Jason Kulpa is the CEO of Underground Elephant, one of the fastest-growing performance-based providers of online marketing technology and customer acquisition solutions.
As an entrepreneur, success is the end goal, but the path to achieving it is rarely the same one you set out on.
For me, the key to success was to quit fast and quit often. It's been the driving force behind my company's development.
While there are plenty of great reasons to quit in business, there's often a sense of pride attached to "sticking it out"--especially for entrepreneurs. However, being a smart businessperson means letting go of your ego and hesitations and embracing the unknown.
For example, I grew up in the small border town of Yuma, Arizona. While there were some opportunities, I knew I had to leave if I wanted to create something valuable. So I made San Diego my new home and built the company I lead today. My ability to pivot around uncertainty has equipped me with these three lessons that changed my perspective as a leader and helped me grow my business:
1. Don't prolong the inevitable.
When your team is grinding out its sixth month of coding for an obsolete product, do you keep pushing to get it done just because you're close? Or do you shelve it altogether?
There's a natural inclination to get the job done, but at the end of the day, it makes greater economic sense to refocus the team. Have an open discussion, and then ditch the extra baggage. You should never waste time and resources on projects that are only hampering efficiency.
2. Prune your team and your client list regularly.
Not all business is good business, and constantly trying to accommodate clients' irrational needs will only make you miserable. Know when to put your foot down and fire uncooperative clients. Terminating unhealthy partnerships allows you to spend more time on clients who want to work with you rather than against you.
That's not to say you should fire every client who annoys you. Meet up to discuss pain points, and approach the situation mindfully to make the best decision for your company.
The same goes for employees: you have to recognize when it's not working. If you don't, it's like a never-ending bad date. You're far more interested in the lasagna than the person sitting across from you, yet you wait around until dessert. At the end of the night, you even agree to a second date, despite your obvious incompatibility.
While it's rude to dine and dash, it's best to let employees go when they clearly aren't a good culture fit. We dismissed someone after only a month because he just didn't mesh with our values. You shouldn't feel obligated to hang onto a relationship for an arbitrary period of time.
3. Go home.
Knowing when to quit also includes recognizing that grinding out 12-hour workdays won't do you or your company any favors. It's OK to work overtime every once in a while, but if you make a habit out of it, your work (and your health) will suffer.
Go home at 5 p.m., spend time with your family, and tackle the project with fresh eyes in the morning. A healthy work-life balance is critical to a company's success, and you should encourage all your employees to maintain a good balance, too.
These insights taught me how to lead a company with conviction, and I still abide by them to this day. Many of these things seem simple, but there's a sense of pride that drives someone to make the decision to quit.
Remember when you quit piano lessons in the fourth grade? Probably not, and it's likely no one else does, either. Besides, you're probably better off without a large piece of unused furniture collecting dust in your living room.