Strategic Retreat

Question: I know that you often quote Winston Churchill’s statement, “Never, ever, ever give up.” But it seems that there are situations where it’s clearly better to step away and move on. Please help reconcile this with your “never quit” philosophy.

Answer: There’s actually no conflict at all. But there is a difference. A bit confused, are you? Giving up means quitting in defeat. That’s a mindset. Strategic adjustments are also a mindset but there’s still a purpose. The difference is that giving up and quitting often comes with a sense of resignation and lost hope. Usually there’s an element of finality involved – perhaps even failure.

I was talking to a friend who told me the story of one of his twenty-something sons. The young man had done very well for himself financially at an early age by investing in rental properties at bargain basement prices. One day he went to his father and said he was giving it all up and selling everything. He didn’t like the fact that he was becoming obsessed with material possessions. Then he took his money, invested it in more liquid assets and went to a foreign country to do charitable work. At first I thought that he was quitting and running away. But as my friend talked further I realized that his son had simply made a strategic adjustment. He hadn’t failed at all but simply wanted to re-purpose his life.

In my entrepreneurial career I’ve made many strategic adjustments including some that might be deemed as strategic retreats. But they always fit into a bigger picture. Never once do I believe that I ever gave up or quit on anything. Never did I think that I had failed or was defeated. There were a number of business ventures that did not follow the plan and as such, could not be defined as successful. After tinkering with them and making adjustments, I eventually surmised that our efforts (and capital) could be deployed more wisely and profitably in other areas. This led to the shutdown or sale of those ventures.

How do we know when it’s time to make a strategic retreat? The decision is one that can be made by answering three simple yet powerful questions. Is the endeavor I’m evaluating meeting my expectations, goals and objectives? If the answer is no, then I ask, have I made all adjustments that could reasonably be made to make the endeavor succeed? If the answer is yes, then I ask my final question. Have I allowed enough time for all of the adjustments to produce the desired results? If I answer yes, then it’s time to move on.

The less we allow our emotions to cloud the decision to make a strategic retreat, the less likely we will be to see it as quitting or giving up. This will give us the strength and confidence to make more such decisions in the future and move us ever closer to our ultimate vision.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


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