The full quote, “Quitters never win and winners never quit,” is attributed to Vince Lombardi and it’s a good one that I don’t think falls into the category of dumb quotes, but, like most quotes, it doesn’t capture the full story.
I guess I’m saying this because I both quit and won.
I’ve already written why owning a business was both my biggest success and my biggest failure, now I want to look at the process that brought me to victory and the ability to quit. You see, I couldn’t quit when I really wanted to, that would have been failure.
When I started the business, a massage and facial franchise, I had high expectations, that’s what optimistic people do, they envision the best outcome. I also tried to be realistic, tried to plan for the worst.
I made the overconfident decision to open this business while I continued working in my career of television news. My wife, who continued in her career, would also work on this business with me.
With the success we anticipated, we planned to open a second location at which point, I’d leave my job to run the growing business empire we envisioned.
There were problems from the start. The store next to us held birthday parties for young girls, and every weekend the noise was incredibly loud. (That’s how I learned to hate the song “Call Me Maybe”). The added soundproofing expense wasn’t anticipated and didn’t really help much either. The best soundproofing is no match for 20 screaming girls.
Finding enough staff was also an issue. Massage therapists need to be licenced in the state we operated, so unlike a sandwich shop, we couldn’t just train a new hire to perform a task (that was a really good thing for anyone getting a massage).
It wasn’t only the therapists that were hard to find. Hiring well is more difficult than you would think, and something I wasn’t particularly adept at, it seems (though with over 30 employees at our height I had far more good employees than bad). In the five years we operated we had 7 managers. With the shortest lived only lasting one day and the most stable almost two years.
The stress and amount of work, especially as we continued to work full time jobs, had a serious affect on us personally as well as financially. While we broke even and eventually became profitable, we were nowhere near where we wanted or thought we would be.
Ready to Quit
After just two years we were ready to quit but wouldn’t accept the truth that we were trying to sell a damaged product. There was certainly value in the business but less value than if we were doing well. That’s the catch, we want to sell because it’s not living up to our expectations but no one would buy it (or pay our asking price) until it was performing better at which point we wouldn’t want to sell.
While this was happening we were also planning on my early retirement, which the spa was supposed to hasten. With another two years of growth and a very good choice for our latest manager, we were both successful enough to elicit interest and still willing to move on, or walk away, depending on your perspective.
Quitting without Losing
Had we taken any low offer when we originally wanted to sell, we would have quit as failures. I’m sure it would have spared us much heartache and we would have recovered financially, but we would have lost.
Instead, we fought on and worked hard for an additional two years to get the business to a place that the value we saw in it was visible to others. We still quit, in a sense, but we did so as winners. We weren’t big winners but it was a victory that accelerated my early retirement.
I still wonder what I could have done differently, how I could have been more successful, and yes, sometimes I feel like a failure, but those feelings are fleeting as I look beyond that one event and see the bigger success I created.
Quit to Succeed
Who would you respect more, the dogged, determined, never quit devotee who struggles and struggles and ultimately fails? Or the one who recognizes the futility in heaping on more stress, losing more money, and decides enough is enough? Both learned a lesson but one cost a lot more than the other.