Tips & Tricks

16 Signs It’s Time to Close a Business

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The decision to close a business can be a hard one to make, even when your day-to-day work is nothing like what you imagined it would be, and your original goals are beginning to seem increasingly distant. Many business owners hold on for too long, simply because they don’t want to close their doors and officially admit defeat. However, having the courage to admit things aren’t working out sooner than later can help ensure a relatively pain-free transition to more fruitful endeavors. With this in mind, here are 16 signs it may be time to call it quits:

  1. You’re out of money. If you’re out of cash, think twice before racking up debt to continue with your business. Throwing good money after bad ideas will not endear you to investors, vendors, or credit card companies, and negotiating debt settlements is a miserable process to go through during an already emotional time.
  2. You’re not meeting your goals after 2-3 years. When you started your business, you likely had a reasonably clear vision of what success would look like. While it can often take longer than expected to hit true viability, if you have yet to hit your minimum numbers after two or three years, it may be time to explore other opportunities.
  3. You’ve pivoted half a dozen times and have yet to truly take off. In many cases, business models change as new businesses enter the marketplace, but if you’ve tried several iterations on your offerings and aren’t finding many takers, continuing to pivot may just be putting off the inevitable.
  4. You’ve tried many marketing avenues but haven’t gotten traction. Most businesses have one or two marketing channels that are a natural fit. You can tell when you’ve found a good fit when attracting a good volume of customers feels relatively easy, and the profit dollars start rolling in. If you’ve tried upwards of a dozen likely channels and are still in womp-womp land, it may be time to throw in the towel.
  5. Your competitors are outpacing you. If your niche is dominated by two or three strong entrants who are growing at a rapid pace, and you’re having a hard time differentiating your offerings in a meaningful way, you may have a hard time ever capturing enough market share.
  6. You’ve realized that your view of the market was flawed. It’s impossible to have a perfect view of the market opportunity for a given business until you leap in and start testing your assumptions. Sometimes it quickly becomes clear that some aspect of your business plan doesn’t reflect reality and you’re unlikely to be able to profitably scale your particular business.
  7. You no longer want to tell others what you do. When you’re excited about an idea, it can be hard to contain your enthusiasm. You may find yourself leading all conversations back to exciting adventures that you’re having as a new business owner. When you no longer truly believe in what you’re doing, the opposite will probably be true—you’ll find any excuse to turn the conversation away from talk of your business.
  8. You’re spending most of your time doing stuff you don’t like. Most new business owners have a skill-set or a product that they just can’t wait to unleash upon the world. Unfortunately, the reality, especially when a business is struggling, is that owners often spend more time dealing with ailing balance sheets than doing the activities they most enjoy and are most suited for.
  9. Your customers aren’t talking about your product or service. Not every customer will be a diehard fan of your business, but if you’re not generating any word of mouth online or off, you may be in trouble.
  10. Your customers aren’t coming back for more. Closely related to the above is your retention rate. While not all businesses have the same opportunity to generate regular, repeat business, one mark of success is customers who return again and again.
  11. Your employees are leaving. If you have employees, you may notice that the most talented ones are starting to disengage or leave for greener pastures. Capable people tend to have a good sense for when the jig is up.
  12. Your work relationships are suffering. If you have cofounders, you may be starting to have disagreements, to put it mildly. Even if bitter arguments aren’t a regular occurrence in your office, when excitement and a general attitude of mutual supportiveness has been replaced with tension and distrust, you may be reaching the end of the line.
  13. Your personal relationships are suffering. When you’re overworked, underpaid, and neglecting those closest to you, it can wear on even the most loyal friends and family members. You may notice that even when you do spend time with loved ones, you have difficulty being fully present.
  14. You’re unhealthy. The combination of stress, poor eating habits, and high numbers of hours sitting at a desk can start to really take a toll after a few months. It can be hard to take care of yourself when you’re worrying about your business 24/7.
  15. When you think about taking a full-time, salaried position, it sounds attractive. Most new business owners can’t wait to leave their day jobs to work for themselves. Even when success isn’t immediate, it can still feel satisfying to not have to answer to boss. So if you catch yourself daydreaming about the stability of a 9-to-5 with a regular paycheck, that’s a pretty good clue your current venture may not be working out.
  16. When you think of shutting down your business, you feel relief. While the thought of closing the doors may be painful at first, you’ll know it’s the right move when, after a few pangs of regret, you start to feel an overwhelming sense of peace.

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