Stopping can be a success strategy

From marketing guru Seth Godin’s book The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), here are seven reasons you might fail to become the best in your industry:

1. You run out of time (and quit).

2. You run out of money (and quit).

3. You get scared (and quit).

4. You’re not serious about it (and quit).

5. You lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre (and quit).

6. You focus on the short term instead of the long (and quit when the short term gets too hard).

7. You pick the wrong things at which to be the best in the world.

This is not a new interpretation of the old adage, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”  That’s actually wrong-headed advice according to Seth Godin who suggests the opposite:  winners quit all the time but they quit the right things at the right time.  It’s not quitting that is bad, per se. It’s how and why you quit.  Quitting is a tool that should be used strategically in order for you to focus on the right things and not have to be forced to quit for any of the reasons above.

Take charge of your “quitting” or it will take charge of you:  quit any tactics in the short term that don’t support your overall strategy in the long term.  By quitting what is not working or unnecessary, you can focus on the right things and have a better chance of overcoming “the dip” — or the difficulties you need to overcome to become successful in your industry.

Jack Welch famously pulled GE out of every market in which it wasn’t number one or number two even if they were making profits.  His reasoning?  They needed to focus on their strengths to maintain them and everything else (even profit-making units) was a distraction and a route to mediocrity.  This makes sense for a multinational corporation (MNC), which can easily get bogged down with too many products in too many countries and trying to be and do too many things for too many customers.  But knowing what and when to quit is even more important in a start-up with limited resources and a time-to-market sensitivity.

Unlike MNCs, entrepreneurs may not have a focus problem since entrepreneurs are known for their legendary abilities to focus.  The question for them becomes more about making the tough decisions about what to quit and what to focus their energies on to really build their business.  Quitting means choosing between targeting multiple market segments or working on multiple initiatives.  It means dropping extras or additional functionalities in a product that don’t greatly increase its value to customers.  It means putting less energy into improving the product and more into selling it. Lastly, it means knowing your strengths and weaknesses and stepping back from areas that are not in your area of expertise to focus on those that are.

Are you focusing on what really counts?  What things should you quit in order to become the best in the world at what’s really important?

Keri Damen

Keri leads the strategic design, development, marketing and expansion of cutting edge business programs in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation, marketing, HR, management and leadership at U of T’s School of Continuing Studies. See more…