Diary of a Quitter

   Iím a quitter and proud of it. Iím not talking about quitting smoking, fatty foods or gossiping. That takes perseverance and strong will, of which I have none. Iím talking about life, and specifically, business, where quitting has very negative connotations.
   Iím talking about giving up, throwing in the towel, admitting defeat. Iím good at that. In fact, itís one of my strongest assets as a small-business owner. I have turned tail and run numerous times over the years, looking back only to see if there are flames.
   Everyone, from Lee Iacocca on down, makes mistakes. Some make more than others, but no one is infallible. The mark of a good executive is recognizing your mistakes before anyone else and then taking immediate steps to correct the situation.
   In other words, quit while the quitting is good.
   There are plenty of heart-warming stories out there about small-business owners who stuck it out through rough beginnings, when success seemed hopeless. Through hard work and fanatical dedication to their idea, they survived and eventually prospered, making millions and snubbing their skeptics.
   Iím not impressed. If success seemed hopeless in the beginning, 99 times out of 100 it is hopeless. The one success story gets all the ink about the benefits of perseverance, but no one writes about the other 99, many of whom lost everything because of perseverance.
   Not me.
   For example, some years ago I was working for a developer and was offered along with other management personnel the opportunity to invest in a restaurant in a new specialty shopping center with more than 20 eating establishments.
   Like all new businesses, this was going to be a smashing success. Like most new businesses, it wasnít. Naming it The Past Market and envisioning a heavy Italian theme, the first mistake probably was hiring a gentleman named Klaus Reichandt as the general manager. Italian he was not.
   I am no connoisseur, but I can identify bad food when I taste it. The Pasta Market had bad food. Klaus could manage a fine batch of strudel, but linguine vongole gave him problems.
   But I wasnít quitting. Not yet, despite pathetic revenue. There were changes to be made. We fired Klaus, revamped the menu and dropped prices, trying to match the tawdry dťcor.
   Now the food was edible and the cost was reasonable. And we were losing money faster than Klaus went out the door. The partners got together and announced the need for more cash to "get us over the hump."
   Everyone made noises about not giving up Ė new restaurants take time to get established. I was only in my early 20ís, but I was beginning to wonder if my grandchildren would be around to see The Pasta Market in all its established glory. I was fairly certain I would not.
   When it came time to come up with more money or lose my entire investment, which happened to be most of my life savings at the time, I chose to walk away, to quit. I was the only one. All the other partners came up with more money. And then some more. And then some more. And then they quit.
   The Pasta Market holds the dubious distinction of being the first restaurant in the center to fold. Many others would follow, the simple fact being there were too many restaurants for the center to support. An enormous amount of money was lost. But the early quitters lost less than the late quitters.
   I wasnít any smarter than my other partners. I wasnít positive The Pasta Market would never succeed. We all wanted desperately to think it would turn around, and we all had a glimmer of hope. The only difference was they paid to find out, while I refused. The glimmer wasnít enough for me.
   So I saved thousands, which I promptly sank into another dumb business idea. I also got out of that one before my partners, saving thousands. I then started another business with the money I didnít lose, and this one worked.
   Had I not quit the losers when I did, I probably never would have had the money to start the winner.
   So call me a quitter, and Iíll radiate with pride.
   Itís a philosophy that doesnít work quite as well in other arenas (like marriage, for instance), but business, thankfully, has it own set of rules.
  The Pasta Market was a dog, and I abandoned it. May it woof in peace.
 

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