It seems like every time you turn your head, new, lean companies with big dreams are sprouting up between the cracks of traditional business.
And even though the startup boom may be coming to a close, there are still innumerable old business models that stand ready to be challenged, innovated on, and improved.
Yet, many of the startup founders I know seem to be banging their heads against the wall. Their product can’t get any traction, they’re burning through their first round of funding, and they’re crumbling under the stress of a failing business.
In cases like these, I think every business owner needs to know when it’s time to hang up their skates. With that in mind, I want to discuss four signs that should let you know your startup is failing.
1. Your heart’s not in it
My first question to any startup owner is philosophical – is your heart still in this?
A little job anxiety is natural, but if a founder is showing up to work every day burnt out, exhausted, and passionless, then they may as well quit now because it’s not going to work for them.
For the first long while in a startup’s history, the only engine keeping things going is the passion of its founders. The belief and enthusiasm behind a company have to be strong enough to weather major setbacks, disappointments, and petty frustrations.
This is a really difficult attitude to maintain even under the best circumstances – we’re hardwired to resent our obligations. If you’re running your own company and you hate it, your life will be a hellish nightmare.
Often though, company founders won’t admit that the passion is gone. A company you’ve started can feel like your baby, and it might feel like some sort of betrayal to yourself and your dream to shut it down. But if your heart isn’t in it, there’s no way the company will succeed – it will just be a slower, more painful death.
If you’re in a slump that’s lasting way too long, it may be time to think about hanging up your skates before it’s beyond your control.
2. Nobody else cares either
Another sure sign is that nobody else seems to like your company either. Sales for the quarter are way lower than what you optimistically projected, your marketing strategies can’t seem to get any traction, and no media seems interested in covering your great idea. This could be the last roadblock before a major breakthrough, but it’s probably more likely that your startup is on its last legs.