8 Ways to Determine to ‘Stay In the Game’ Or ‘Call It Quits!’

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Even the greatest had trouble ‘calling it quits.’ Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky – all peak performers who struggled at the end of their careers.

What motivated them to stay when it seemed obvious their thoroughbred years were behind them?

That’s a great question that goes well beyond professional sports. It also universally applies to companies and careers.

Just read today’s news. Sears just announced they will no longer be selling Whirlpool appliances.   America’s ‘go-to’ store for appliances has become expendable as Whirlpool willingly pulls their products over a pricing dispute. With their fall from grace as the market volume leader in appliances, Whirlpool now views Sears as beyond their prime.

Better. Faster. Cheaper. There’s always a new competitor – or generation of coworkers – nipping at our heels. And today’s rapid pace of change demands you ‘keep up’ or ‘get out,’ sometimes by your own decision and sometimes not.

So, here it is my friends, the million dollar questions we all need to ask ourselves. Do you WANT to stay in the game? And are you ABLE to stay in the game?

Be clear, these are two very different questions with two very different thought processes. Ponder these questions carefully as you read through the top signs for determining if you stay or if you go. These apply universally to both companies and individual careers.

Top 8 Signs to Determine Whether You Should ‘Stay in the Game or ‘Call it Quits’

The meek might inherit the earth but only those who consistently ‘go the extra mile’ will be relevant in today’s increasingly ‘dog eat dog’ environment. I am a firm believer that without passion, desire and drive, you will only be an ‘average’ player in the field. If the adjectives ‘tired, complacent or hesitant’ apply to you, then it is time for a change. Be proactive and be the one to make the change before the change is made for you.

This might seem obvious but sometimes one’s denial is greater than one’s perception on reality. Are your customers still interested in what you have to offer? Will they still be interested in 2 – 3 years or is a competitive threat poised to sweep in? Or will customer need be supplanted by the next technology breakthrough obsoleting your product or service. Don’t be a Blockbuster. Instead, be vigilant about your industry and individual competitive landscape to know what’s on the horizon . . . and how you compare.

Are customers still calling? Or are they disappearing? The reason could be your core competencies. Is your value proposition still offering value? If not, what can be done about sharpening them? Do you have the time and resources to do so? Will an enhanced value proposition make customers favor you over your competitors? What does next year’s ‘new competition’ look like and can you effectively compete? These are only a few of the vital questions that need to be honestly assessed to determine your best course of action.

Without proper financial backing, great products/services are one step away from ‘breaking the bank.’ Financial soundness is just as important as having a great strategy. Look at it this way, it’s very difficult to ‘borrow’ your way to success. And it’s even more difficult to make logical, market-based decisions when you’re struggling to make payroll.

Short term vision and strategy delivers results. But long-term vision and strategy delivers sustainability. Make sure you’re relevant for the long-term by creating a dynamic 5 year strategy that is revisited and updated annually. Let me be clear, this is not a pretty plan that sits on the shelf. This is an actionable strategy that maps your future. Treat it as such.

In his book The Re-inventors, Jason Jennings says ‘if your company is not growing or making a profit, you are dying.’ This says it all, even for non-profits. The bottom line is consumers prefer to invest in successful, growing companies and NOT in companies they perceive to be ‘dying.’

The same goes for an individual’s career. People naturally tend to respect, trust and others they perceive to be invested in self-growth and success. And companies need individuals like this to be successful and continue to offer jobs. A win-win for everyone.

This area harkens back to my comment about a long term strategy and vision creating sustainability. But scalability can be just as important in a society where success is measured by size. While I’m not suggesting that you sacrifice quality for volume, you still need to assess whether your growth happens organically or through acquisition. And whether the growth is a strategic advantage. Or breaks the bank.

Our college economics courses are still on point. It’s all about supply and demand and keeping your competitive advantage a tangible competitive advantage. Know who you are and what you do well. Don’t enter saturated markets because everyone else is. Think mattresses. Instead, stay on top of your competition, be frequent and swift with new features and updates, and continually let your customers know why you’re the best. These ARE barriers to competition. If you can’t do this, then your market WILL become saturated with ‘me-too’ products/services.

‘Staying’ or ‘Going’?

I started off with the sports legends for a reason. It’s extremely difficult to know when to ‘throw in the towel’ if one believes they still have it in them to compete and win. If you, or your organization, can emphatically say ‘yes,’ to the above, I’d say you are well on your way to long term success and viability. If you happen to answer ‘no’ to any area, it might be time to change the game or consider a different path altogether.

More than anything, know that ‘giving up’ is NOT failing. It is proactively recognizing and adapting to change that could negatively impact the position of your company or your career. And that, kind folks, is my definition of succeeding.

Warmest regards,


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