When To Give Up: Should We Close Our Wellness Business?

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Every motivational speaker says “Never give up!”, right? Then they share a heartwarming story about someone ready to give up—only to find glorious success after sticking it out just one more day.

Out here in the real world, sometimes the smartest business decision is to stop. To quit. Throw in the towel, stop throwing good money after bad, stop banging your head against the wall, stop pushing string.

To decide that whatever you do next, it won’t be this. “Next” might be taking another run at it, with a completely different approach. Or it might be something completely different.

Either way, you’re putting a period at the end of this particular sentence.

These seven signs tell you it’s time for a hard look at your business:

1. It was a good idea once.

Business ideas have “freshness dates.” Sometimes they expire. Wellness businesses built around nutrition and fitness fads are especially susceptible to this problem. Remember the spurt of stores selling low-carb products about six years ago? Once the Atkins diet faded, these stores lost their customers. Many women-only fitness circuit businesses like Curves have had similar problems.

2. Nothing works.

You’ve gotten great advice on sales and marketing, tweaked and refined your products and services, hired the best people you can find, invested substantial cash…and the dogs just aren’t eating the dog food.

It’s a little like someone saying your baby’s ugly, isn’t it? Sometimes great business concepts just don’t click. The “why” isn’t always obvious and eventually doesn’t even matter. You need to figure out if you’re just off to a slow start, or if your business is dying a slow death. Look at actual successes—customer and revenue growth, media interest, and the like.

Is the trend positive? Or is it flat or declining?

3. You’re miserable.

Sometimes health and wellness professionals love their work with clients and patients, but they hate the bureaucracy of their employer. So they decide to start a business. Then they find out that running a business is about sales and marketing and hiring and firing and keeping an eye on the bottom line. They find that far less of their time is actually spent with clients.

Do you have an interest in developing expertise in any of those areas? Sure, you can and should hire people to do some of them—but they’ll still need big-picture direction and oversight from you. If managing the business—vs working directly with clients—doesn’t appeal and you don’t have obvious trusted candidates who can step into those roles, it’s time to reconsider.

4. Now’s not the right time.

We’ve talked to quite a few business owners who are miserable because they’re trying to do it all. Right this minute. They’ve got huge personal commitments—perhaps health concerns, often caring for kids and aging parents — and limited financial resources. Keeping their business going takes energy and time that they just don’t have right now.

It’s OK to say “This isn’t for me right now.” Remember: life—and business—are marathons, not sprints. You’ll get another chance at the brass ring.

5. The financial hole is getting deeper.

If your financial losses and/or debts are increasing, take an honest look at your business.

Healthy growing businesses can certainly have increasing losses—for awhile—as they invest in resources to support additional customers. And expansion often requires more debt, especially if you add new physical facilities.

However, most health and wellness businesses should see a clear track to profitability within a year or two. If not, you’ve probably got some hard decisions to make.

6. You’re just out of gas.

You opened your doors in January 2020 not realizing that a global pandemic was emerging. You had your grand opening in February (exciting!), then temporarily closed for three months. You’re open again now, but the business hasn’t picked up any momentum. You’ve got a skeleton crew doing everything, you’re financing everything on your credit cards, you’re waking up at 3 AM in a panicky sweat.

Is this the business and life you want? Is there a version of your business that’s more sustainable? Or is it time to switch gears?

There’s no right or wrong answer; the mistake would be to avoid asking the question.

7. You’re convinced you can’t compete

We had a client who owned a small, successful weightlifting gym in a good-sized city (so plenty of potential customers).

His members loved the place. Five-star reviews everywhere, they only left if they literally moved away.

Then a huge health club with a gorgeous facility and all the classes, equipment and amenities you could imagine opened up a couple blocks away.

He was absolutely convinced he couldn’t compete. Absolutely convinced. He couldn’t see the profound differences between his business and the health club. Couldn’t see the differences in what his customers cared about vs theirs.

And sure enough, a couple years later he was out of business, not because he couldn’t make money and get customers, but because he was sure he was going to fail. It still just kills me.