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Throw in the towel?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
For those of you who have owned businesses which you had to close or those who have worked for a long time at a place and it became time to move on...

How did you know when to throw in the towel?

I've owned my own business for almost 4 years. I am sore, exhausted, stressed out, and still poor. I don't feel like I am moving forward. My lease is expiring soon, and I am seriously questioning whether I want to continue or not. The area I am in is declining. All the businesses around there are slow. I've thought about moving the business, but I just don't know if I have the energy left to do that.

On the otherhand, I don't know what I'll do next if I do close. It's kind of a scary place to be.

When I did my business plan 4 years ago, I didn't develop an "exit strategy" in the event that the business didn't last forever (big mistake). Now I am sort of at a loss as to how to proceed.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

:confused:

Thanks, RF
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
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"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
post #2 of 20
'


wow that's tough!!
I have my bussiness for ten years now and i'm still not rich either. I can pay my bilsand people and that's it. One thing, I've never considerd stopping and I think that if you have those thoughts it is time for something else. Maybe it helps if you don't take things to seriously, kind of smile about it and start over with something different. I wish I could wave a magic wand for you!!:bounce:
my english sucks but my dutch is great !
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my english sucks but my dutch is great !
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post #3 of 20
Rita, how soon does the lease expire? Would you have long enough to finally do an exit plan? Or can you get an extension for a few months, rather than a whole renewal? Because as you do the plan, you will figure out two things:
1. how to get out gracefully, and what to do next; and
2. how to keep the business going and growing, even if it means taking a different tack.

The one thing you DON'T want to do is just shut down with no idea of what's next. And you never know, while you work out how to close, you just might find that there are new ways you can stay open successfully.

I wish you luck, whatever you do!
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #4 of 20
Rita, from the tone of your post you sound just a little burnt out .
Ask yourself are you? All I can say my friend is to do what is best for you and those close to you . Take care of yourself first and do what you like to do . Peace , Doug..................
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #5 of 20
pm me
FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the replies. I'm a bit late in getting back here. I spent the last few days in the mountains. No phone, no internet, just a sketch book and some R&R. I feel more energized but still I think it is time to move on as far as the business goes.

People keep telling me I should try to sell it. I don't agree. I've been the one, the only one, who has been deeply involved with it from the beginning. People always have an opinion, I guess. But I think they don't quite understand exactly what I have had to do to make this business almost-but-not-exactly "work'. I'm not sure I would wish that business on anyone. I would feel like I was lying if I sold it.

My lease is up at the end of July. I would do an exit plan, except that it's kind of difficult to do that at this point - when I'm robbing Peter to pay Paul. And I am so burned out, I don't know if I could move it or change course with it.

This guy :bounce: never runs out of energy. I do.

RF
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
I tried to pm you, Panini. I hope it worked. I've never done that before.

I guess I wanted to add one more thing, and that is this....

When I first went into business, I thought that the most important thing I had going for me was my employees. I always felt under-appreciated at most of the places I worked when I was younger. I wanted to make sure that my employees never felt that way. I paid them what they deserved for their work. It was my largest expense.

Am I just a bad "business person?"

RF
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
post #8 of 20
Youe employees are lucky to have such a fine boss. It's not so good for business but at least you can look them straight in the eye;)
my english sucks but my dutch is great !
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my english sucks but my dutch is great !
Reply
post #9 of 20
that's the way I do biz also....right or wrong Good luck, this is a difficult time, we're here if you need us.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #10 of 20
Hi Rita,

Perhaps you can find some insight in a similar situation that I went it through a few years ago, granted it was not connected to the food industry, but the business scenario is much like yours.

I started and owned a software company from 1985-1995. Like you, I tried very hard to be fair to everyone, especially employees and customers. I managed to eek out a living but eventually grew weary of the constant struggle of hand to mouth finances. I decided to go out of business.

When my brother, who had never been connected with the business and had no software experience all, heard I was throwing in the towel, he asked if he could buy it? Again, I wanted to be very fair, so I sold the business cheap, since I knew he would fail.

