Does Your Business Work for You?

By Anton Ressel


Is 2017 the year to boldly change direction?

It is well documented that famous entrepreneur Richard Branson had a string of unsuccessful ventures as well as outright failures on his journey to building the empire that is Virgin today. What makes his story so compelling, is that he was able to recognise when to push on with a business concept or idea, and when to put it aside and start something else.

This ability to see the wood for the trees is an important trait amongst successful entrepreneurs. What if soldiering on is the wrong approach? At what point do we accept that our business in its current form is just not working and take a bold approach – either to make wholesale changes, or to close shop and start again? The latter option is one of the most difficult, and bravest, moves an entrepreneur can ever make.

Before I continue, let me just clarify what I mean by the business ‘not working’. I am not referring to a few bad months, or a slight dip in sales year on year. These cycles are natural in any business, and just as you will have boom times, so too will you face lean and difficult ones. Similarly, I am also not talking about a venture still in a start-up phase – almost all business ideas and concepts take a while to get off the ground, several years in some cases, and you do need to be prepared to give any business a proper chance at success before moving on.

What I am talking about is a scenario in which you have invested time, money and energy into the business, tried different strategies, products and approaches, done the shows and expos, developed the website, ticked all the boxes and yet have not seen any return on your investment, despite your best efforts. I am talking about a business that makes no money, or worse, costs money to keep afloat on an ongoing basis.

Knowing when to change direction

So how do you recognise when it is time for a change? Firstly, ask yourself why you started your own business in the first place. Chances are it was a combination of the freedom to be creative and to be your own boss as well as the prospect of financial freedom and success. I doubt very much it was so that you could work yourself to the bone to pay everyone – staff, suppliers, subcontractors – but not yourself. I also doubt it was so that you could end up stressed out and deeply in debt several years down the line, with no end in sight.

Like anything of value, creating a successful business takes time and effort, and it will often be necessary to borrow money, draw very little out for yourself and make real sacrifices when getting off the ground. However, if you are still in that position several years down the line, something is not working and you need to be brave enough to accept this. Perhaps you should consider starting something fresh and new, taking the lessons learned from your existing venture and making changes and improvements where necessary.

If today was the last day of your life…

If you find yourself in this position, is it time to take action? Only you can answer that question, but the simple fact is that your business should be working for you, and not the other way around. Steve Jobs asked himself this every day – “If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” If the answer was “no” for too many days in a row, something had to change.

Try asking yourself the question: “If this was the last year of my working life, would I want to do what I do now?” If the answer is no, it might be time for a leap into the unknown.


fetola-2016-0058Anton Ressel is a Senior Consultant at Fetola and has over 15 years experience as an entrepreneur, trainer, business developer and mentor in the emerging business sector. A published writer for Sawubona, Business Day, fin24, Entrepreneur Magazine and many others, Anton is a Director of the Fetola Foundation as well as co-founder of Streetwires, one of South Africa’s largest and most successful social enterprises. Follow @AntonRes on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Firecracker.