The COI VS ROI

For a small business, there is much written about measuring the ROI – Return On Investment. This buzz term is the subject of what to gain when investing in marketing – the ratio of investment divided by the cost determines how big the win.

I believe there is another measurement tool that a business owner should consider – COI, the Cost of Indecision. This is the loss of revenue and momentum that occurs when a business owner can’t make a decision or refuses to delegate.

Titus Maccius Plautus, a roman poet/philosopher who lived from 254 bc to 184 bc. coined the adage “You must spend money to make money.” With all due respect to Plautus, you must “pull the trigger to make money.”

By procrastinating, you postpone any chance of success. Even worse, stalling the progress after making a decision thwarts the efforts of those entrusted with moving the business forward.

I often rely on author and sage, Simon Sinek, for inspiration. His thoughts on leadership often translate into “action moments”. Simon says, “the job is not to be perfect, the job is to be better.”

We recently completed a marketing assignment for a business owner fraught with indecision and second guessing. A project of rebranding and website development that could have easily been completed in six months – took over a year.

This resulted in a serious COI, caused by an owner who was fixated on being perfect instead of being better. The first six months were filled with “sharpening pencils, rolling up the sleeves” meetings that should have been collaborative, idea-generating and creative. Instead, they were micro-managed by a business owner with a death grip on the process to make sure that only his vision was heard.

This death-grip resulted in a loss of enthusiasm by his key people and our team.“Why did he hire us” became our post-meeting anthem. Our role went from authority to vendor and his key people went from collaborators to followers.

Was marketing that much different than other professional-based advisories? Would this client, if in a court of law or at an IRS audit, tell his trusted advisor what to do? Maybe. But I do know that his inability to accept change caused a serious halt in production. And there was a high cost for his indecision.

For those within his company, he was seen as a bully – though often soliciting their opinion – his voice was the one last heard. In time, their input ceased and they withdrew from the project.

As the marketing advisors, after being challenged, chided and second-guessed, we “retired” from the project ahead of completion. Instead of going the extra distance to provide innovation and creativity, we retreated to allow the owner to have it his way.

For the owner of the business – what was the cost of his indecision? It took twice as long as it should have. His grip and narrow-mindedness took his company, key people and paid advisors on a road trip that ended right back where it began.

After our watered-down work was delivered, his parting volley was “I’m not sure that we’re any better off than before we started.” As insulting as that was to first hear, it was the truth.

Along the way he paid a high price but never really felt it. And that’s the sad part of all this. This was not a learning experience. Everyone involved documented the delays, the change in direction and the bullying – that too was challenged – and somehow it wasn’t his fault.

Thankfully, most clients are not bogged down by this paralysis. Most business owners welcome innovation, enjoy change and actually listen to those who have a shared interest in the success of the company.

The wonderful advertising sage, Leo Burnett, said “any fool can write a bad ad, but it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one.”

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