The Myth of Persistence Can Ruin Your Life

Kudos to Barbara Taylor for Reaching Your Limit as a Business Owner on the NYTimes blog, a thoughtful reminder about a huge problem: The myth of persistence in business ownership. Given the wrong circumstances, running yourself into a brick wall, over and over, is simply not useful.

Her point, put simply:

Many owners reach a point in the life of their businesses where they hit a wall, a point beyond which they are either unable or unwilling to go.

And her personal story:

In my case, I felt like a pinball … I was managing 16 food-service employees, which felt like more than enough for me. My least favorite management tasks – human resources — were consuming the bulk of my time. I knew I needed to scale the business, adding at least one more location to support hiring a full-time manager to take the burden off my husband and me. In short, growth was the answer to our problem, but it would require more money, most likely in the form of a Small Business Administration loan, and I didn’t want to take on either the headache of expanding the business or the worry of incurring debt. My husband and I chose to switch gears and devote the next year to selling our business.

She also quotes John Warrilow, author of “Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, with his experience:

Somewhere around $3 million dollars of revenue, I went from being the driver of my business to the bottleneck. Each year we stood still, I grew more frustrated. I felt like I was trying to swim in a pair of jeans.

Finishing, selling, quitting, or whatever you want to call it, should be obvious, not surprising, and not defeat. It’s far better than getting caught in the myth of persistence, holding on forever, and getting dragged down with it. Don’t go down with your ship.


  • Cathy says:

    I agree. I was in that very situation; in order for us to grow our business, my husband & I would have had to incur more debt & risk quality customer service & ultimately sacrifice our quality product. At first, we were devastated at the thought of closing our business, but now we see that it would be temporary & good for now.

    Even with this economy,we have paid ALL the debt . Now we are in a great place & can start again. We are excited!

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