“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

~ Dr. Seuss

6 Ways to Know It’s Time to STOP

By Andrea Novakowski

Jonathan, the owner of a consulting firm, hired me to help him become more strategic about running his business. He wanted to spend more time in Stephen Covey’s second quadrant – doing work that was important, without being urgent – instead of constantly putting out fires.

During our coaching call last week, Jonathan told me the majority of his stress was coming from just a few of his clients. “These clients are demanding, disorganized, and they don’t value my work,” Jonathan said. “Frankly, they aren’t any fun!”

(Take note! This sort of emotional reaction can be a good place to start when you’re trying to gain awareness of what’s working in your business and what’s not!)

“What would happen if you fired them?” I asked.

It was remarkable, the change that came over Jonathan’s body: he visibly relaxed as the relief washed over him.

We moved on to the financials of the situation. When Jonathan realized he was spending more than 50 percent of his time on clients that brought in only 10 percent of his revenue, he started to see how it might make sense to say goodbye to these people.

But we were leaving no stone unturned, so we talked about what could possibly make these clients more enjoyable to work with. With each client, Jonathan identified one change that would make a big positive difference. We strategized the best way to introduce that element to the work. Now that he’d looked at the numbers, Jonathan had the freedom to have these discussions with his problem clients, because if he couldn’t improve the relationship, he could always stop working with them without hurting his business.

At last, Jonathan could take control of the situation! More important, he had a plan to do so.

Know when to cut your losses

So often we lie awake at night thinking about what’s wrong with our business, our clients, our projects, and other areas that aren’t working the way we want. Much of this ruminating is caused by the fear that if we stop doing something, our whole business will fall apart. As we saw with Jonathan, this is not necessarily the case.

(Note: it’s also possible that what you’re feeling might just be the end-of-winter doldrums. Here in New England, the snow has caused countless appointments to be rescheduled and tempers to fray. So don’t do anything impulsive before you work the numbers and get an accurate picture of what’s going on.)

How do you know when it’s time to call a halt to a part of your business or a relationship with a client that’s stressing you out?

  1. Little or no enjoyment of the work. Have you been delivering this service forever and you’re bored with it? Need a new challenge, a new product, a new way to work with people? Nowhere is it written that just because you’ve historically offered a product or a service that you have to continue.
  2. Little or no enjoyment of the client. It might not be the work that’s the problem – it might be the people you work with. As you build your business, it’s important to be clear on who your ideal client is. While we all want to grow our markets, there’s a hidden cost to doing so with clients that drain you. If you’re working with clients who suck you dry, think about how you can shift the way you work with them to make it easier. If that’s not possible, create a plan to let them go.
  3. You dread getting out of bed. Most business owners I know can’t wait to get the day started and make things happen. Not feeling it? It could be you’ve lost focus or there’s too much on your plate. Pause and assess what’s causing the discomfort. This doesn’t mean it’s time to sell your business, but it may be time to start doing things differently. Get some support while you figure out what’s working for you and what’s not.
  4. You find yourself procrastinating. When you’re spread too thin, it’s hard to summon the energy to start something new. Take a hard look at the reason you’re putting off doing something. Are you fearful, overwhelmed – or just done with it!?
  5. You’ve acquired unhealthy behaviors. Are you watching TV for hours on end, having an extra glass of wine, playing too many video games? Step back and ask yourself why.
  6. There’s no business in that part of your business. Sometimes you’re the one burnt out from delivering a particular service; other times the marketplace tells you when you’re done. If you keep close track of your numbers, it should not come as a surprise.

This week, think about the aspects of your business that leave you feeling weary, depleted, or less than enthusiastic. Take some time to dig deeper into the origins of these gut reactions. Maybe it’s time to make a change – to stop doing what no longer serves you.


Which parts of your business are you less than thrilled with? Can you modify how you deal with these areas – or is it time to eliminate them altogether? Share with us in the comment section below.

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