Often when I am talking with potential clients, they want to know what the Return on Investment (ROI) of my services is.  And I’m happy to have that conversation because we can always find an ROI for what we do.  But I would like to propose another way of thinking.  What is the COI, the Cost of Inaction?  Most business owners don’t think about the cost of “doing nothing”.  The cost of the status quo.

ROI is important

Calculating the Return on Investment of any expenditure is important.  Every business owner should intelligently evaluate how they are investing their limited funds.  Even if their funds aren’t limited, they should be cautious with investments or they may become so.

ROI is a fairly straightforward analysis.  But beyond the financial numbers, you must consider risk and other factors that may impact the likelihood of success.  I often work with clients to develop a range of ROI, looking at worst-case and best-case scenarios.  The results of this analysis will help you to make wise investments and invest your capital in the most profitable ventures.

So ROI is important.  ROI should always be considered.  But ROI does not answer the question of what to do in every situation.

COI is a New Concept

Calculating the Cost of Inaction is a relatively new concept.   In fact, I’m not sure it’s even a real term.  And I’m sure I’ve never read about it in any financial management textbook.

Examples of COI

A prospective client met with me over six months ago.  He was facing some fairly typical challenges.  He was working long hours and struggling to find a balance between work and personal life.  The business was going well, but he was involved with every aspect of it.  He was unable to effectively delegate work.  And he wasn’t sure how he could continue to grow.

Fast forward to today.  We spoke about where things are.  His business has continued to grow.  His time commitment to the company has grown proportionately.  He has brought on some new people but still struggles to delegate work effectively to them.  Consequently, he faces the same struggles.

His primary excuse for not engaging with a coach six months ago was that he didn’t have time.  His biggest problem today is that he has even less time.   My question to him is “how will putting this off another six months improve your situation at all?”.

The Cost of Inaction for this person is that he is busier now than he was six months ago.  He’s spending less time with his family.  And the stress of the business is taking a bigger toll.  Taking time out to address this now will have a bigger impact on him now than it would have six months ago.

He’s frozen.  He’s stuck in the COI quandary.

But COI is Scary

Inaction is easy.  Inaction takes no effort.  The easiest thing to do, most of the time, is to do nothing.

It reminds me of that old saying we had in the IT shops I worked in.  “No one ever got fired for hiring IBM”.   I guess modern equivalent might be “No one ever gets fired for choosing Microsoft”….  Or Apple…

The point is.  A safe bet is just that.  “A SAFE BET”.

But being successful means taking risks.  Being successful means occasionally having to take action.  If you want to change the status quo, you need to do something.  ANYTHING.  Just do something.

But choosing to do something, when doing nothing is an option, is scary.  What if you make the wrong decision?  What if people think you are crazy for making that decision?  And what if the decision has a financial cost?  Can you ever recoup the money spent on a bad decision?  Probably not.

Do it Anyway

But here is the bottom line.  If you don’t want the status quo, then do something.  Afraid to make the investment in your business?  Do it anyway.  Are you afraid to make that organizational change that can propel you to the next level?  Give it a shot.  Afraid to hire (or fire) that person that could change everything.  Go ahead.  You’re afraid?  Do – It – Anyway.


Recognizing the cost of inaction is a critical skill for business owners and entrepreneurs who need to take drastic steps to build or grow their business.  As a business coach, often my role is to listen to the idea, ask some good thought-provoking questions, and – if it continues to make sense – give the owner permission to make the decision.  That’s often all he or she is looking for.  Someone to talk to and validate with.  Someone to give them permission to take the risk.

If this sounds like you, I’d love to talk to you.  If you are struggling with a choice to make or a difficult decision, find a trusted advocate or coach.  Contact me if you need someone like that in your life and business.  My email is jjennings@focalpointcoaching.com.