Quitting is for winners
This isn't my formal resignation as Chief Blogging Officer at FounderON. I wouldn't do that to you. And I'm not sure how I'd fill in my days if I did.
There are a few things that get drilled into you as you grow up. Get on the property ladder. Live within your means. If you want something done properly, do it yourself. Don't be a quitter.
You just take it as gospel as it's advice that comes at you from all directions as you navigate your way through life. But it's the last one, "Don't be a quitter" that struck me as absolute rubbish as I took on the role of founder of my own business.
The reality is that quitting is actually crucial to success in business, in my opinion of course. But I think it's actually much harder to quit than not quit. Because it involves tackling one of the most stubborn attributes of any founder.... the ego!
No one likes to admit that they're wrong, especially a leader in front of their team. But if I look back on my journey, I was wrong MANY times, and had I not realised, accepted and admitted the fact, then my business growth would have suffered.
A leader of a business must be open to being wrong and changing their mind. And they must make it clear to their team that it's the case. I didn't always enjoy being persuaded that I was wrong, but it became very freeing when I did. Because once the team realised that my mind could be changed, then they were far better at challenging my decisions, resulting in better outcomes.
We've all seen reports of businesses that have raised hundreds of millions and constantly lost money until eventually they can't raise any more. Of course Amazon showed us that if you have a long term plan then it can pay off, but many more businesses have showed us that sometimes you should just pivot or quit.
Here are a few examples from my business, of times when quitting was the right thing to do.
I'm available on UpWork for graphic design work...
Pivoting to an Amazon agency
Molzi started life as a retail sales agency. We would work with consumer electronics brands from outside of the UK and help them gain listings with retailers over here. It was a simple business model, charging a monthly retainer to cover the bills and then a commission on sales we made. We quickly won clients (we were a sales company after all) and started to get some wins with retail placements. The commission was very good when it came in, but not very predictable as it was reliant on a human being (the buyer) at a retailer ordering stock.
After about two years Molzi had grown to a decent revenue of around £50k per month. At least half of this was commission from retail sales, but the other half was from clients we supported on Amazon. This Amazon revenue was very different, in the fact that it was very predictable, and very scalable due to the nature of how Amazon works (machines vs humans).
We made a big decision at that point to quit the retail business, wave goodbye to half of our monthly revenue, and focus all of our efforts on the Amazon business that was much more scaleable. This was a tough decision, particularly as the retail sales was the area of the business that I was personally most involved in and valuable to. But without making that decision to quit, I don't think we'd have ever got above the £50k per month mark, and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to focus my time on building my own business rather than the business of our clients.
It was 2019, and raising money was sexy. You could easily be fooled that raising money was more important than growing revenue, based on news articles and social posts at the time. Molzi had some early traction, was in a hot space and I decided that we should capitalise by raising money to take over the world.
I created some 'ambitious' forecasts, planned to open offices around the world and aimed to raise £1m at a significant valuation. I ran the numbers and re-read the plan so often that I convinced myself that it was a sure thing and the valuation I had set was a bargain for investors.
We quickly met with some potential investors who I liked and could see how they would add value. But the valuation they offered me for their investment was in a different universe than the one I had decided was possible.
I had a gut feel, followed by some supporting advice, that I should quit my quest for £1m funding and sky high valuations and take the deal. We didn't really need the money at the time, it was more of an ego thing wanting a high valuation. But even in the few weeks leading up to this moment I could see how distracting the process of raising money would be on me and the business. So I sacrificed the fundraising and high valuation for speed and focus on continued growth.
Looking back, I found it hard enough to spend the £150k that we did raise, I'm not sure what I'd have done with £1m!
Creating our own brands
It felt like everything was in place for us to be the next Unilever. We had a market leading Amazon team, we had data showing which products sold best on Amazon and we had an office in Hong Kong primed for product sourcing.
I wanted to start importing our own branded products and sell them exclusively through our store on Amazon. Clearly many people were making big money doing this, and that's without all of the advantages above.
This became my personal passion project and was the thing I spent most time thinking about. In hindsight it was probably driven by the fact that I was losing interest a bit in running an agency and was ready for an acquisition.
I struggled to get other people as excited as me about this little side hustle. But I pushed on regardless and starting the sourcing process, thinking up brand names, researching packaging options etc.
But our investors pointed out the kind of businesses that would want to acquire Molzi are not the kind of businesses that would want a own brand sourcing business to have to integrate. I had to accept that I had to quit my new found dream and follow through on the huge opportunity right in front of me. I figured I could always start an own brand business as my next venture. And guess what, I never gave it any thought again.
These are just a few examples, and many smaller ones occurred day to day. We became a team of quitters, which I am proud of. It meant that we were trying new things constantly. I'd far rather be a quitter, than a never-trier.