Make Failure Extra Painful

22nd December 2017

One of our family friends - let’s call him Sam - set a New Year’s resolution to lose 55 lbs in 2017.

On the first of January, he was ready and raring to go. He had bought new trainers and workout gear…. He had a supply of fresh vegetables in his fridge… He had bought his copy of the South Beach Cookbook (which he handed over to his wife…).

In my head, I pictured him poised at the starting line of a race, rocking from one new sneaker to another with a determined look of concentration, as he waited to shoot down the track and leave 55 lbs in the dust.

When I checked back in with him just two months later, though, he was about as far as he could get from that determined guy I saw in January. He hadn’t lost a pound. Maybe he’d even gained some weight.

So what happened?

I certainly wasn’t going to ask….

But I am very sympathetic to him, because I think it’s enormously difficult to achieve a big goal like that when you are doing it all by yourself, relying on your own willpower.

Some people can do it, but others find it quite hard to sustain. There is no accountability and no immediate, painful consequences if you fail.

Sure, I know Sam preferred to lose the weight – he wanted to be healthier – but in practical terms, his life carried on much the same if he fell off the wagon. He could stray off his diet, and…. Nothing much happened, at least in the short term.

That’s why so many weight loss programs build in a measure of accountability. In some cases, you are part of a group losing weight together. The other people on the programme keep you on track, because you don’t want to be the one who hasn’t lost weight that week.

In recent years, I read recently that the trend is for people to commit to paying financial penalties if they don’t achieve their goal.

So why am I talking to you about diets? Well, over the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing the imperative to set a BHAG for your business – that’s a Big, Hairy, Audacious financial Goal, like doubling your turnover or your profit, or working out and beginning to implement your exit plan.

And one of the keys to making sure that you stay on track with your BHAG in 2018 is to put in place some accountability and painful consequences if you fall behind, or don’t achieve your goals.  Failing has to carry a cost, or it’s too easy to abandon.

How might that work?

Try these:

  • Share your BHAG with others and make yourself instantly, publicly accountable. Announce your BHAG to your team, and explain what you’re going to do, and how you’re going to do it. Once you’ve made your BHAG public, it is more difficult to kick it into the long grass. People will ask questions if you don’t achieve what you set out to do – how’s that for motivation? Added benefit: Creating a clear goal for your company, and delivering a plan of action, is incredibly motivating for your team as well, and will help get them on board.
  • Set a consequence for not reaching your goal. The more painful the consequence, the better. But if you don’t want to go so far as scrubbing all the office toilets with a toothbrush, at the very least, commit to donating a significant amount to charity (from your own pocket…!).
  • Set a reward for reaching your goal. The bigger and more audacious, the better! If you manage to achieve that ambitious financial goal next year, you’ll have earned a luxury holiday, right? Or perhaps a reward for your whole team, announced well in advance, would motivate them too.
  • Ensure you have firm deadlines in place. Every goal becomes easier to achieve when there is a clear end-date, so it cannot drag out and be delayed forever. This was instrumental in our success implementing our own BHAG last year. Once we sent out the invitations to our 25th anniversary celebration, we knew that had to be organised or we would be letting a lot of people down. And we also knew that we had to have our new website and my book out on that date. Failure was simply not an option.

The same methods apply whatever your New Year’s resolution is. But I hope that this year, you will apply them to an ambitious financial goal for your business.

Here’s to your growth!

Warm regards,


PS. Whenever you’re ready… Here are four ways I can help you sort out financial issues in your business:

  • Give your company a financial health check. Make sure there are no nasty surprises lurking in your accounts and that your cash is being handled safely and professionally. Click here to find out more.
  • Grab a copy of my book, Business by Numbers. Discover how to put the right financial foundations in place for your business, so you can grow faster. It’s like having me at your beck-and-call, 24/7, for less than £10. Click here.
  • Work directly with me and my team. If you’d like to work directly with us to make sure you take the very best financial decisions for your business and grow faster, message and put “Working directly” in the subject line. Tell me a little bit about your business and what you want to achieve financially, and I’ll get back to you with details.
  • Join our ‘Just One Day’ programme. We’ll spend a day with you and your directors, putting together a detailed, workable plan to drive your business forwards. Perhaps for the first time, you’ll achieve complete clarity on where you need to take your business – and exactly how to get there. Mail 'here' for more details.

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