Guess what? That business is booming. In the nine years since he bought it, the staff has quadrupled, and he has raised the price of the software by 3000% (that is not a typo, 3000%). Several times a year he vacations in Hawaii and the Caribbean. The product is still virtually unchanged from the one that I built.

I think there are two morals to this story:

1. We are not all cut out to be business people. I have learned that I have a good creative mind, and I like to treat everyone like family, but I obviously do not have what it takes to run a successful business--I worry too much about what other people feel and think.

2. It is often impossible for us to see the true value in something we build. In the end, I never thought my business was worth a plug nickel to anyone else. I had too much of my heart and soul invested. How could anyone else possibly want or succeed with something so uniquely mine? Boy was I wrong!

So, without knowing near enough about your business to offer an opinion, let me do it anyway; if you decide it's time to quit, try to sell the business. Even if it doesn't sell, it is a graceful prelude to going out of business. You never know what might happen.

Well, I've rambled on long enough, and probably didn't say anything you don't already know. I can only wish you the very best with whatever your future holds.

Joe
Joe
Exec. Chef, mon bistro à la maison
---------------------------------------
I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific.
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Joe
Exec. Chef, mon bistro à la maison
---------------------------------------
I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific.
Reply
post #11 of 20

Years ago I owned my FIRST restaurant.

I really feel for you. As someone who has gone through this before as I watched my business go away I can feel the profound effect it must be having on you Rita. There is nothing quite like the feeling you get as you work your @ss off, going to work everyday, and still, with all that effort, nothing seems to work. It ended badly for me, financially. Over the years my wife and I have had a chance to think about all the things that went wrong. We figure that it cost us as much in losing the restaurant as it cost to put her through her Masters' program. I think I got a better education out of the deal. I definately learned more...
BTW- our next restaurant is doing MUCH better. May yours do the same.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
Wow, everything you all have said means so much to me. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Peachcreek,
I relate to what you said about getting such a good education from your first business experience. I have learned more than I could even describe. I wouldn't trade that for anything. When I first went into business, my boyfriend (sig. otr., or whatever you call someone you have been with for 8 years) had experience with business. He helped me how he could, but he always said that there were things he couldn't describe about it - things I just had to see for myself by doing it. He was right. Now we can talk about that aspect of business. And I now know what he meant when he said he couldn't describe things I hadn't been through. I feel like I have learned more from business than I ever did in college. Anyway, it's good to hear that your learning experience led you to better things. Your comments remind me that there is a day beyond "today". Whatever my future is, I still have one! :)

And RegularJoe,
I think you provide a lot of insight as well. My father is a good business person. It seems like everything he touches turns into money. But his way of doing things is very different than mine. That's not to say he's wrong or anything. Just different. I am beginning to realize that, although I have a lot of good qualities, perhaps business is not my big strength. I'm more proud of the employees I have had who got to have a good paying job in college and then moved on to... whatever than I am the money part. I felt like I made a difference to them. That was important to me.

Still is. I have to last until the end of this semester. I have an employee who is counting on me for income so she can go to Central America this summer and help people. I can't let her down.

Yes, Coquille, at least I can sleep at night (sort of, but it's not employee stuff that keeps me up if I can't), and thanks Shroomgirl for the support. I'll let you know what happens :chef:

RF
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
post #13 of 20
It was one of the hardest things we ever had to do. Our little restaurant in southwest Colorado was both a source of great joy and great frustration. We lived in a town of about 1100 and there were already four or five restaurants - but none served what we did so we figured we'd give it a shot. Our little place was strictly takeout, so low overhead. Still it pained me to close it. I trained in the culinary arts and I love them, so I felt like a huge failure.

We had a financial responsibility to our family and had to bail before we lost everything. I know people who have taken loans out using their house as collateral and I think this is foolish for such a volatile business. If you're alone and willing to take such a risk, so be it but if you risk and lose, you drag your entire family down too. I couldn't in good conscience, do this.

When we first opened, we were advised to NEVER take food on credit. And we never did. This worked well because we weren't still paying on anything we had when we decided to close. There are places that close and the owner is still paying off debt for a year afterward, unless they file bankruptcy. We didn't have to go that route, although we did leave a good amount of equipment at a second hand restaurant equipment store on consignment.

