August 24, 2016 • Bookshelf

“The Dip”

As I recently listened to an entrepreneur describe her vision and business plan, outlining that insufficient capital was a piece of the puzzle she was missing in order to reach her business goal, she said “I’m in The Dip.” “You know, the one described by Seth Godin.”  Honestly, I had never heard of the book, so I downloaded a copy the next day, as I was eager to read it (or listen, as always, for me).  As I listened to the beginning, it reminded me of the book No Man’s Land by Doug Tatum, describing the many hurdles entrepreneurs face as they grow their business.  No Man’s Land is a read we often recommend to entrepreneurs that are on the “treadmill” of running a small business, where the founder (s) can no longer do the same thing to keep growing and ultimately scale his or her business.  Typically, it is at this point, where the founder’s initial passion and energy for the business or market they are in begins to fade.  They begin to wonder if all of the hard work required to get the company to the next level is really worth it.  If you are an entrepreneur, and find yourself in No Man’s Land or The Dip, even when doubt creeps into your mind, it is still probably hard to imagine jumping off the treadmill and quitting, right?  After all, quitters never win. Or do they?  In Seth Godin’s book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), he provides practical guidance to the contrary.

Mr. Godin describes three scenarios in which businesses or individuals often find themselves, as they journey toward a stated goal. He also offers ways to identify if you should have the courage to forge forward or quit [and yes, quitting does take courage too].  The scenarios he outlines are:

1. The Dip: Best Case.  You’ve been successful, but now have dipped after the beginning came easy.  When you started, you were a natural.  You easily picked up baseball, basketball, chess….or selling to start your first business.  The Dip occurs when you realize you are stuck at this level until you become a true master of the craft.  Malcolm Gladwell refers to this as the 10,000 hour rule.  The key to The Dip is identifying a tangible path or plan forward, enabling you to become an expert at whatever it is you are striving for.  Ask yourself, can you realistically pull through The Dip? If yes, and you make it through, you now have a unique skill, product or business model to share with the world.

At ScaleCo, our expertise is working with scaleups, who believe they can make it through The Dip with the right resources and processes surrounding them.  When fully embraced, our process lays a foundation for scale, elevating the founder to be free once again to begin working ON the business, with laser focus on the end goal.

2. The CUL-DE-SAC (French word for “Dead End”). Again, you’ve been successful, but have dipped.  When you first started, you were a natural.  However, now you are working harder than ever before, but nothing seems to get better OR worse.  You can’t figure out a plan to truly master your craft.  You were a great high school soccer player (it came easy), you were a good college soccer player (worked very hard), but you don’t see the plan to becoming a true master.  At this point, you need to understand what your goal is, and have the courage to ask yourself if it is truly achievable.  If your goal is to play for the US Olympic team, you probably want to find another craft or passion and quickly set a new goal.  Be confident that you are “quitting” for the right reasons.  In business speak, if you run a lifestyle business, acknowledge it.  Are you happy with it?  If yes, plan accordingly and enjoy it.  If no, you probably want to think about selling or quitting.  Your personal time and resources are best focused elsewhere.

3. The Cliff. This is where you know the situation is coming to an end and you can’t quit until you fall off the cliff and the whole thing falls apart.  It is best to get out as quickly as you can.

Now, with these three scenarios outlined, create a rule for both personal and business planning.  Ask yourself, is the pain of The Dip worth the end result?  Do you have the personal commitment and talent to get through The Dip?  Move forward with opportunities where you can become the best in your world [and you are satisfied] or a true master.

And remember, becoming a quitter may actually be your best choice.  According to Godin, winners quit all the time – they just quit the right stuff at the right time.

About ScaleCo

ScaleCo Capital is a Cleveland-based lower middle market private equity firm that focuses on control-oriented leveraged buyout and growth equity investments in fast-growing companies based primarily in the Great Lakes region. ScaleCo partners with companies in the verticals of business services, tech-enabled services, value added distribution and assembly, and training, compliance, and education sectors, bringing operational expertise and strategic resources to scale their growth potential and build long-term value. To learn more, visit scaleco.com.

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