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15th October 2019
:: Trustee | Productivity | Seven Ways to Guarantee Failure

The Seven Ways to Guarantee Failure
Here’s a great article that will make you stop and think about just how you have set out your goals, and how you intend to achieve them. It’s worth keeping this handy and referring back to it every so often, just to check you’ve not slipped into bad habits again. Why not use it as a training tool for your employees? There’s some valuable principles in here.
This is how to guarantee failure – read carefully, and spot how you could guarantee success!
The Seven Ways to Guarantee Failure
1.   No Goal  !
Successful people have very clear goals and the same is true for companies. The contrary is obviously true that if you want to fail, so then make your goals very vague and difficult to pin yourself down on, it also makes it difficult for other people judge your success. So a goal that says “my firm would like to make as much profit as possible over the coming years” is much more likely to lead to failure than “my company would like to attract 500 fee paying clients and thereby make a profit of £200,000 in 2 years time.” 
When David Beckham took a free kick he was not just aiming in the general direction of the goal he was aiming for an area that measured two foot by two foot in the top left hand corner. Some would say that is why he was so successful compared to others, of course others would say it was just luck! So if you want to fail quickly then make sure you do not have a goal that is specific both in time and measured output.
2.   No Plan  !
However you may stumble upon a goal either in your business or personal life, one way to bring you back on track for failure is to have no plan to achieve that goal. The problem with most goals worth achieving is that they are by definition difficult. Only by having a plan that breaks down the challenging goal into achievable steps will you succeed. Therefore in your business it is better to have a marketing plan as to which customers you want to offer your services to and at what cost. You will also need an operational plan to decide what resources you need to achieve it. 
Putting a plan together is a very time consuming affair and because by definition it forces you to look at the future. It is challenging in terms of what you may have to achieve as an individual and in your own personal growth. For example, if you want to operate in the high net worth area it may mean that you will have to become a Chartered Financial Planner and acquire premises that are appropriate to that type of customer. That all takes courage of conviction. So don’t bother with all that painful stuff, go for failure and ignore a plan. It is rather like the way to make sure that a training plan for your staff never happens. Do not write it down, then you can be reasonably confident that you will end up every year looking back and wondering why you never did deliver the training. This brings me to the third point.
3.   Do Not Share  !
Using the training analogy, I have noticed over the years that those firms who have a clear commitment to training their staff not only publish the plan to individuals, but usually have it on display in their office for everyone to see and to challenge and question when it is not kept on track.
It is noticeable that those people who are successful not only share their business plan with their employees but also their customers and professional intermediaries. This tends to show people why you are trying to achieve what you are setting out and their role in it. Clearly if you want to fail then you will want to avoid enthusing other people in helping you achieve your vision, after all the last thing you want is professional contacts ringing you and asking you to help their clients achieve financial wellbeing.
However, you may well have been on some course over the last few years that talks about goal setting and planning and the value of sharing it but remember you still want to fail. 
4.   Procrastinate  !
A very wise man once said that you will never have enough information to make all the decisions before you launch your business. In the end you have to go with the data you can get and a will to achieve the result. One way to get you back on track to failure is to procrastinate, or to put off launching the business, or the new service, or changing your business model. There is always a good reason not to do it. 
Every cost can be looked at as a cost not an investment. One common example I have come across with many small firms of IFAs is not to recruit the right amount of support staff to leave them free to spend more time with clients and even more challenging look for more clients. Let’s face it, prospecting is the bit that we all hate doing most so if you put off recruiting admin staff you will never have to face that challenge. Some things lend themselves much more easily to procrastination than others for example, a lot of firms put off the purchasing of software because they are complex and you are never really quite sure whether they will deliver the value of the licence fees. Of course you could use the software for the one element that you most need for example, database marketing or commission reconciliation.
However, maybe you now have a clear goal and a plan about how to achieve it and you have shared it with all the stakeholders. You feel compelled to make a start but remember we do want to replicate failure here so the next step is;
5.   Be Negative  !
It is always easy to say that “I couldn’t pass that examination” or “my clients are different than yours and would never pay a fee”. In the end it is easier to find a reason “why not?” than “why to”.
With so many other things to find to be able to blame such as Product Provider’s service or interest rate rises, increasing regulation etc. The list is endless. It is always much more difficult to find a reason to do things and put yourself in a situation of change where you lose the comfort zone of staying where you are. I am sure we have all heard the old cliché of Eddison finding hundreds of steps towards success in his search for electric light rather than hundreds of individual failures. After all he only changed the world we all live in!
So it is easy to be negative – we are back on track to failing. However, you may go to a New Model Adviser conference and people share their successes with you and you feel fired up and positive about things. But do not worry. The next step will put you back on track for failure.
6.   Mix with Negative People  !
If you cannot be negative yourself then find somebody negative to talk to. The great thing about negative people is that there are a lot more of them than there are positive people. They are always more vocal at meetings etc. therefore they are a lot easier to find. They in turn will be looking for solace in their own failure and will give you lots of reasons why you should not try anything new. Negative people have that innate talent at making you feel better about things at least for the rest of the day!
However, despite all of these elements of failure you may well find yourself on the edge off success. You may well have set yourself a clearly defined goal, have a detailed plan of how to achieve it and you have shared it with all your customers and you have not put off the difficult decisions, you are extremely enthusiastic about your chances of success and you have gathered a positive team of people around you to help you achieve it.
However there is one way to bring you back on track for failure and this is the most powerful one of all:
7.   Just Give Up  !
You can give up by instalments i.e. at each hurdle you can focus on individual parts of your plan that did not work out quite the way you wanted it. Instead of trying another way to achieve the same thing just use it as an excuse for slipping back into old habits. There is an unwritten rule called “The Perito Law” that says that 80% of results come from 20% of the people and the same can be said for activities. In other words 80% of what leads to success will come from only 1 in 5 of the things you do. The problem is that you have to try them all to find out which one will succeed. The easiest way to not find the one that will be successful is of course to give up on one or all of the first four. Failure cannot live in the face of persistency so stop trying and you will fail!
Of course all of this is a bit “tongue in cheek”. All I can say is that of all the successful people I have met they tend not to do the seven things above. 
In my own career whenever I have got off track or even appear to be treading water when I have looked inwardly at my own behaviours I have found that I am normally doing at least two of the above. 
I hope therefore, that like myself over the last twenty years you will find this in future, a useful checklist when things are not going as well as they could be. I have also found it a very useful coaching tool with employees. I hope that you can avoid things that guarantee failure and I wish you every success.
This has been adapted from an original article written in 2007 by Ian Thorneycroft, Managing Director of the compliance network, SimplyBiz.

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