Being an entrepreneur is incredibly challenging. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably lying. The entrepreneurial journey is like a roller coaster ride--filled with twists and turns, quickly shifting from exhilaration to terror and back again. As a result, most startup businesses will reach a point where they feel they have reached a dead end. They will question whether they should sustain the business or simply call it quits.
When I first started PerformLine I was wholly committed to doing everything in my power to run though whatever walls were in my way on the way to making it a big business by providing a solution to the compliance issues facing enterprise marketing teams. But there was a point in the early days where we reached our "out of cash" date and was close to my own personal breaking point. We were down to $11,000 in the bank. Making payroll was questionable. Family vacation plans were nixed. I was late paying school dues and other expenses. My friends and family gingerly suggested that it might be time to throw in the towel. Even the ones that helped seed the company! I must admit I contemplated it. The tech market in NY was white hot and I was fortunate to have the experience that made me highly employable to a numbers of well funded Adtech and SaaS start ups. But, I reminded myself that the one thing I wasn't going to do was quit.
Every entrepreneur needs to understand that there will inevitably be tough times scaling a business, but instead of letting them defeat you, just realize they are part of the ride. Here are three things I learned about why the "won't quit" mindset is critical in startup life.
1. Quitting Is Too Easy
If you are looking for a way out, rest assured that you will find one. Every startup will inevitably hit a point where sales aren't where you want them to be, your cash balance isn't where you want it to be, or your team isn't where you need it to be. When PerformLine was struggling to break even, I could have easily walked away from the business and gone back to working for somebody else. But I thought about how far the company had come and how much I wanted it. Even though it may sound counter-intuitive, I decided that quitting would have been way too easy. For me, learning how to balance the highs and lows was a central part of the entrepreneurial adventure. To this day, I don't always get that part right, but I get it right enough of the time so that we can continue to thrive as a company and enjoy the work we are doing.
2. Look for the Silver Lining
It is important to point out that failure is not the same thing as quitting. In fact, failure is expected when it comes to starting something new; it's learning how to embrace it that can be challenging. Through failure you may discover a pivot that can make your product or service even more successful. When we first started the company it wasn't at all the business it is today. We were a performance ad network that was struggling to scale. The concept for PerformLine as it exists today was borne from a client of that struggling ad network business's specific needs for a scalable solution to manage marketing compliance. If we hadn't hung on, we would have missed this signal to pivot from this client. In many ways it's because of those difficult early days that we were able to find the business model that works. But if you choose to quit at the first sign of failure you could miss out on an even bigger opportunity.
3. People Are Relying on You.
When you started your business, you likely hired a team of people who shared your passion, your enthusiasm and your vision for the company. Yes, these people are counting on you for their paycheck. But they are also looking to you as their leader, someone they put their faith in to navigate the company through the good times and bad. Showing them that quitting is never an option highlights your determination as a business leader and the resilience of your business overall. It shows that you will do whatever is necessary to forge a path to success. It will set a good example for your employees, hopefully encouraging them to adopt a similar mindset and approach to their own work. Maybe someday your kids will even learn a lesson about not quitting from your days as an entrepreneur (Nah, probably not).
Being an entrepreneur is not easy. It means taking risks. It means never giving up on your vision. It means that you are part of something larger than yourself. It means celebrating the successes and learning from the failures. There will be times when quitting may seem like the best option. But instead of jumping off when it looks like you are at the end of the rope, hang on just a bit longer, and see if you can turn it around.