One of the things I see small business owners and self-employed entrepreneurs get stuck on is making a decision about whether to quit doing something in their business. Usually, it's about offering a product or service that has been offered for a while but now there's an issue about it. Sometimes it's about a marketing strategy that is no longer working well. The most common reasons an issue comes up is:
- You don't have a passion to offer this anymore – you've grown past whatever it is and want time and money to try something different.
- The product or service isn't selling well or its intrinsic operating costs have gotten too high for you to be very profitable.
- It's an activity you have done for years (perhaps a marketing strategy, or a leads group) that isn't working for you anymore or you're just plain bored with doing it.
I see small business owners keep on doing “the thing” even though they have grown to dislike it and have a negative energy toward it. And I always think “what's the reason this person is so hooked on keeping on with this?” Last week I think I found one of the big reasons why. In an article by Ellen Gibson (in January's issue of O Magazine) there's this little gem we've all heard before, which is “list arguments for and against continuing.” Nothing new there, right? But Gibson then quotes author Scott Plous (he wrote The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making) who says “if your primary reasons for persevering have to do with the past, it may be time to change course.”
That sentence hit me like a trunk. Not only could I instantly see hundreds of times my clients have hung on to what's not working anymore because of tradition (they've always support such-and-such charity, or they've been going to a local leads group for 4 years even though the return on investment is very slim) I could also see how my own decisions have been heavily influenced by “what has been.” It makes perfect sense to me that our natural inertia toward change, topped with the guilt we may feel about getting out of something that has a strong past history for us is a double whammy that keeps us stuck and indecisive. Not only do we have to face the change itself, we have to face the people or organizations we've had a relationship with and bow out – and it's just plain easier to keep on with it.
Easier on the surface, at least – but not really. For one thing the opportunity cost is very high – when your time and energy are tied to something that drags you down and no longer works, you don't have the time and energy to do the new thing that will be more interesting and profitable for your business. Secondly, the longer we stay on the “keep on” path the more we become internally conflicted, whiny, and stuck.
Decision making made easy for small business owners sounds tough, but it's not. We can definitely list the arguments for and against. But now, add to that list a star by anything you're doing PRIMARILY because of the past. You'll have a good line on what is worth giving up – freeing your time and energy and changing your negative feelings. You can check this, Gibson goes on, by asking opinions of outsiders who aren't involved in the situation. See if their take on it is different. It's a great use for a mentor, coach, or mastermind group you are involved in.
Small business owners have to face lots of decisions every day about what to offer, at what price point, for how long, and when to add or subtract something from the mix. Being loyal to something because “it's always been that way” might not be the best for you or your business – or for that matter for your customers, either. Decision making for entrepreneurs can be easier with these tips. I'd love to hear if you feel like you cling to things in your business primarily because of the past, so feel free to comment below.