The other day, a friend of mine asked me if I would speak to a single mom of three young, primary school aged girls on Skype for half an hour to see if I could help her out. She’s been having a rough go the last couple years for a bunch of reasons and was really struggling.
To make matters worse, about three years ago she started a side hustle business that did pretty well, but over the last six months, things had gone completely sideways and she was now starting to worry that she wasn’t going to be able to keep it going in a way that made sense to her financially.
I got this lady to email me with a bit of background about her business because I had already been privy to her personal story. I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say that life had dealt her a pretty wretched hand over the last couple of years and the fact that she hadn’t curled up in a ball somewhere was a testament to her strength.
When I spoke to her on Skype, the one thing that jumped out at me more than anything else was how she didn’t once complain about her circumstances or make a single excuse. She basically walked me through what had happened with her online business and why she felt it had taken a turn for the worse.
The one thing that she said that impressed me was, “Everything that’s wrong is my fault.”
She didn’t say it like some kind of victim seeking sympathy, she was taking full responsibility for her situation. She knew she made some mistakes along her journey and that a couple of her poor decisions had set her back.
What she wanted was some advice on how to get back to moving forward.
I respect anyone who takes full responsibility for their situation, irrespective of how they got there. Those people tend to be winners and I like winners.
We went through everything she wanted to cover and my first comment back to her was, “This is pretty bleak.”
I didn’t think the situation was entirely unsalvageable but without getting too much into the details of her actual business, the upside even if everything was humming was, in my opinion, really pretty average.
If we were using baseball terms, the best she could hope for would be a ground rule double – the business and the market just didn’t have “home run” potential.
That’s when she said, “I never give up, but I’m pretty close to tapping out on this one because I don’t see a way out.”
At that point, I asked her if I could take a five-minute break in the call – I got a drink of water and went out to my deck to get some fresh air and clear my thoughts.
When we reconvened, I suggested we spend an hour coming up with a plan to try and fix her business and if at the end of that hour, either of us thought there was no chance she could pull it off, then we’d be honest and she’d consider pulling the pin.
Over the next forty-five minutes, we came up with a plan to get her an immediate injection of funds from her existing client base which she could use to help stabilize her business for the next few months.
From there she needed to refresh a couple of existing services she offered to be more relevant and finally, she needed to sort out her lead conversion strategy – unlike a lot of people, she doesn’t struggle to get leads, her problem was converting them and delivering her services profitably.
By the end of the hour, her optimism had returned and her conviction to succeed was there again. We’d figured out a few ways to cut some costs out of her delivery that would increase her net margins right away, so from the very next day her numbers would improve.
It’s only been a week, but this afternoon, she called me and said her numbers look much better already. You could just hear in her voice that she was feeling better about things and I asked her if she was still feeling that she might quit.
Her response was instantaneous, “No way.”
There are times where we all think that we’re ready to give up and just quit on something. Sometimes the situation looks so stupid and hopeless that it appears that the only sensible answer is to actually quit.
And let me say, occasionally, that’s actually true.
I can count at least a half-dozen businesses and projects that I’ve started in the last ten years that I’ve looked at and just said, “No thanks, I’m done.”
I’m not a big fan of accepting failure, but sometimes you just need to rip the band-aid off and move on.
Most of the time though, quitting is just accepting failure before you actually fail – it’s fear-driven. I talk to people all the time that pack it in with just the hint of potential turbulence in their business so that they can “fail fast”.
Failing fast is the new parachute for quitters. Something doesn’t go their way, they pull the ripcord and away they go, “Whew! I failed fast. I acquired valuable experience, so this was a positive.”
No, seriously, that’s not a positive – you failed.
The only time I accept defeat like that is when the prospect of victory is entirely unattainable or the effort to achieve the victory isn’t worth the prize. I’ve started online businesses because they seemed like a good idea where a couple weeks in I went, “You know what, there’s absolutely no win here no matter how much work I put in, I’d be better off just doing laundry instead of this.”
That’s an ok time to quit.
Giving up because things are hard and not fun… That’s the kind of failure that demonstrates a weakness in your character. When you behave like that, it’s inevitable that you will quit again in the future when the going gets tough.
It’s one thing to be a single mom considering whether or not to give up on her business in favour of a steady income from a full-time job, but it’s entirely a different thing to quit because something doesn’t stoke your passion.
Ultimately, you need to work out if you’re a winner or a loser, a fighter or a quitter.
That’s basically what it comes down to.