Exploring the origins, ethics and future of changemaking

Closing Shop: how do you know it is time?

In Business Euthanasia on December 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I’m guessing that you’ve been following my series on business closure and the ethics thereof. This post does not seek to provide definitive advice. What lies herein is based more on intuitions, and a reflection point for leaders to consider where they are at. If you are wondering whether your organisation is terminally ill, or whether you should close, seeking support and advice from experts would probably be wise.

Some symptoms of struggling non-profits and businesses in decline can include:

  1. Prolonged inability to attract the external resources (funds) to maintain what is necessary to operate – I am not talking about additional resources for growth, just resources to operate at a level that means you can provide a professional, ethical and effective service.
  2. Massive changes to the market whereby the organisation is competing for resources, and unable to achieve that ahead of others.
  3. Lack of, or inability to attract the expertise, knowledge, commitment and drive to turn around the organisation – this needs to be at Board and staff levels.
  4. Pain and exploitation of staff through poor resourcing – rather than scale down operations, organisations can be guilty of maintaining services by exceeding the reasonable expectations of staff.
  5. (related to 4.) Unreasonable levels of staff departure citing issues with management, workload or over-extension.
  6. Poor feedback from or decline in customers or client participation – these can be real indicators that your service doesn’t quite cut the grade.
  7. Shifts of consciousness in the market, whereby the market (or society) not longer perceives the same need or value that it did when the organisation was founded.

Take some time to reflect on your organisation in light of these. If you are experiencing these things it will probably be pretty obvious. Many of the organisations I have come across recently can easily check a number of these.

Of course, these are just signs and symptoms of an organisation that is in a period of decline. It does not mean that these are insurmountable. Some organisations are able to address these issues and use them as an inflection point for turnaround. At the same time, I would suggest that the more of these that are true, the more difficult such a turnaround might be. Having said that, there is little that the right creativity, passion and drive can’t address.

In the next post I want to look at what to do about it.

Be well,
Benny

If you are interested in understanding the business lifecycles in non-profits, including closure, you may like to check out “Building Nonprofit Capacity” by John Brother and Anne Sherman.

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