Admit it: you’re failing (now it’s time for triage)

Updated to Business on December 14, 2022.

Every day, for almost five weeks, I’ve been on the phone with as many as five entrepreneurs. It’s been quite a ride. Every phone call leads me down the stairs into the boiler room of someone else’s business. I need to see if our new service SOS is going to be a fit for them, so we get right into all the workings (and failings) of their business.

Here’s what I am learning (with a bit of gratuitous feedback):

  1. you like to put lipstick on a pig. Face it: we all have things that need fixing. The sooner you are honest about what’s broke, the faster you can get help.
  2. your pain is fuelling more fear. Sure, you’ve had set-backs. But you’re still eating and sleeping in a warm bed. Look at the big picture, step out of the fear room and into the one with hope.
  3. history paints your future picture. We all screw up (I practice daily). That doesn’t mean life’s set backs determine tomorrows wins. Only you do that.

I have one solution: ADMIT IT – YOU’RE FAILING


When the house is burning down, or it’s a five-car pile up, emergency crews go into triage. It’s their way of making sense of overwhelm and chaos and taking appropriate (non-emotional) action. When your business is burning down, and you need a way out, triage is the route. 

In triage, there are only three decisions (taken right from the triage definition):

1. What will not survive, even with treatment?

You have duds that need to be dropped – they are holding you back. Everyday thousands of people are looking for the solutions you sell. Why are you trying to provide 10 things when your real magic can be delivered with just a handful of options?

2. What will survive without treatment?

Perfection is the luxury of the idle – you don’t have time for it. If you have products or services that people like and buy, leave them alone. Get on with triage and clean house, you can always fiddle with font size once you have your house in order.

3. What depends on treatment to survive?

Now here’s the work. Triage is all about making tough decisions, here’s yours: what do you need to do immediately to bring money in? I keep hearing high-falutin’ ideas about products that haven’t been researched or market tested, will take three months to build (if you’re lucky), and will be offered up to a client list shorter than my grocery list. Get real.

You have skills and insights people want and will pay for. Stop thinking you are an enterprise, when your bank account tells you otherwise. Make a goal, calls some prospects, and get started.


I’m sorry if this seems hard nosed, or demeaning. I’m only ranting because I care about you. 

If you feel stuck and frustrated – even if you aren’t an entrepreneur, go into triage. Here’s how to get started.

Separate all your projects into three columns:

  1. What will not survive, even with treatment?
  2. What will survive without treatment?
  3. What depends on treatment to survive?

Deal quickly with column No. 1. This week Procter and Gamble announced they are dropping 100 product lines that bring in some $8B in sales in an effort to become a smaller, more nimble company. If they can, you can.

Make some future plans to deal with column No. 2. And then move on.

Finally, get to work on column No. 3. This is likely where your most potential is – if you deal with it decisively and soon.

What about you? Tell me below in the comments how you are doing triage on your projects.