Bullish Life: When To Cut Your Losses And Walk Away

Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.

The above is a still from the end of the 1988 classic Heathers, from right around the part when Winona Ryder blows up her boyfriend and declares herself the “new sheriff in town.”

Let’s see a letter from a reader who’s friend is stuck in a shrubbery-filled rut.

My good friend “Gloria” has been in a long-time terrible relationship. She wants to get out and move far away from her on-and-off ex “Jesse” (yes, I have sent Gloria Bullish Life: Breaking Free from Terrible Situations).

Gloria’s major stumbling block: she started a landscaping business with Jesse in Atlanta several years ago. Jesse’s parents bought the (very expensive) van, and Gloria invested her small savings into getting the business off the ground. Early on, Jesse dropped out of the business and was content to let Gloria do all the work. Jesse has not had a job in years — he alternates between living with Gloria and her parents, and “borrows” money from all of them.

The business is doing reasonably well, but Gloria is not a bookkeeper (she hasn’t kept invoices of her appointments), and is about 3 years behind on her taxes. Atlanta is threatening to garnish her wages for unpaid taxes. (Not to mention Jesse regularly has some “emergency” that requires thousands out of Gloria’s pocket.)

Gloria wants to sell the business and give Jesse’s parents a potion of the profit, then move away — she feels like she owes them a chunk of money because 1) they bought the van and 2) she lived with them rent-free for a time before she got her own apartment. Recently the parents lost their home to foreclosure because of the father’s drug addiction (Jesse’s own drug problems and drunk driving accidents also took a toll on the family purse) — Gloria feels sorry for them.

My opinion: while it is admirable that Gloria wants to honor her debts, Jesse’s parents bought the van for Jesse, not Gloria — Jesse abandoned the van and the business. From the beginning, Gloria has paid for all maintenance on the van. Gloria actually tried to give back the van once or twice to the parents, and they just seemed bewildered on why she thought they’d want it.

I’ve advised her to go to a free local tax preparer and get her taxes in order, then hunt for a certified business broker to see how much she could sell her business for (BTW, she definitely does not want to continue landscaping in a new location after she’s done with the business—she only got into it in the first place because Jesse was a professional landscaper). I’ve also told her there is no shame in selling the van, giving a token of the money to the parents, and then moving away, but she finds this idea unacceptable because she has worked so hard and invested so much (literal) blood, sweat, and tears into her business.

Maintaining a business is challenging, selling a business is challenging, and trying to do both when you are being treated like a scullery maid/sex doll with a built-in ATM by an intimate partner is infinitely more challenging.

Should she push on to sell the business, or cut her losses now?

So many things going on here! Here we go.

On selling a business

Gloria is quite reasonable in wanting to sell her business.

When my company was in the process of slowly failing (see Bullish: To Give Up or Not to Give Up?), I was surprised that a lawyer I knew felt I could sell the business. Sell what? My business was basically three computers, some cheap office furniture, and me working my ass off. Sure, we had a name and website and a nice logo, but it’s not like customers worldwide recognized and trusted the brand. Without my continued participation, the assets of this company could conceivably been worth $5K or so to someone wanting to start an extremely similar business in a nearby location. It wasn’t really worth it for me to try to find that mythical beast of a creature.

Gloria, though, has a van, some landscaping equipment, happy customers, and presumably some means of getting the business’s name out there. Yep, you can totally sell that, although sometimes it takes a couple of years. Business brokers often counsel owners wanting to retire to start looking for a buyer years ahead of time; such a buyer may want your continued participation while he or she gets up to speed.

There’s no right move here. Sell the van and leave right away. Sell the whole business and leave … later.

As an alternative, there are many other van-based businesses one could pursue, only some of them creepy!

Share This Post:
    • Mercy

      My Name is MERCY.I will love to share my testimony to all the people
      in the forum cos i never thought i will have my girlfriend back and
      she means so much to me..The girl i want to get marry to left me 4
      weeks to our weeding for another man..,When i called her she never
      picked my calls,She deleted me on her facebook and she changed her
      facebook status from married to Single…when i went to
      her place of work she told her boss she never want to see me..i lost
      my job as a result of this cos i cant get myself anymore,my life was
      upside down and everything did not go smooth with my life…I tried
      all i could do to have her back to all did not work out until i met a
      Man when i Travel to Africa to execute some business have been
      developing some years back..I told him my problem and all have passed
      through in getting her back and how i lost my job…he told me he
      gonna help me…i don’t believe that in the first place.but he swore
      he will help me out and he told me the reason why my girlfriend left
      me and also told me some hidden secrets.i was amazed when i heard that
      from him..he said he will cast a spell for me and i will see the
      results in the next couple of days..then i travel back to US the
      following day and i called him when i got home and he said he’s busy
      casting those spells and he has bought all the materials needed for
      the spells,he said am gonna see positive results in the next 2 days
      that is Thursday…My girlfriend called me at exactly 12:35pm on
      Thursday and apologies for all she had done ..she said,she never knew
      what she’s doing and her sudden behavior was not intentional and she
      promised not to do that again.it was like am dreaming when i heard
      that from her and when we ended the call,i called the man and told him
      my wife called and he said i haven’t seen anything yet… he said i
      will also get my job back in 3 days time..and when its Sunday,they
      called me at my place of work that i should resume working on Monday
      and they gonna compensate me for the time limit have spent at home
      without working..My life is back into shape,i have my girlfriend back
      and we are happily married now with kids and i have my job back
      too.This man is really powerful..if we have up to 20 people like him
      in the world,the world would have been a better place..he has also
      helped many of my friends to solve many problems and they are all
      happy now..Am posting this to the forum for anybody that is interested
      in meeting the man for help.you can mail him on this e-mail
      lovespelltemple90@gmail.com i cant give out his number cos he told me
      he don’t want to be disturbed by many people across the world..he said
      his email is okay and he’ will replied to any emails asap..hope he
      helped u out too..good luck lovespelltemple90@gmil.com

    • Grant

      Good post Jen. First one of yours I’ve read. (Now I have to go read all those links!) I’m not in any of the described positions (Thank God) but I’ve been there and someone I care about is. Except she has 5 kids and no partner. How does the 5 year plan work in that case. She’s more than willing to leave everyone behind, but what about the kids?!