A True Story of the Cost of Inaction
Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.
Jennifer Goldman is a business transformation specialist, energizing business management and operations' changes to reduce work, avoid costly missteps, and invigorate your team and growth. She welcomes your questions. To submit yours, please email her here.
How many times have your clients or employees stalled and failed to take action? And then their stall had you managing the fallout?
Inaction is an action. A detrimental one. And it sounds like this….
We need more information.
The timing isn’t right.
I can’t put this in place right now. It’s probably going to take a couple of years to budget for it.
Now consider how many times you’ve delayed making a business decision you wish you hadn’t delayed. Maybe it was stalling to hire, fire, or putting off much needed office or system upgrades.
“Your problem isn’t ideas. Your problem is you don’t act on them. You kill them.”- Mel Robbins.
I’ve talked with many business leaders who knew there was an important decision that needed to be made, but their only decision was to do nothing. Often, that indecision cost them time, energy, money, and undue stress. That is the cost of inaction, and the price tag on it is rarely low.
A true story of the cost of inaction
I had a business client who spent four months delaying the hiring of support staff. They lost two key client managers due to burnout.
The cost of replacing those key employees quickly and scrambling to retain clients was more than $300,000. And that doesn’t include the lost revenue from new opportunities that weren’t nurtured due to lack of energy and capacity. The inaction cost was well over $400,000 and the news rippled through the community and industry, making them less attractive to potential hires.
Here’s another epic example – one you won’t easily forget. Remember Kodak? Well, its cost of inaction was its entire business. Unknown to most, Kodak invented the first digital camera in the 1970s. It filed a patent but failed to develop the technology because it feared it would negatively impact its film sales. In 2007, its patent expired and in 2012 it filed for bankruptcy. Of course, it could not have predicted that film would become obsolete, but its fear of action (resulting in inaction) cost the entire company.
In both these scenarios, the decision-makers were savvy business executives. Unfortunately, while they were looking left, costly consequences were happening on the right.
Three steps to overcoming inaction
While calculating the dollar amount of inaction can be a great motivator to act, that only works after the outcome happened. That is, after the invoice from the inaction has been paid.
Rather than overanalyze the cost of inaction, focus on the benefits of action first. Flip the paradigm in your head:
- Count backwards 5-4-3-2-1.
- Remind yourself of the 40% rule
- Write: If I do X, Y will happen. If I don’t do X, Z will happen.
The counting switches your brain to allow it to focus on the goal by distracting you from worry and fear. Per motivational coach Mel Robbins, this works because it is a research-backed metacognition tool that rewires your brain to positive action and creates lasting behavioral change. When you count backwards, you break unconscious habit loops and replace them with deliberate decision making. You see, 40% of our mental and physical behaviors are routines wired into our limbic systems. When you apply the countdown-to-five rule, you interrupt the automatic patterns you’re used to and engage the prefrontal cortex (the rational part of your brain). In other words, you skip past your brain’s resistance to change and move to action. As the counting becomes a habit, you’ll experience a shift inside yourself that is much deeper, a transformation that improves confidence and inner strength.
The 40% rule is simple and legitimate. When your mind tells you that you’re exhausted, fried, or totally tapped out, you’re only 40% done. You still have 60% left in your tank. In a 2008 study, researchers found that subjects who were given a caffeine placebo were able to lift more weight than those who were actually given caffeine. Like lifting a heavy weight, running a marathon, or memorizing the Dewey decimal system, what we think is impossible is just our brain putting the 40% rule in place. When an effort feels too massive to overcome or our body starts to feel fatigued, our brain turns the governor on.
Write with gratitude and embrace the power of documentation. The somatosensory experience of putting pen to paper will encode and drive lasting cognitive changes in the brain. Writing is also very therapeutic as it forces you to breathe, which moves blood and brings oxygen to your brain to ”clear the cobwebs.” It’s just like doing a stretching set in the gym or a light jog to warm up your legs before running a race. Writing engages multiple spheres of your brain and quite literally helps it to form new connections and grow. When these new connections are specifically tied to an action, you train your brain to handle the change that it is about to endure.
The bonus? When you write out possible solutions and the benefits of taking action, this is a form of taking action in itself.
Act now, tomorrow, and the next day
While it is wise to identify the cost of action and inaction, once the pain of inaction wears off, it is easy to fall to old habits. This new, three-step approach is something that works and provides positive results. Join me in changing and keep practicing until it becomes involuntary. This is an action that produces great results.
“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” Tony Robbins
Jennifer Goldman, CFP®, is the founder and CEO of Andover, MA-based Jennifer Goldman Consulting. Jen brings 30 years of experience transforming over 1,000+ service businesses to thrive. Her mission is to increase the health of businesses so they can provide knowledge and choices to more employees and consumers.