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Advice for Small Businesses: Make It Hurt

Austin Church

by Austin Church


Oct 15, 2012


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I intentionally left an important insight out of my last post: people don’t change until it hurts worse to stay the same. They might hear a piece of great advice for small businesses, such as implementing first fruits, but actually hearing and doing are two different things.

And it’s the doing that’s most important. To that end, I have outlined below what I call the Make It Hurt system.

Sounds appealing, right?

Humor me with a quick thought exercise and consider what you stand to gain by using the system. If you’re like most of the people I know, you’ve got at least one or two skunkworks secrets rattling around in your gourd. I’m not talking about fire-extinguishing tasks and activities that you must address to stay afloat and pay your bills, but non-urgent projects that might fall under “Business Development."

Skunkworks projects often have more business potential than bread-and-butter billable stuff. They could one day supplement your income or replace it entirely. They could bring you financial freedom and garner the respect and admiration of your peers. If you finally published that book, released that web app, or launched that new venture, prestigious universities would be stuffing honorary degrees through the keyhole.

Such huge benefits should make it easier to make those skunkworks projects a priority, yet most of us keep pushing them back and back and back. Stories about a goofy friend from college or So-and-So’s nephew who just sold a startup for $10MM and bought a ranch in Argentina make us roll our eyes.

“She got lucky,” we say, dismissing her hard work. Or, “He was in the right place at the right time, and his dad happened to know some investors.”

We minimize other people's accomplishments because we envy their success and hate our own inertia.

I say, “Death to inertia!”

And to sour grapes.

I want you to be the one who can buy the ranch, or start the orphanage, or get your pilot’s license. I want you to do something different and expect different results, and to that end, I developed Make It Hurt.

Basically, you’re going to get a workout partner and expensive gym membership for your business. You don't want to leave your buddy hanging at the gym or lose his respect, so you roll out of bed, splash cold water on your face, and stumble down to your car. Workout partners offer accountability for goals agreed upon beforehand.

If you lack the discipline to work out regularly, then you've got to find some other way to adopt healthier habits. Thousands of people pay for gym memberships yet never get in shape. Why? The prospect of wasting $50 or $75 each month in membership fees doesn't hurt enough to motivate them to hit the treadmill and weights when they would rather sleep in or watch TV.

But if you spend $100 a week, or another sum of money that hurts too much to lose without some sort of return on your investment, then you are much more likely to get in shape. So let's get down to the nitty gritty...

7 Steps for Finishing Anything & Winning the Nobel Prize

  1. Choose a friend or family member to serve as your Follow-Through Security Officer (FTSO).
  2. Agree upon your weekly milestones or "deliverables."
  3. Create a timeline with deadlines,the same time on the same day each week.
  4. Post date checks for each deadline in your timeline.
  5. Make out the checks for $100, or $500, or $1000, or another sum large enough to motivate you to meet your milestones.
  6. Do the work.
  7. Send evidence of your progress with each milestone to your FTSO every Friday. If you miss a milestone or deadline, your FTSO cashes the check, and does whatever she wants to with the money.

Before we close, I'll share one Make It Hurt case study to illustrate this advice for small businesses.

A pastor hired me to be his writing coach and help him finish his dissertation. After all, he couldn't complete his D.Min without writing it.
If he didn’t finish, he would lose the thousands that he had already paid in tuition and extensions, due to procrastination—not to mention the time investment and professional embarrassment!

The "pain" of this substantial financial loss wasn't enough to motivate him to write, so more than a year after he first hired me, I implemented Make It Hurt.

Though I cashed six checks for $100 along the way, the prospect of losing $100 each week did the trick! The pastor successfully defended his dissertation and earned his doctorate on Dec. 14, 2011.

Was the $600 worth it for him to finally finish?

You betcha.

Does your business need a new logo or website? Do you need to increase your rates or fire a bad client? Do you need to make a weekly post on your blog or start offering a new service? Death to inertia.

Take this advice for small businesses. Use the Make It Hurt system to bring those skunkworks projects to fruition and become that enviable person who dreams big and finishes well.

Categories: Business, Complete Elephant, Growing, Marketing | Tags: advice for small businesses


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