Companies that want to accelerate their growth, be more innovative or change their culture usually need to make bold moves. It’s difficult to go beyond incremental improvements if you stay too conservative or become satisfied with status quo. A couple of obvious examples are Amazon and Google. Boldness is a core characteristic.
I think we have done a pretty good job of incorporating bold moves into our strategy at Marco. Bold does not mean reckless, but it often has an element of risk. Bold moves have brought us to the top of our industry and are the primary driver for our financial success. So, what makes a bold move? Here are four key characteristics:
- Make upfront investments. This is usually the hard part because you’re making a financial investment prior to seeing any return.
- Get in early. This does not necessarily mean you have to be first, but don’t show up in the middle or late in the game.
- Act with unknowns. You can analyze over and over and still face the unforeseen. You do have to make a move without knowing most of the answers.
- Take risks. That’s different than reckless. I’d never risk the farm, but I would consider the back 40.
Here are a few bold moves we’ve made:
- Building telecommunications into a core business.
Like most of our bold moves, this required a significant personnel investment. Over a decade ago, we hired what we considered to be the top telecommunications salesperson in our region. He was our best competitor. He came to Marco with a non-compete, a zero account base and required a long-term financial commitment. The personnel expense was unprecedented for us at the time. This bold hire initiated several subsequent moves that took our telecommunications division to a new level. I see this as one of the best hires we’ve made, and he remains one of our top performers today.
- Establishing a professional call center.
We took an unconventional approach in our industry when we established our client call center in 2007. Again, we brought in an experienced professional to lead the effort rather than making it part of someone else’s job. In addition, there were numerous upfront costs, including a significant amount of office space, technology and of course, additional personnel. The fact that it was at the early stages of the recession made us even more sensitive to the risk. What started with 10 employees has grown to more than 50 employees serving 18,000 clients nationally. We are leading the industry with a live call answer rate of 98 percent and a volume of 25,000 calls a month. Today, our call center is a strategic advantage and a strong platform for our continued growth.
- Starting our business development group.
More recently, we started a business development team focused on setting appointments for our sales team. We again chose to make a bold move to hire professional business development people, rather than traditional hourly telemarketers. Our goal was to establish well-paid positions that provided future career opportunities. Today we have nine full-time business development team members that are producing 120 sales appointments per week. Another bold move paid off.
Bold moves have been a catalyst for our consistent growth over the past decade. It took us 39 years to reach the $100-million mark. We will have achieved the next $100 million in less than five years (fiscal 2015). What once seemed bold is now part of our culture.
High performing companies continually refine what it means to be bold. They remove “never” from their vocabulary and look around the corner for the next bold move. What’s a bold move you will make this year?