And this is what leads many people to quit before they have found the thing that’s going to bring them success – the business is not getting the progress that you want, but you’re not willing to make the big changes that need to be made either. If you’ve been plugging away at something for a couple of years and it’s just not working – then change it. You are LITERALLY the person in charge, you have the agency to make any change in your business. But we forget that. We forget that the reason why we have our own businesses is to be in control of those businesses.

So if something isn’t working (and you’ve given it the time and effort to prove that) then your first thought shouldn’t be to quit, it should be to change. In that time you will have built up experience, you will have started to build up a brand and connections in your industry, you will have built up knowledge and are now in a far better place to take all that new career capital and put it into practice. Ask yourself what you would change in your business if you were starting again today? Well, you can do that now, you have the power to change whatever you like in your business. Do you offer a service that’s not working for you but you’ve got clients using it so you feel you have to keep providing it? You can send them all an email with the date of when that service will end or sell those clients to someone else who offers a similar service and is more dedicated to it than you are. Are you trying to sell a product that is just not selling no matter how much positive feedback and exposure you are getting? Then realise that maybe it’s not the product that people want to buy but your knowledge and expertise that led you to make that product in the first place. Maybe you can teach people how to make the products themselves and save yourself all the costs of manufacturing and shipping.

 

If you believe that you have the final say over quitting your business, then you also have the final say over changing it too. You are not a potted plant, you don’t have to just stay where you were put. So take what you have learned and use that to iterate and evolve what you are doing. If you believe you have disproved an idea then move onto the next thing and work to prove or disprove that.

It’s easy to let your business paint you into a corner, to get to the point where you are doing everything you can to keep up but not able to do anything to move forward. So before you decide it’s time to quit, instead, ask is it just time to take action? Have you proven or disproven your business idea? If you have proven it, then take all the reasons why you started your vegan business in the first place and use that energy and enthusiasm to move it to the next level – which may include having to get out of your own way if you’re the bottleneck. Or if you have disproven the business (and you will only know that for sure if you are tracking your metrics and KPIs) then wrap it up, take the valuable things you have learned and move onto the next idea. Don’t get your business stuck in the limbo in between the two.

A bullet point recap of what we’ve just covered in this article:

  1. Business is hard. Ask anyone who has built a successful business what their advice would be for anyone else thinking about starting a business and they might just answer: “don’t”. And they probably won’t even be joking.

  2. Remember the pain and reward cycle. When you have success, the reward of that makes you forget the pain it took to get it. When you don’t have that success, that’s when building a business gets really hard. If you can’t see progress, if you don’t feel any success, then that pain and reward cycle just gives you the pain.

  3. But the reality is very few people come up with an idea for a business, then go out and find success where they thought they were going to find it. You might start a business doing one thing, but the thing that brings you success is an opportunity you have yet to discover. And finding out what this thing is might take time and it might take exploration.

  4. The pain and reward cycle is also what makes successful entrepreneurs forget how hard it was to build their business when they tell their stories – meaning that they will often skip over the obstacles they faced or give a true indication of how long it took. So go listen to Podcasts like NPR’s How I Built This with Guy Raz which really quizzes entrepreneurs of some of the world’s biggest brands to tell their true stories – it will put your own struggles in perspective!

  5. You need to be prepared for the long game. It’s probably going to take you longer than you think to find success so you need to make plans and preparation to accommodate that. You might need additional sources of income, and definitely don’t just quit your job with a few months’ worth of savings in the bank!

  6. Knowing if your business is progressing or not is key. You need to track key performance indicators, or KPIs, to give you the reality of your business. Compare your sales quarter to quarter or year on year, not week to week or month to month. Growth has a lot of inertia – it often starts small and slow and is easy to miss in the early days.

  7. Those key performance indicators don’t have to be just your sales, there are many indications of growth and progress within a business. Monitor your cost of sale, the number of visitors to your website and your average product review scores. If all of these less-tangibles are going up then sales will follow.

  8. If you are monitoring your key performance indicators and they are showing growth then keep doing what you’re doing but find ways to expedite that progress. If however, you are tracking all these things in your business and at the end of the year you are in no better place than at the start, then do something. You are LITERALLY the person in charge!

  9. If something isn’t working, and you’ve given it the time and effort to prove that, then your first thought shouldn’t be to quit, it should be to change. Don’t get painted into a corner in your business, if you have a service that’s not working for you but you’ve got a load of clients using it, you can send them all an email with the date of when that service will end or sell those clients to someone else.

  10. If you have proven your business idea then move it to the next level – which may include having to move you out of parts of the business if you’re the bottleneck. Or if you have disproven the business then wrap it up and move on to the next idea. Don’t get your business stuck in the limbo in between the two.

Sign up to our mailing list...

Weeky guides, updates and interviews

Get our latest free guides and articles, as well as access to The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast.

Get special offers and invites to events

Be the first to hear about our special offers and receive invites to our events and seminars.

Be part of the Vegan Business Community

Sign-up as a full member to get full access to our community and support for your business.

Sign me up to your weekly email!

You have found your tribe...

If you have a vegan business (or just an idea for one!) then you have found your tribe. Get direct support, hundreds of hours of content and access to a community of hundreds of vegan business owners from around the world

Have a question about joining?
Email: hello@veganbusinesstribe.com

Subscribe to our weekly email!

Join our mailing list to receive free content, podcast episodes, offers and invites to exclusive events!  Unsubscribe at any time in a couple of clicks.