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Despite the economy's fragile recovery, when it comes to spending, many businesses continue to embrace a cautious approach. Although they could loosen the purse strings, lean and mean is alive and well.

Although it is a good idea to watch your costs, it shouldn't come at the expense of investing in your business to make it run better, differently or more efficiently. Not making these kinds of investments can damage it or restrain its growth.

This is a lesson that caught my attention a few months ago when I went to a client's home office to provide a mini social-media workshop.

It was clear the client had made a major investment in her consulting business. She had a new computer and software to run it in a professional and efficient way.

As I looked around, it was obvious she had also invested some significant money in stationery, markers and a customized filing system. She had made a major investment but it appeared she had spent on the right kinds of things.

It resonated with me because I had been fairly prudent with investments in my own consulting business. When you're not sure what's around the corner, it can be difficult to spend money, even when it makes sense. What I realized is sometimes you need to spend money to make money and grow your business.

In the past few months, I have made a conscious effort to spend when it makes sense. For example, I had a customized PowerPoint template created to give my presentations and speeches a more professional look and feel. It was something that immediately delivered a healthy return on investment.

I'm also going to get a Word template created so that my proposals are more corporate and impressive. And I'm going to make a major investment in redesigning my Web site and blogs so they better reflect my brand and how I want my business to be perceived. It is not like I'm spending a lot of money, but it will be money well spent.

As we head into 2011, the lesson here is that it's okay to invest in your business.

In fact, you should be spending money to upgrade, improve or refresh your business and how it operates. If you are not moving forward, it means you're standing still, and that is not a healthy competitive position.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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