Writing this blog reminded me of a quote I once saw. It read, ‘On the way to my dream, I got lost and found a better one’. One of the questions one grapples with at certain points in the life of your startup struggle, is “what are the signs that you should walk away, take what you have learnt and look for another dream as this one no one wants to pay money for?” This is a question that few entrepreneurs even want to contemplate particularly if their heart and soul is invested in this particular solution. Having struggled with this myself I can only offer the following signs that you might need to move on.
The most obvious is of course that after talking to your clients, offering free trials and marketing like crazy they simply do not want to pay for your great idea and the financials all support this. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they simply don’t understand how great this product or service is and that they will eventually come around. By all means try to pivot or find another target market but if the answer remains the same, you know what to do.
The next sign is that you have a team, mostly partners who simply do not seem to gel as a team. Even if you are successful you need to ask yourself if you would want to be in business with these people. If the answer is no, move on.
Something that entrepreneurs seldom think of and it only hits them when they are squarely in the middle of building their startup is the toll that it could be taking on their family. Working 24/7, being totally consumed by your startup is not healthy for family life. What does it help to be successful and have lost your family in the process?
If you are having the same conversation with your friends about where your business is at, year in and year out, it might be a sign that your business is not moving forward in any significant way. It might be time to reevaluate where you are and where you are going.
Something that can often disguise business problems is having enough money. If you are funding yourself or have access to enough funding, you are not forced to look at the real realities of your business, be careful that you are not funding an unworkable solution.
The best way to ensure that you truly are moving in the direction you want to is to create regular go/no go decision points. At these regular intervals take a long hard look at if clients will pay for your solution, your business partners are right for you, your family is still supporting you and if when asked by your friends you can truly say that you have made progress towards your dream. You might even ask someone whose judgment you trust and who is more objective than you to go through it all with you and give his or her opinion.
Fortunately, the most important tool that the entrepreneur has is their gut feeling and if your gut is saying this is not working don’t ignore it. Take what you have learnt to use as a foundation for your next venture but please don’t just keep going. Know when you are lost and start working on your next dream.