Business Management

Let the Games Begin: How to Use Gamification to Tackle Ambitious Goals

Expertise: Business Management, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Finance, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Commercial Real Estate, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary
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It seems like every January, everyone is always talking about goal setting. I get it. I’ve been writing down my goals since I was 26 years old, and I have to admit that it has served me very well. I’m not sure if it’s because I wrote them down, but as I look back over the years, I see that I’ve been able to accomplish the majority of them.

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But obviously, you can’t just write your goals down and forget about them. You have to keep them front and center. Putting them in a drawer and pulling them out next December usually won’t lead to much success.

For example, one buddy of mine writes them down and puts them in his wallet. I know another guy who posts each of his goals on his bathroom mirror, and then once he accomplishes a particular goal, he puts it up on the mirror above his dresser. Personally, I keep mine on my computer desktop so I get to see my goals every time I turn on or off my computer. You get the idea.

But even writing your goals down and looking at them isn’t enough. It’s all in how you hold yourself and your team accountable, and this is extremely important whether you’re looking at personal or business goals. After all, if you don’t keep score, how are you going to track your progress?

Keeping Score

As Vince Lombardi, former head coach of the Green Bay Packers, said “If you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing.”

Related: How to Set Short, Mid & Long-Term Goals on Your Quest for Financial Freedom

If you really want keep score, it may be best to start by looking at your historical numbers, especially for a baseline. The toughest goal-setting is when you don’t have historical or accurate data — because then it’s just a dart throw.

For personal tracking, maybe you’re looking at net worth, pay down of debt, or overall cash flow. Or maybe you’re tracking your progress toward financial freedom, the point when your passive income exceeds your expenses. Either way, having past numbers or a track record will start to make it much easier to look into the future.


Keep in mind, your financial goals are not the only ones that matter. Things like career, recreation and free time, physical fitness and health, relationship building, as well as community service, are all just as important. I suggest having goals for every area of your life you want to improve.

From a business perspective, keeping score is also very important. Otherwise, how would you know if you had a good day, a good week, or a good month?

One of my favorite business books is The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack. In this book, you’ll learn techniques and strategies to gamify your business, which will help you tremendously to get more team engagement, as well as ways to keep score in real time — not just at the end of the year when it may be too late to fix anything or to change direction.

Gamifying Your Business: What’s your Critical Number?

Another great concept in the book is the idea of figuring out what your business’s “critical number” is. This is the overall goal of the game, the number that defines winning.

Usually, it’s not something as simple as revenue. For example, maybe it’s the number of complaints or customer returns. Or for real estate investors, it could be the percentage of rent collected, number of vacancies, or the frequency of tenant turnovers.

To determine your critical number, think about what is causing/creating or prohibiting revenue.

What number has the greatest impact for you or your business?

Once you have your critical number, you can design a game around it. Many of us can create mini-games as well, with either our employees, our contractors, or our vendors. The purpose of these games is to engage your team or keep yourself engaged and make strides towards reaching that critical number.

This concept makes me think back to when I was a contractor, working for a very large builder/developer in my area. He was the best builder I ever worked for, as he paid all invoices in full every two weeks. This was very uncommon at the time, as most builders paid within 60-90 days.


Related: There is a Major Problem With Your Goals

But there was one caveat. He had a complaint board, and at the end of the two weeks, you (the contractor) couldn’t have any complaints on there that were not completed, signed off on, and returned to the office. If you did, he froze all your checks to all of the construction sites. He paid great, but he also played hardball when it came to customer service.

This game paid off for him because he ended up with the best contractors, who completed all complaints within two weeks.

As for my note company, we’re planning to gamify the business by incorporating mini-games that focus on this year’s theme, “time for money.” Essentially, the purpose of these games will be to improve any inefficiencies, especially those that involve timelines, because in the note business time is money.

After all, it’s not just about what you get done; it’s about quality and completion in an acceptable period of time.

So, for your business or personal goals, how are you keeping score or tracking your progress? What is your critical number this year?

It’s a new year — let the games begin!

Since 2007, Dave Van Horn has served as president and CEO of PPR Note Co., a $150MM+ company managing funds that buy, sell, and hold residential mortgages nat...
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    Nick Moser from Denver, Colorado
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Appreciate the article, Dave. I like the idea of creating objectives and assigning point values to them. It’s like playing a video game, the more you play the more points you receive and can level up. This sparked an idea for me to do something similar for goals and tasks. Even giving rewards once certain levels are achieved. I’m going to try and implement this soon as there are a few tasks I’ve been having a hard time completing. Thanks again.
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Dave, As usual an excellent article. You have a depth of insight that seems to challenge me to go to the next level. Despite being a part time investor for nearly 20 years, I often feel I am only learning the surface of the business.