Quitting as a Business Strategy

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Persistence doesn't always pay off. It's a concept that upbeat small-business owners, who regard quitting as failure, still haven't mastered, says author and blogger Seth Godin. In his latest book, The Dip, he sets out to get people thinking about the idea of quitting as a strategy.

At first read, the slim manual seems to run entirely against logic. When asked how they got there, successful people always talk about hard work and not giving up. Godin says that's because they forget about all the things they had to forgo in order to concentrate on being the best.

The book isn't a guidebook to knowing when to surrender. Even Godin admits that quitting is more of an art than a science, but he says most people do it at exactly the wrong moment. "Most of the things that people set out to do are easy when you start," he says about pursuits from starting a business to learning tennis. "Somewhere along the way you hit the dip, and that's the place where most people quit."

That's also the point of no return. The select number who make it through the valley are the ones who reach the top. At the same time, chasing the flavor of the month is like jumping lines at the supermarket–it's rarely pays off. Godin says it's better to quit early or not at all.

Small-business owners should take a look at their progress and use hard data to figure out whether they need a new strategy or a new venture. If the company is slowly but steadily building customers and clients, persistence will pay off. But if a company has spent months trying to sign on one big customer with no results, then maybe it's time to move on. Small-business owners are "optimistic about the wrong thing," says Godin. "They fall in love with a tactic and keep doing it. That's not progress–that's obstinacy."