In the end, use your own criteria, your own risk parameters, to figure out if it's time to close.
Food is sex for the stomach.
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Food is sex for the stomach.
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post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
Well, Chiffonade,
I hope you don't still feel like a "huge failure." I think that any time you own a business, it is a big learning experience.

Learning is good. So is responsibility to your family :)

And you are right. Only I can really decide what is right for me. I know already, actually. I know I have to move on from this particular venture, just as soon as the time is right (at the end of this semester). I think I can last until then and still manage to do right by the employees I have who have done right by me.

RF
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 

Update

Well, I put in my notice to the landlord yesterday saying that we will not be renewing the lease after July of this year :( . I felt pretty sentimental about it, but it was easier in some ways than I thought it would be, too. I felt a certain sense of relief. I guess I've been in a place of indecision and inaction for some time now. It made me feel better in a way just to do something -anything at all- just make a decision and move forward.

Thanks for all the words of encouragement here. I'll keep you updated.

RF
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
post #16 of 20
Good for you Rita ! :bounce:
Take the day off, buy a bottle of something good and drink it on a bench in the sun.... ;) it will make you fell better, I 'm sure of it !!
my english sucks but my dutch is great !
Reply
my english sucks but my dutch is great !
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post #17 of 20
You've gotten some good advice here from personal experience. However, bottom line, you have to do what is best for you. I've owned several restaurants and always made sure my employees were the highest paid in town. I also expect 100% from them every day. I also realized that I was responsible for the bills. They could walk away and find another source of income the next day. Some of the decisions you make over the next few weeks and months could affect your life for years. Don't keep a business open so that one employee can go "help some people." Develop an exit plan that best suits you, implement it and take some time off, relax and figure out what you need to do to make yourself professionally and personally happy.
post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 

God (or someone???) works in mysterious ways...

I liked what you said, Wyoming. Thanks.

And I did take take some nice time off coquille :)

Here's what happened over the past few days. I only had 4 employees left anyway. One got evicted from his apartment and was going to have to move out of town by next week. One was going to have to go back to Virginia for family reasons. His notice was to run out next week. One is a shareholder who didn't care if we closed or not (burn out). The only one left was the girl who had the summer vacation plans, and she asked off for all next week- school stuff + going home for easter. So I set a final close day for yesterday (Sunday), and I offered the girl a bonus in the amount that she still needed in order to go through with her summer plans. It was a lot cheaper than it would be staying open just for her. She said I didn't need to do that, but I might anyway. She's a great girl.

Anyway, my business is now closed :eek: :confused: :bounce: :) :( :D

It's weird, but I am relieved, too. I have a lot of mopping up to do, though. You have to call sooooo many people and fill out soooo many forms. There's the city, the county, the state (about 3 different ways), the IRS, social security, SUTA, FUTA, property tax, insurance (2 ways), the health department, the credit card machine people, not to mention Coca Cola and food distributors....who am I forgetting??? Oh yeah, fire extinguisher people, bug man, bank, utilities, phone. Who else? I'm sure there is more.

Anyway, I think I'm gonna be okay. I have some ideas about what to do next, but they are stil formulating.

I'll let you know what develops, and thanks again for all the support! :)
RF
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
"'If I watch out for rocks
With my eyes straight ahead,
I'll keep out of trouble
Forever,' I said."
Dr. Seuss, "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew"
Reply
post #19 of 20
Yo Fagita !!
Good for you. All the things you wrote sound very good to me, you may be proud of yourself :bounce: :D

Just wait and see.... I'm sure that one of these days something great is going to come your way! After all it's spring ( at least here it is )
my english sucks but my dutch is great !
Reply
my english sucks but my dutch is great !
Reply
post #20 of 20

I support you in your decision...

I know you chose what was right for you and your family. Perhaps another time, another place, another set of circumstances. I felt terrible when we closed our place and swore "never again." But I know lots of people who have lost pets and swore them off forever, only to wind up at the local shelter three weeks later, giving some poor unwanted dog a reprieve.

Our restaurant experience taught me some important lessons and I will not make those mistakes again. I wish the same for you.
Food is sex for the stomach.
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Food is sex for the stomach.
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