By Nora Welch, Joining Vision and Action (JVA)

It’s rare to hear from nonprofits and other organizations doing good that they don’t have concerns about their bottom line. While this is a common problem, with some common solutions (see also: JVA tips for grantwriting and fundraising), here’s a rather uncommon solution to ponder and implement.

Jack Quarles, an expense management professional who has saved companies millions of dollars and is the author of two Amazon #1 bestsellers, recently launched his new book Expensive Sentences.

What is an expensive sentence?

In short, we frequently make decisions, and often these decisions are (ill) informed by snippets of what seems like wisdom, truth or common sense. They can be everyday phrases, longstanding beliefs and/or company cultures that stop thinking right in its track.

They often go without examination and stand as “truths.” They halt further conversation or investigation and ultimately can cost an organization and its employees time, money and overall well-being. And they may even be designed to save time or resources by providing a quick decision-making filter.

Here are some more examples: It’s too late to turn back now. We’re different. The customer is always right. You get what you pay for. No one else can do it. We’re too busy right now. It’s common practice. We have to do it this way.

Or another: “It’s a requirement.” This one’s my favorite because it’s so tricky! Once upon a time, my team had a spreadsheet report that was required. It was long, tedious and repetitive. Not only did it steal time (and thus, money), but it zapped our energy and enthusiasm for the other parts of our jobs. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that it was really just a preference by a person who had long since left the organization. Hallelujah! What a relief … and what if we had never asked…?

How do I spot one?

So, how do you know if you might be working with an expensive sentence? Quarles posits that they tend to appear when these three features are at play:

Stuck. This is the perception or feeling that you can’t (or shouldn’t) change your circumstances. Perhaps it’s because “it’s the way it’s always been” or “they’ll never go for that.”

Special. This is the perception that there’s something unique and thus doesn’t fall under normal scrutiny. Perhaps it’s because “they’re giving us such a good deal” or “we’ve worked with them for years.”

Scarce. This is the perception that there isn’t enough. Perhaps it’s because “we lack the resources to try something else” or “we don’t have time to figure that out right now.”

Sound familiar?

Some expensive sentences are so commonplace they just roll off the tongue and past the nodding heads. And, it’s not to say that all similar sentences are costing you … however, if you don’t know that they aren’t, next time you hear one, it’s probably worth a second look.

I love taking the “curious approach” for all complicated, long-standing or hot-button issues. Quarles agrees and suggests the following questions to help identify and avoid an expensive sentence:

  • Why is it true?
  • When is it true?
  • What if it’s not true?

After asking these questions, you might discover a new, better way to accomplish the important work you do. Or, you may still choose to continue as before, but you’ll be more enlightened as to the “why” behind the action.

What do you think?

What expensive sentences are floating around your office?

We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment below. Or, join us at one of our upcoming financially focused trainings—Earned Income for Nonprofits and Executive Director Academy—and let’s chat in person.

#stopsaying #startsaving

“Everyday phrases cost you time, money and joy” is an independent publication and has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Apple Inc.