by Tim Connor, CSP
You would be amazed at how many decisions for doing something new or different are made every day by millions of people who lack an exit strategy in the event things don't turn out as they planned or hoped.
Before I share a few insights let me share that during my life and career I can't tell you how many things went wrong or ended badly - whether a new enterprise, a new product, a new marketing approach, starting a new relationship (business or personal) or as simple as on a few occasions just buying a new product. Been there? If not - I'll bet you are either in denial or you are just sitting safely in front of your TV day after day.
Exit strategies -
I can't tell you how many times I have observed clients; develop new products, create new policies, acquire other companies, expand to new market areas and promote certain people when these were destined to fail either dramatically over time or shortly after the new decision was made.
Or, people make a decision not feeling sure of the outcome as planned or hoped. Very little in life always turns out exactly the way we want, expect, need or hope or even feel we deserve and why? Well, folks it's called - life.
Sooner or later some of our initiatives personally or in our career or business will fail. Nothing in the future is guaranteed. The major question is however - if we embark on this - "something new" - what are our chances of success or failure and how will the critical aspects involved impact the eventual outcome(s)?
What is an exit strategy?
Some people might refer to an exit strategy as a Plan B or even Plan C but I'm not referring here to approaches that keep you involved in the same journey or direction but of letting go of the plan or strategy completely and moving on.
Yes, sometimes all that is needed to make something work is a new approach or change in some of the details but in the end consider the possibility that the plan is not working because it is a signal that it is time to let it go and move on to something else or new.
An effective exit strategy should be in place as a part of the original plan that have benchmarks in place that tell you if they are not being met you have two options - change the plan or end it. Ending it is never easy especially if you have your ego, reputation, time and resources invested in it from the beginning and this is far too common when people can't let go when it's obvious they should.
Please keep in mind I'm not giving you permission to quit or move on too soon without adequate effort, commitment, resources having been invested but there are times when it is just time to let go, end it or say good-bye.
I'm also not suggesting that you shouldn't start something new that you are not sure will end as planned - but that there are times when throwing more money, time, resources or people at an initiative is naive or just plain stupid. So how do you know whether or when you should keep on keeping on or pull the plug?
It depends on three factors -
- Do you have the continued resources to see this through to the end no matter what the outcome - failure or success - or however long it takes?
- Do you have the commitment to see it through regardless of the pain, disruption or disappointment you are experiencing or may if you fail in the future?
- Do you have the confidence, courage and will to see it through regardless of the uncertainties along the way?
Why do you need an exit plan?
Starting anything without an exit strategy in place before you begin just sets you up for frustration, stress, disappointment or anxiety assuming that your plans or effort will achieve their desired results.
This is just plain crazy and how do I know? I'll bet during your life, business or career you have ended something too late or wish you had pulled the plug or maybe not even starting it knowing what you know now.
Therein lies the problem - we can't guarantee outcomes - we can only plan, work and hope, but in the end there are always circumstances we can't control. An exit strategy (plan) just gives you the timing, approach or reasons as to when, how or why to end something.
Without this I will guarantee you will invest too much of something trying to make it work and let's face it - some things just don't work.
The question ultimately is - how much and what are you willing to lose if it doesn't work out the way you need it to, to be ultimately a successful enterprise, relationship, decision or action? ##