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How Overcoming Seth Godin’s ‘Dip’ Can Take Your Business to New Heights

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How Overcoming Seth Godin’s ‘Dip’ Can Take Your Business to New Heights

erial entrepreneur and author Seth Godin doesn’t mince words when it comes to success or failure in business: “The next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realize that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.”

Godin's best-selling book, "“The Dip”: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit and When to Stick,” gets to the heart of knowing when to push through to achieve success and when to quit to shift directions. Godin says every single pursuit has a “Dip” – so between the time you start your project and the time you succeed, you’ll encounter a time of struggle where you should either chase excellence or quit strategically.

““The Dip” is the long, slow slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.”
Seth Godin, author of “The Dip”: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit and When to Stick

Overcoming “The Dip” can actually set you apart from other business owners in the decorated-apparel and promo products space. To achieve success, it's important to recognize the difference between a temporary setback and a dead end, along with when to push through “The Dip” and when to move on to something else.

Ultimately, Godin says, “If you’re trying to succeed in a job or a relationship or at a task, you’re either moving forward, falling behind or standing still. There are only three choices.” Knowing when to push forward and when to quit is really half the battle – so read on for tips to overcoming “The Dip” and enjoying wild success.

It’s Time to be Extraordinary

Some entrepreneurs settle for being “good enough,” but that won’t get you noticed as the go-to business that makes your competitors invisible. Being among the very best in your industry equals higher revenues and longevity. The key is being willing to do whatever it takes to be a superstar.

“In every city there are lots of print shops. Thousands of people say they have a great idea, but don’t actually have an original mindset or the patience to build the best print shop out there. You need to do what other people can’t, so customers will beat a path to your door.”
- Richard Greaves, veteran screen printing legend and consultant.

Godin’s concept posits that business owners willing to embrace and push through difficult challenges will innovate and be the best, enabling them to enjoy long-term success. “To be a superstar, you must do something exceptional,” Godin says. “Not just survive “The Dip”, but use “The Dip” as an opportunity to create something so extraordinary that people can’t help but talk about it, recommend it, and, yes, choose it.”

Diving Into “The Dip”

“The Dip” is a temporary setback you experience when you’re pursuing a goal. It’s the period of time when things get tough and feel like giving up. According to Godin, it’s a natural part of any journey toward excellence, and it's important to push through to achieve your desired outcome. It’s not enough to “survive” “The Dip” – the goal is to thrive during it, so you come out achieving something extraordinary for your business.

The reality is that, since most people give up when the going gets tough, you won’t have a lot of competitors if you come through a Dip.

“This concept is great for any endeavor from a macro or a micro business level. If you push through “The Dip”, where most businesses give up, you can enjoy ‘competitive insulation,’ or unique value, to help sustain higher prices and healthier margins for more cash flow.”
- Josh Ellsworth, executive VP of sales and marketing at STAHLS’

When you start something new in your business, like adding a new service, it’s fun and exciting at first – and you’ll enjoy some early wins. But, inevitably, the going gets tough in that gray area between starting out and achieving your goal.

It’s key to stay focused on the end result, so you and your team can stay motivated. “What’s really important is knowing that the other side of the endeavor is aligned to your channel strategy and customer goals,” Ellsworth says.

“If we want to be the shop that custom-decorates products others shy away from, we may need to continue to test that product again and again to realize the final result. Shops owners who find ways to create products their target market cares about – that other printers can’t create – definitely will have an advantage.”
- Josh Ellsworth, executive VP of sales and marketing at STAHLS’

Navigating “The Dip”

Godin says it best: “The real success goes to those who obsess. The focus that leads you through “The Dip” to the other side is rewarded by a marketplace in search of the best in the world.”

For example, Shawn LaFave, president and chief branding officer at NGA Promotions, sees many distributors and print shop owners start out by selling anything they can, to help build their business.

