Is it Quitting Time?

Ahh…freedom!

It might be a strange time of year to be writing a blog post all about quitting your business, especially as the beginning of the year always seems full of hope and excitement and motivation. In the beginning of January it just feels like everything is possible, doesn’t it? You’ve probably had some time off to rest, you’ve eaten a bunch of yummy things, got some cool stuff from Santa, and all is right with the world. You are going to kill it in 2014, aren’t you?

Let me tell you, in the last few weeks that’s exactly what I’ve done and how I’ve felt. For the first time ever, I closed my business for two weeks over the holiday period. I worked my butt off until the very last moment, even delivering a wedding cake literally on the way to our vacation (as you do). Right now I’m sitting here in my pyjamas, relishing a few more days off and excited about spending some time with my kids. Honestly, it’s the first time in a long time I can remember actually being relaxed. I operate at a very high level of intensity so it often takes me several days to unwind before I actually begin to enjoy myself. The problem with this relaxation is, it’s making me NOT want to go back to work. I’d rather be in bed playing Words with Friends.

I love my business. It’s not really a “job” per se although I will sometimes refer to it that way.  It is the single hardest thing I’ve ever done – far harder than moving countries, harder than IVF, harder than losing weight (I’ll share that story some other time), harder than just about anything else I can think of. Financially and emotionally, running my own business has sometimes been crippling (it’s not always rainbow sprinkles, right?). Of course it’s also rewarding, and I’ve learned heaps from it, and I love it, and blah blah blah positive awesomeness rewarding fabulousity. The truth of it is, no matter how fabulous it is, there is no denying that owning a small business is just really hard, exhausting work and it can take a very long time to see the rewards, financial or otherwise.

Several times in the past few weeks, I’ve found myself fantasising about giving the business away. Not as in literally handing it to someone as a gift, but as in – selling it or just giving up, walking away, getting a normal job.  Giving it away means I won’t stress about money so much, someone else will be in charge of paying the bills, I’ll have fixed hours that I work, I won’t be such an emotional wreck, I’ll actually get paid vacation time, my life will be less chaotic…everything will just be so much calmer and easier, you know?  I’ll be brutally honest and tell you all that the fantasy is very, very appealing. The grass doesn’t just seem greener, it seems to shimmer as though it’s been coated in edible glitter and it smells like a freshly unwrapped bar of expensive chocolate. There might even be rainbow unicorns there.

I generally take my own advice on these things, so while I’ve had the opportunity I spent some time really picturing how my life would look if I gave up on the business. I also spent some time trying to pick apart what about that fantasy seemed so appealing. The answers I came up with were not the ones I expected.

First, I realised that my life WOULD be a lot less stressful without the business. Things WOULD be easier, calmer, quieter…but I’d also be filled with regret, for having given up while I still had a head full of ideas. If I gave up now, I’d feel as though I didn’t really give it a proper chance, didn’t really throw as much as it as I could have, and definitely would feel as though I had unfinished business (pun intended). It would be like running a marathon, only to give up at Mile 20 while you were actually able to walk to the finish line. So – the idea of giving up seems like rainbows and unicorns and fabulous…but the reality of it is, I don’t think I could live with myself. I looked at what life would be like if I went back to being an employee and while parts of it are very appealing, parts of it are frustrating and soul destroying and I’m not willing to go there. I’d be swapping one emotional minefield for another one. I’d be living in “coulda, shoulda, woulda” land and there is no sparkly grass there.

The second question I asked myself was, “Exactly what is so appealing about the giving up fantasy?” Is is the lack of responsibility, the not having to deal with clients, the time to myself? What is it that I’m wanting now which I’m not getting which I clearly want? This one took me a while – but the single thing which is most appealing is the lack of stress (mostly financial stress.) I realised that the ONE thing about my business which causes me the most heartache is the stress level: the roller coaster of fabulous highs and the terrible lows. I’m smart enough to understand that unfortunately, stress is just part of the whole entrepreneurial package. When you’re where the buck stops, it’s fairly natural that stress is part of that responsibility. So if I can’t get rid of the stress entirely – but that’s the one thing which bothers me the most – I’ve got to start putting some work into managing that stress. I’ve got to remember my own rule…that sometimes working on the business isn’t about the business at all, it’s about the business owner. I’ve got to work on making that problem less of a problem.

