Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Video_WallPeople often hear me say, “We need to put the cart before the horse.” You’re probably thinking this fits on that list of phrases I recommend professionals avoid. I know it’s cliché, but it’s a good reminder that business success often requires investing dollars before a return.

Our willingness to put the cart before the horse is one of the key elements to executing on our successful business model. Many of our good decisions can be linked to investing upfront with an anticipated future payoff. I think this is essential if you’re committed to profitable growth. Companies that don’t grow typically are not investing in their future.

Here’s a look at five ways we put the cart before the horse:

  1. When recruiting people.
    To hire some of our best people, we’ve had to put the cart before the horse. This means we have made a significant investment in compensation before we could expect a return. We committed to these high-performing individuals because they had a proven track record and we anticipated they would have a positive impact. It has been a good strategy. We’ve realized good results and we’re going to keep doing it.
  2. When offering a new service.
    When we see an opportunity that would benefit our customers and appears to be a sustainable trend, we’re not afraid to invest in it – many times before it’s proven in the industry. That’s certainly the case with Managed Services. The front-end investments that were required included building a call center, hiring trained technicians and implementing the software to run it before we had our first customer. It was a significant seven-figure investment, but it proved to be the right move and has helped our business remain resilient and grow. Today, Managed Services accounts for about 30 percent of our professional services.
  3. When developing employees.
    We want our employees to advance their careers within our company so we made a significant investment in developing and implementing a customized training program. For example, this past year we conducted several three-day Management Essentials courses that were created for our emerging leaders. This is just one of the many customized training courses we offer in-house. It prepares our people for future opportunities and supports our continued growth.
  4. When developing a new initiative.
    A good example of investing in a new initiative is when we started our Business Development Consultants group to help our sales professionals set more productive appointments. We spent significant dollars trying outsourced services, but didn’t get the desired results. So we decided to invest in an in-house team that could produce more qualified and predictable results. Three years later, this investment is really paying off. Today, we are setting 151 appointments per week, which drove over $5 million in revenue last year.
  5. When creating a great culture.
    We recently spent $100,000 on a video wall showcasing a picture of every employee who works at Marco – yes, all 900 of them. Years ago, as a much smaller company, we started this tradition with printed employee pictures on the wall. It became a symbol of our culture that resonated with our customers, employees and vendors, and is a highlight of every tour. The ROI on decisions like this is not going to be tangible. We may never see the horse or the cart, but I know it’s worth it because we get such positive feedback.

Our list could go on and on and includes tools such as CRM, social media and video conferencing to acquisitions and start-ups. Putting the cart before the horse is not always easy in business, but I think it’s essential for ongoing success and sustainability. This sure has been the case for us. We’d like to hear about your examples of putting the cart before the horse. Share it below or on our Facebook page.