“At some point, you need to raise your average sale amount. If you don’t, you’ll become extremely busy trying to take care of all of your clients. The $150 pen order takes the same amount of time as the $600 tumbler order. You must push through that murky period to create deeper relationships and an understanding of your clients’ needs over time to create a higher average sale amount.”
- Shawn LaFave, president and chief branding officer at NGA Promotions

Put another way, 20% of your customers account for 80% of your revenue. “That means 60% of your customers are average, and 20% are likely costing you money,” says Alison Banholzer, owner of Wear Your Spirit Warehouse. “Let me say that again: You’re paying 20% of your customers to work for them.” The benefit of moving on through this Dip process, which may be slow, is that you instantly become more profitable.

For distributors and decorators struggling with “The Dip”, it can also come down to resetting your mindset. “Changing your thought pattern is challenging and takes courage to push past your older experiences and beliefs that there may be a new way of doing things,” says Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision.

“A pivot or change can be scary and trigger a fear of failure. The brain goes back to a safe place, which is where you are right now or what you know as the ‘way we've always done it.’ My advice is to use these past experiences, but take calculated risks, while bouncing ideas and seeing what others in the industry are doing.”
- Tom Rauen,CEO of Envision

Is It Really OK to Quit?

Let’s cut to the chase: According to Godin, winners do quit sometimes, but they quit quickly and strategically. A dip can turn into a Cul-de-Sac, or dead end. Unlike a Dip, which is temporary, the Cul-de-Sac is a permanent situation, where no matter how hard you try, you won’t make any progress.

There’s one more aspect here: "the Cliff." This is the deceptive situation where it looks like you’re going to make it through to your goal. Then, all of a sudden, your progress drops off rapidly.

Either way, a winner doesn’t stay in a dip for years, slogging miserably toward their goal. Instead, they “smartly” quit that effort and try something else before wasting a lot of time and money.

“I’d suggest starting with a clear view of what your business is willing to invest – both time and money. Also consider pursuing multiple solutions toward the same goal to increase your likelihood of success.”
- Josh Ellsworth
, executive VP of sales and marketing at STAHLS’

So how do you decide when it’s time to throw in the towel, so to speak, on a certain project or effort toward a larger goal? If you’ve put time, energy and money into an effort, it can be hard to weigh walking away against continuing on and potentially failing completely and wasting more time, energy and money. “The idea of strategic quitting is an important one and one that isn’t in the vocabulary of many entrepreneurs,” Ellsworth says. “By our nature, we want to conquer, dominate and win. However, it’s important to realize when it’s the right time to move on.”

Godin says that when you’re considering quitting, you’re choosing between being exceptional and quitting smartly. If you’ve made little to no progress, it may be time to quit and try something else. The best way to evaluate whether to stay the course or quit is to do it with a level head and review your measurable progress. Decide whether you’re moving forward, standing still or falling behind to get a clear picture of where to go next. “Staying diversified in your markets, initiatives and goals helps make this an easier decision for you,” Ellsworth advises.

“If you’re all in on one big thing, it’s tough to give up and we might overextend our resources. However, if you alternate markets, plans and goals, you can more clearly see when it’s time to double down on the ones that have the highest likelihood of payoff.  In any case, it’s important to pursue lofty goals worthy of your team’s real effort, to ensure that big payoff and strategic advantage.”
- Josh Ellsworth, executive VP of sales and marketing at STAHLS’

Excellence Isn’t Easy, but It’s Worth It

Things worth pursuing are typically difficult. “It’s important for decorators or distributors to go in with a team aligned on the benefits of achieving the result,” Ellsworth says.

“Approach your initiative with realistic expectations that it won’t be easy, but harness the power and creativity of a well-rounded team to sustain the effort. Attaching a given initiative to an ultimate purpose also yields dividends. People like to make a difference, so when we know the potential difference our success can make we often figure it out and weather “The Dip” to become truly excellent.”

May 7, 2023