A few days ago, I sat down over coffee with the founder of an interesting company. Typically, the founders I meet with are interested in investor introductions, market validation, or want to discuss product and engineering challenges (which I love).
But this person sought my advice on whether or not shutting down his year-old company was the right thing to do.
Before meeting, I did a little research, and at first glance the company and product seemed very viable. There was a clear market, and I felt they could find product fit pretty easily, which is probably how they were able to drum up a significant amount of funding.
I won’t go into the details of exactly why he felt it might be best to wind down, but as soon as we sat down to chat I wanted to see if shutting down his company is what he felt he should do or must do, there’s a big difference. Then I decided to share a couple important high-level realizations that I had when my team and I shut down Secret.
- Let go or be dragged. This is an adage that someone said to me (I wish I could remember who!) and resonated with me before making the decision to wind down my company. When we become deeply attached to a particular outcome, which may not seem achievable, we can enter into the mentality of being the victim, lose control and forfeit the power of making our own choices. This is a downward spiral and requires a level of self-awareness to figure out if we’re in this state. If so, then deciding to let go can be the first step toward regaining control of our situation.
- Tough things are harder to envision than they are to endure. Once the decision was made and we took the correct steps to wind down the company, it didn’t hurt as much as I had anticipated because it felt like the right thing to do. This is human. I believe that if you are honest and true in your intentions, and with those around you (employees, investors, users), then you can control your narrative and those that matter will have your back.
Of course there are very empirical factors to weigh when it comes to evaluating whether or not to make a decision like shutting down a company, but as the CEO or founder, that decision starts with you and these two points really helped me.
And if that doesn’t help, there’s always lessons learned from Fight Club.
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
David Mark Byttow