Cat LeBlancEvery story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  And so does every business.

It’s perfectly natural that, just like everything else, a business has a lifespan. It might be a hundred years, or it might be just a few months.

So how do you know if your business is reaching its final act (and what do you do about it if it is??)

If something about your business isn’t working, it’s probably reaching a turning point.  In my experience, these turning points usually fall into one of three categories.

You’re sure you’ve covered your marketing bases – but nothing’s working

If you’re sure you have all your ducks in a row in terms of your marketing, branding, positioning and products/services but you are not achieving your business goals, you might be reaching a big turning point in your business.

This is a tricky one. How do you know if you’ve got your ducks in a row? The best way I know of to make sure you’ve done everything possible to market and brand your ideas is to hire a coach, plain and simple. Find someone who can help you take an unbiased look at what you’ve been doing and what you might do differently.

But the reality is that not everything is going to be a huge success. If your website is getting lots of traffic, you’re getting in front of the right audience, but you’re still not making any sales, it’s definitely a sign you need to make a change.

You’re really unhappy

Sometimes a business can be successful and still not make you happy.  Just look at me. My partner and I built a successful business, but I decided to move on because it wasn’t making me happy. I’m a big believer that if you’re going to put in all the effort, the blood, sweat, and tears to build a small business, it had better be something you love – or at least something you don’t hate!

When your business is making you unhappy, it’s time to reconsider.

It’s become more than a job

If you find that your business can’t be scaled or managed to a point where it is fitting a lifestyle that is acceptable for you, it’s definitely time to reconsider. Maybe you have to work day and night to make enough money to pay the bills, or your business is always “feast or famine” leaving you feeling financially insecure. If you’re spending every waking hour, every weekend, every holiday working on your business (and that doesn’t make you happy), it could be time for a change.

I believe a business should support the lifestyle you want to live – not dictate how you spend every moment of every day. A coach might be able to help you see if this is a simple pricing or structuring issue that can be resolved, but if it’s not, it might be time to move on.

It’s not a failure, it’s a choice

If your business does fall into one of those categories, I don’t want you to think you’re a failure or that this is the end of your entrepreneurial dreams!

Failure is only an end point if you choose to let it be. It’s always tough starting out and generally business involves some serious work in the beginning. If one business doesn’t work, you might have to start over and try again – but think of all the experience and knowledge you’ll be bringing to that new venture.

What do you do if it’s time for a change?

Closing up shop isn’t the only option when your business needs an overhaul. Could you:

  • Take a different angle on your current business. Maybe you don’t have to can it – you can change it. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, but you’re tired of being paid by the hour, you could change your business model to sell templates, consulting, or DIY courses.
  • Sell it. Maybe you’re not going to become an instant millionaire selling your business, but if it’s successful and you’re just done with it (for whatever reason) there may be someone else who wants to sell it. I know of a successful local deals blogger who had several ebooks, but decided to quit blogging to work on her husband’s business. She successfully sold the rights to her books to another deal blogger who could continue to market and sell them.
  • Close up as a final option. I really recommend closing up shop as a last resort when you’ve exhausted all your other options. Again, it might be worth booking an hour with a coach to get advice on whether your business can be saved before you make the final decision.

Whatever you choose to do – and for whatever reason – don’t beat yourself up! I believe that failures are learning experiences and that we don’t progress and grow without them. Rather than seeing the end of a business as a failure, I encourage you to look at it as the stepping stone to your next big thing!

How has your business changed over time?

What’s your business’ life cycle been?

Have you ever considered shuttering a business? Why did or didn’t you?

I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below…

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