After all that thinking I came to the conclusion that someday I might want to quit, but that someday is not now. Now, all I really want to do is lead a much less stressful life – and so right now, I’ve got to figure out a way to make that happen. I haven’t worked it out yet (thank goodness I’ve got a few days off still), but I have worked out that it’s not the business per se which is the problem. It’s just my stress levels which need to be managed, so that I can learn to love my business just that little bit more and overall be better off. I’m not ready to throw in the towel, although I’m not going to lie – that option still holds some appeal (oh the freedom!).

A lot of you have emailed me asking, “How do you know when it’s just time to quit?” – and truly, that’s something only you can answer. I think the best thing to do is just what I did, really look within and imagine your life without your business. What does that look like? If you CAN’T imagine your life without it, then try to work out what the real problem with your business is. Is it the actual owning of a business which is the problem, something about or within your specific business processes, or something about YOU? If in your heart of hearts you really feel okay with the idea of bowing out – then please do so. There is no shame in deciding that this path is not the right one for you. There really isn’t.

My Dad (also an entrepreneur) once told me, “Maybe you just don’t have the balls for business. That’s okay. Some people don’t. Not everyone needs to.”  He was right.

I’ve got the balls. I just need to figure out how to coat them in steel (or rainbow sprinkles.)

6 comments on “Is it Quitting Time?

  1. So thankful to have found this article today! While I’ve been home baking for almost 9 years, I quit my day job a few months back when my husband got a new job, and have baking full time ever since. While business is booming, I have been questioning lately whether it’s worth all the stress (having the kids home from school for summer break probably isn’t helping). While I don’t think it’s time to give up just yet, this definitely gave me some things to think about for the next few months. Thank you!

  2. Hi Anon,

    Yes -that's a really good point you make – sometimes the evaluation we've got to do is about working smarter but not harder. I'm glad 2013 worked out so much better for you, onwards to 2014! Don't forget to also evaluate what worked well (or didn't) in 2013. – M

  3. Hi JoliRose – thanks for commenting. You may NEVER feel this way (I am kinda hoping you don't)….but I think it's important just to acknowledge that not every day is rainbow sprinkles and smooth ganache, you know? There are pros and cons on both sides of the business ownership fence. Good luck with the commecial kitchen licence – exciting times! – M

  4. One thing that really helped me this last year was to reevaluate how many orders I can realistically take on. When I look back at 2012 and see how many orders I did (I work by myself) it is no wonder I entered 2013 a wreck! I honestly don't know what I was thinking. The thing that really set me back on the track to reality was my bad back. It kicked into high gear towards the end of 2012 from me working so much and I was forced to cut back. In 2013 I was able to limit my schedule to 5 cakes a week and I also raised my prices and set a minimum. I even said NO to a cake I just didn't want to do–a first for me! As a result I lost a few orders, made a few people upset and managed to attract more lucrative orders (imagine that!) I found out I can do less cakes for more money and save my back and sanity in the process.

  5. Well, I just started my business 2 years ago so I'm definitely not ready to quit but I can say that working for someone else is not for me at this stage in my life. I've been home with my little ones for a year now and have been blessed to be able to grow my little business from home so far (although I am going into a commercial kitchen as soon as my license gets processed but that's a whole other story ). In any case, I remember all too well how horrible it is to have a nasty boss and to have almost impossible goals to meet on a daily basis. It's still Soo fresh in my mind. Even if your lucky enough to have a nice boss, these companies set goals for their employees that are sometimes the cause if heart palpitations! And let's not bring up the hours.. Ok let's… Even though they tell you it's a 9-5, that was rarely the case for me. I will take some responsibility for that though as I am a bit of a workaholic. In any case, I do love working for myself, stress and all… I figure, if I'm going to work ungodly hours for someone else, I might as well do it for myself and set my own schedule. But hey, who knows, maybe 10 years from now I'll be singing a different tune.

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