Scraping Gum Off The Bottom Of Your Shoe

In yesterday’s post, I walked through an opportunity that had presented itself to me and my thought process behind how I parse these kinds of things before making any final decisions.

This post was pretty well-received judging by the feedback that I found in my inbox this morning, but there was one thing that kept coming up in most of those replies – “How do you know when it’s time to kill something off?”

I refer to this as, “Scraping gum off the bottom of my shoe.”

You know what I’m talking about.  You’re walking down the street, thinking about something important while trying to make your way to the next thing you have to get and you’re running late…

Then it happens… You step in gum.

You know the instant your brand new $200 pair of Nike shoe hits it and when you lift your foot you feel the dirty vile substance resisting separation.

I hate stepping in gum.

That’s the feeling I get when something in my business isn’t working and I need to do something about it.

So what are my “gum on shoe” criteria?

It would be overly simplistic to say something trite like, “It’s not financially working out the way I need it to.”  When a part of your business is losing money, that’s a byproduct of the process not working.

The magic comes when you work out what exactly is wrong with the process and whether or not you can fix it.

If you can’t fix it, then you need to dig that gum off your shoe and move on.

Another thing that I look out for is when I’m not enjoying the business anymore – yeah, that’s a bit of a luxury that I have, but in truth, when something becomes drudgery, it eventually ends up going south and becoming bad business.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

Sometimes, writing these daily posts are hard.  I’m not feeling it or maybe I have nothing to talk about.  Those are the really tough days.  I find myself staring at the screen thinking, “Damn this sucks.”  At the end though, I hammer something out because I know that I still enjoy doing them on the whole and I get a lot from writing them.

A counterexample to that in a similar vein was the Casual Marketer physical newsletter product.  I basically stopped enjoying writing them.  I could sit down, hammer out an issue and it was financially worth it, but I just didn’t like doing it anymore.  I found it frustrating and that made it hard to do good work, so I killed it off and felt hugely better.

Those 24 issues of the newsletter are some really solid pieces of information and at some point, I think I’m going to bundle them all up and make them available as a complete collection for the people who missed out.

The last example will be our SEO agency.  Again, that was financially worth doing, but dealing with the clients and the inherent uncertainty of Google while trying to get results for someone else, it all just became soul destroying – I absolutely hated it.

In the case of the newsletter and the SEO business, they had become gum on the bottom of my shoe and they needed to go.

The most important determining factor for me is, time.

In specific reference to my situation, time is limited.  I’m super busy with work and our various businesses, so when something isn’t stacking up for whatever reason then I make a decision about the value of my time.

I only have so many hours in a day and if something isn’t returning good enough value on my time then it has to go.

There’s a second time to that time issue.

What happens when you have a number of good ideas on the go and something potentially better comes along?

The truth is, you need to be utterly ruthless with the value of your time in situations like this.  You need to work out how much time the potentially new and better thing requires and measure that up against the least valuable things you’re doing to see if you can find the time.

You’ll note, I never said, “make the time”.  You have a limited amount of time, you can clear stuff out that’s taking up your time, but you can never magically make more time appear.

People have this false impression that if they outsource or hire staff that they are “making time”.

No, you’re clearing out time.  Those people will still require management and you’ll need to think about them.  The tasks they perform no longer fall to you so you’re clearing out time in your day by leveraging someone else’s time.

But you can NEVER make time – remember that because it’s a valuable lesson.

Again, be utterly ruthless with your time because every second means you have less of it and you can’t make more.

Probably the last comment I’d make about scrapping parts of your business is once you think you’ve come to a landing on a decision, sleep on it for a few days – when I decided to shut the physical newsletter down, it kind of dawned on me one evening and I made peace with it instantly.  That said, I thought about it for a few days before pulling the trigger.

I’ve pretty much done that every time I’d pruned back my business.  I try and avoid those kinds of rash decisions about my business because you tend not to get a mulligan on stuff like that.  For example with the SEO business, I had about a dozen long-term clients that I had to inform and attempt to migrate to someone else if they wanted – there couldn’t be a situation where I tell them I’m shutting down and then four days later say, “Psych!  I change my mind!”

You have to be at peace with your decisions and sleeping on it for a few days, letting the idea roll around in your mind will get you there.

This list is by no means definitive, it’s really just my thought process.  I’ve probably had to kill off a dozen businesses and parts of businesses over the last ten years or so.  Part of succeeding is trying new things (sometimes they don’t work) but also making space for new and fresher ideas.

Don’t let yourself stand there on the sidewalk, your shoe stuck to the sidewalk with some dirty old gum.  It isn’t going to scrape itself off and if you just stand there wallowing in self-pity, you’re going to be late for wherever you were heading – so just get on with it, it will only annoy you for a short period of time.

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