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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.