How to Know When to Quit

In the US we have a certain general national mindset when it comes to business. It can be characterized by innovation, growth, excellence, risk taking and we celebrate the idea of “Never Quit”.

We repeat and celebrate stories that serve as examples of victory that come after long periods of hardship and perseverance. This “try, try and try again” mindset is represented well by courageous people like Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Oprah Winfrey. We are enamored with what can be achieved if we simply stay the course.

However, sometimes it makes sense to quit. It can be the right thing to do. It can be the responsible thing to do. It can be the course of action that is best for your team’s long term health.

We recently worked with a company that had to make the tough decision about closing a clinic. It wasn’t an easy call. But it was the right call for them. The benefits of closing far outweighed the risks of remaining open.

It’s not surprising that we will come to these crossroads occasionally. After all, many companies are trying to grow aggressively. There is so much opportunity out there and growth minded companies often succeed when they roll the dice. But of course, not every effort will be successful. It could perhaps be said that if a multi-clinic company has not had at least one failure clinic, then they aren’t trying hard enough. Perhaps it could also be said that if a one-clinic company hasn’t had at least one failed new program, they aren’t innovating enough.

If we are trying new things and trying to serve our communities in new and better ways, we will inevitably come face-to-face with apparent failure. How do you know when it is right to close a clinic or end a program? There are many, many variables and subjective values, but here are four easy exercises that can help you make that decision. I will use the example of “clinic” to simplify the text. But as you read this, insert whatever it is you are considering quitting: a program, a person, a commitment, a goal, it could be almost anything.

1. What is your Vision?

If you know where you are committed to get to as a company, it helps a lot. The clearer that Vision is, the more it will help you make good choices.

Think about how important the clinic’s existence is to you achieving your Vision. If the clinic in question is essential to you reaching your Vision, then you have two choices: Persevere until you reach success, or change your Vision. 

We often say, “You don’t choose your Vision, your Vision chooses you.” That is, your Vision is just something that “is”, it is not something that you dreamed up. If that is the case for you, then changing your Vision isn’t an option. You will have to keep pushing until your clinic is successful.

If the clinic is not essential to achieving your Vision, then closing may be an acceptable choice.

2. Three scenarios x 2

This is a pretty “left brain” exercise. Sometimes we can become committed to an idea and then realize down the road that the benefit just isn’t worth the effort. This is particularly true when we aren’t working in our Strengths.

i) Write down the likely result 6 months from now if you keep on your current course. Try to make it as detailed as possible. Include financial data. Now write down the likely result if you keep going for 3 years. Be as honest as possible with what is most likely to happen. Not what you hope. What is most likely with what you know now.

ii) Do the same 2 exercises for how things would be if it ended up being 25% better than what is likely.

iii) Do the same 2 exercises for how things would be if it ended up being 25% worse than what is likely.


How many of those 6 scenarios would you be really happy with? Not just OK with, but really happy with. If four or more of those scenarios are not ones that are exciting to you, then that should lean you toward the idea of closing the clinic.

A key point to remember is that you only have limited resources. These include time, money, energy and personnel. One of your most important jobs as a leader is to allocate the appropriate resources where they will have the most effect. So you don’t want to keep spending precious resources in an area that won’t give you a good return.

Two things that aren’t limited are ideas and opportunities. There are always more of both. Don’t tie up precious resources in a project that won’t give you a good return. Free them up for the next good opportunity or idea that comes your way.

3. Imagine the Future You

This is a technique that I have used for many years and it has never let me down. I think it’s a good idea to do this after the above two exercises. Make sure you are in a restful state, and that you won’t be disturbed. Ensure you are free from distractions.

Close your eyes. Project yourself into the future. One year from now may be a good length of time. Imagine how it feels if you have kept the clinic open. Imagine your workday. Imagine the people you are with and how those relationships feel. Imagine how you will spend your evenings.

Think about the feelings that you would have. Would you be excited? At peace? Hopeful? Stressed? Tired?

Now imagine how your life would be if you were to close the clinic. How are your days and how does that feel? Linger in that future state to really appreciate that reality.

Hopefully if you go deep and really take time to do this, one of these scenarios will give you a greater sense of peace. That is probably the option that you should choose.

4. A Third Option

Sometimes when we are too focused on a perceived threat, we simplify the options to just two choices. This is particularly true if we are operating in a stressed or urgent fashion. This tendency really helps when we are in a dangerous situation. It allows us to make a quick decision and pick the best of two options. Survival is much more likely if you can make a good decision out of two choices.

However, in business we shouldn’t usually operate like that. We shouldn’t be rushed. We should be open to using the fullness of our mind and imagination to make the best decision.

Often the best decision is not one of the two that we immediately consider. So take some time and brainstorm other possible solutions to this challenge. You may just find that a third option brings with it excitement and a sense of peace. Don’t end this exercise until you have come up with at least two other options. They may both be terrible options, but at least you know you have tried every idea.

My advice to you is to not to be afraid of shunning the “Never Quit” motto. Instead, realize that determining where to allocate assets is your most important job. If you can consistently gain the greatest return on the allocation of those assets, the power of compounding will be working in your favor.

Matt Slimming, PT, DPT