This post originally appeared on the Louisiana Technology Park blog.
Sometimes a startup encounters a problem so serious or complex that it simply cannot be solved. Whether it’s an internal issue with staff or culture, or an external challenge such as the inability to connect with customers, issues of this magnitude can be company-killers.
As a founder, if you’ve exhausted your time, knowledge, resources and funding and you still face a problem that you just can’t fix, it’s probably time to take a hard look at the future of your business.
However, staring down serious business issues doesn’t automatically mean it’s time to wind down your startup, says Lauren Siegel, an adviser at trepwise, a New Orleans-based consulting firm that works with startups and established businesses.
Siegel says the first step for founders facing existential questions about their venture is to get over the fear of talking about it and seek help from a trusted adviser, a consulting firm or a knowledgeable figure in an accelerator or incubator. “Someone out there has the information that can help you make that decision,” she says.
The next step is to assess how bad your problems really are and what the potential solutions could be. For founders who are deciding how to move forward, here are four warning signs your entrepreneurial venture could be nearing the end.
You Can’t Reach Customers in a Sustainable Way
Siegel says that when startups are struggling to secure customers in a way that makes sense over the long term, it’s commonly because the market is saturated with similar products or offerings. The marketplace can become so competitive that the company can’t effectively reach consumers in a way that’s financially sustainable.
“That often happens when someone has a great idea that comes along a little too late, when there are other people out there, big players, acting on that idea, selling the product and reaching those consumers,” she says.
This makes it hard to differentiate your product and build a customer base to sustain the business over the long run, and should be cause for concern.