Best Moves Made: Looking Back to Move Forward

As we rang in the new year, I took some time to reflect on the best moves we made at Marco in 2012. As the saying goes, past behavior is the best predictor of the future.

We recently completed our 2013 strategic business plan that I am confident will position us for another strong year. Taking the time to critically reflect on what happened in 2012 helps you better understand what’s required to improve in 2013.

Here’s a look at 4 key moves that made last year a success for Marco:

1. Reaching $100-million in sales.
This was a target our leadership team set in 2008 at a strategic planning meeting. It was bold at the time and would require us to double our size in four years. We knew this couldn’t be accomplished organically, so it really changed our whole mindset for growth, which included an aggressive acquisition track. Our growth strategy transitioned from zero-based startups to instead, acquiring sizable, well established companies in new markets. This allowed us to develop a balanced strategy of organic and acquired growth to achieve over $100 million in sales in 2012. This put us in the top tier nationally in our industry, and in short order, changed our mindset toward future growth.

2. Focus on profit margins (and by the way, “profit” is not a dirty word).
It’s easy for businesses to focus on top line growth and while that’s important, you can’t forget about profitability. Intentionally executing a plan to increase our bottom line – while at the same time reducing overall costs to customers – made a significant difference in our business in 2012. There are a lot of moving parts required to make this equation work. To name a few, we committed to the Lean continuous improvement process to streamline operations, brought in third party consultants to challenge our performance paradigms (i.e. service margins, sales expense, etc.), and focused on expanding the most profitable parts of our business. We improved our bottom line by over 40 percent, and the best part is we did this without increasing costs to our customers. This win-win business strategy will continue to produce rewards in 2013.

3. Acquisitions, acquisitions and more acquisitions.
Ask any member of our team about a strong move we made in 2012 and they will likely point to the series of acquisitions we made last year. We integrated almost 160 new team members over the past five months alone. In 18 months, our market expanded from Minnesota-centric to becoming a leading player in North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, with a strong presence in Wisconsin. As I stated earlier, our analysis and experience supports that acquiring existing businesses rather than initiating start-ups in new markets results in a better ROI, and it’s a strategy we plan to replicate in 2013.

4. Moving our corporate headquarters – without disruption.
The “without disruption” part is what made our move so successful. We executed a carefully crafted plan that allowed us to relocate our 230 corporate employees and technology systems with no disruption to our customers and minimal disruption to our employees. This move gave us the infrastructure we needed to support our expanding customer base (currently over 18,000 clients). The reminder here is that anytime you take on an internally focused project – whether it be building a new facility, upgrading your information system, or changing a significant operational process – you cannot allow it to affect your level of service. Leaders can never take their eye off the potential impact internal changes can have on their customers.   

Reflecting back on a busy year reminded me of how much fun business can be when you can effectively execute on a plan that delivers results. As you look back on last year, how do you feel? As you look at 2013, do you like what you see? Have a great year!

Topics: Leadership, Lessons