Sunk Cost Could Lead to Bad Business Decisions

Dear Friends of Our Firm,
Do you think pulling the plug on a failed contract would be “wasting all the money” your business has spent to date?

If so, you may be making the choice based on emotion and “sunk costs.” Sunk costs are past expenses that are irrelevant to current decisions – such as those spent on non-performing contracts. Why are they irrelevant? Because that money is already spent and generally cannot be recovered.

While admitting mistakes may be difficult and ego-bruising, staunching the flow of cash and changing course by abandoning a failed contract can be a wise decision. That’s because the only relevant costs are those that influence your company’s current and future operations.

For example, say your firm hires a new sales representative. You spend thousands of dollars sending the rep to training seminars. You assign mentors who take time from their busy schedules to provide on-the-job coaching and oversight. But despite your best efforts, the new hire isn’t working out. The rep doesn’t fit your firm’s culture, doesn’t grasp the company’s goals and procedures and doesn’t generate adequate revenues for the business.

As a manager, what should you do? At some point, you may need to terminate the employee and start over with someone else. But what about all that time and money you spent on training and mentoring? Those are sunk costs. Acknowledge that you can’t get them back, cut your losses, and start anew. Throwing good money after bad won’t salvage a poor business investment – or a poor business decision.

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