When you first start a business you have certain ideas of how it will evolve and where it, and you, will be in a few years. The truth is that in most cases the reality of the business doesn’t even come close to what you had imagined in the beginning. Sometimes it becomes much larger and complex than you had imagined, sometimes it fails, sometimes it pivots into something completely different and sometimes it can imprison you and that is what I wanted to talk about in this post.

I’ve seen this happen to a few of my friends in the business world and I’ve even experienced it myself, it’s when you build up a business and it’s actually a somewhat successful business, you’ve hired some people you have a steady stream of income and from other people’s point of view it seems like you’ve become a successful entrepreneur but there is one problem, you can’t exit the business you’ve created, you’re stuck, imprisoned by your own creation.

When you started out you might have had ideas about continually expanding and growing but the reality of your situation is that at a certain point your company stopped growing and it got stuck in mediocrity. You’re not sure why it stopped growing and despite everything you’ve tried nothing works to grow it more. So slowly you’ve gotten stuck with running a business that has no possibility of growing, it just does the same thing over and over and nothing ever changes. You become very tired of working there and you lose your edge, you don’t have the energy anymore to continue trying, you just show up for work because that is what you do, you are the person that runs the company and makes sure everybody has a job. In many cases you will have been so broken down by this process that you can’t even think about exiting your company and trying something else, after all that would mean that you would have to admit to yourself that you failed.

But let’s assume you are one of the few that is brave enough to think about the possibility of exiting your company, it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Usually you are working in a specific industry or/and in a specific market area with only a handful of competitors, so your strongest option is to sell the business to one of them, but what if they aren’t interested, who do you then sell to? You would have to find someone interested in entering your market which is not always easy to do, especially if your in a declining industry. So selling your company is difficult and after months (or even years) of trying to sell it you haven’t been able to find a buyer so what do you do? Could you close down the company?

The mental obstacle of doing something as drastic as closing down a company that isn’t losing money is almost impossible to overcome. You would have to fire all your employees, explain your decision to all your customers, investors and others. It’s really not an easy thing to do.

So what happens, you end up working for the rest of your life in a business that you’ve lost all passion for and continues to drain your energy. You’re stuck in a business jail. It really is a unique situation to be in and difficult to explain to people that haven’t been there because others can’t understand that a profitable company can be a bad thing.