LAST WEEK’S post When do you change your values? has generated some discussion.  I try to get people to add comments to the blog posts, but some end up in LinkedIn or Facebook or as personal emails to me.  C’est la vie, I guess.

It is quite possible that you’ll be faced with a fundamental decision.  You tried to build a business out of the idea of benefiting a particular needy group, but after three years you just haven’t been able to figure out how to make the company sustainable.  If you don’t have enough revenue, the business will eventually die.

And you certainly aren’t benefiting yourself OR that needy group if it’s not sustainable.

Maybe it’s time, as I like to sbang-buttonay, to hit the big RESET button.

What are the courses of action you can take at this point?

  1. Just give up entirely.  The question here is:  Are you willing to sacrifice your values just because this idea didn’t work?  Perhaps the answer is “yes”, but at least be honest with yourself.
  2. Give yourself time to think, regroup and re-energize.  It can be crushing to go through a business failure, so give yourself permission to work through the process.  I usually advise people to do this before they take option #1, but then again I tend to be an optimist.
  3. Start from scratch.  Perhaps with a little tweaking to your goals and values, but with a new idea.  Maybe a for-profit business will never reach your goals, but a non-profit might.  Maybe it has to involve different partners, products and services.  Maybe a shift in your beneficiaries.
  4. Try your “plan B”.  Often when you start a business, it was actually an array of possibilities, and you just picked the one that seemed best at the time.  Based on what you now know, often one of those other alternatives will look more feasible.
  5. Relaunch.  Sometimes if you “reboot” the company, start again, it just might work.  This is the philosophy behind the bankruptcy protection process, to do as little damage as possible on the assumption that the business can (mostly) be salvaged.

When you go through a big point of resetting your business, you have one huge – HUGE – asset:  What you’ve learned.  Nobody can take that away from you.

But try to separate what you’ve learned from the feelings of grief.  A bit of time will help that process, so when you say “the only thing I’ve learned is that this was the dumbest idea I’ve ever had” – stop, reflect, and work yourself out of that hole.  Talk with a trusted and empathetic adviser, and generate some new ideas.  It’s not uncommon for most icons of successful business to have survived a surprising number of business failures.  If you can keep it down to one or two, you’re doing pretty darned good.