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

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

4 min read
Dave Van Horn

Dave Van Horn is a veteran real estate investor and CEO of PPR Note Co., a $150MM+ company managing funds that buy, sell, and hold residential mortgages nationwide. Dave’s expertise is derived from over 30 years of residential and commercial real estate experience as a licensed Realtor, real estate investor, and private lender.

Beginning his career in construction and as a Realtor, Dave bought his first investment property in 1989. After years of managing his own construction business, Dave became a full-time real estate investor, specializing in fix and flips, buy and holds, and eventually commercial projects, before moving into note investing in 2007.

Over the past decade, Dave has also invested his time into becoming a connector and educator, who helps others achieve success. He focuses jointly on helping accredited investors build and preserve wealth with his group Strategic Investor Alliance and with general audiences through the annual MidAtlantic Real Estate Investor Summit.

Dave has also shared his strategies and experiences with real estate and note investing via hundreds of articles published on the BiggerPockets Blog and with his acclaimed book Real Estate Note Investing.

Dave has been featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast twice (shows 28 and 273), as well as episodes of familiar podcasts, including Joe Fairless’ Best Ever Show, Invest Like a Boss, Cashflow Ninja, and many others. He also has been a guest of Herb Cohen’s on Executive Leaders Radio, which airs nationwide.

Dave is a licensed Realtor with eXp Realty with CRS and GRI designations.

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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.

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!