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The Fine Art of Spending Money (It’s Called “Investing”)

A couple of weeks ago I called a prospect from 35,000 feet above Colorado, returning the buyer’s call. The secretary said, “Liz is busy at the moment, can you hold or can she call you back?”

“Well, I’m on a plane, and it might be difficult to…”

“Oh!” she interrupted, “wait one second and I’ll tell her you’re on the line.”

Liz asked if I’d prefer to talk after I got back to my office the next week. “I hate to run up your bill,” she said. “No problem,” I replied, “let’s get this done while we’re both available.”

I closed the business right on the phone. The client was impressed by my responsiveness, and was sensitive to the investment I was making. The investment, listen carefully, was probably less than $25, even though calls from planes sound impressive, they’re just not that expensive.

Later in the day I received an e-mail from a woman wanting specific details and the amount of pages in my “How to Write A Proposal” book, because $149 is “a hefty price and I need to know how big it is.” I wrote back telling her that if she judged a book’s value by the number of pages, she shouldn’t even bother with my work. “What if this book cost $300 and had 10 pages, but it made you $10,000? Would the investment be worth it, or would you be cheated,” I wondered. (And, at this stage in her career, if $149 is a “hefty fee,” then she obviously needs the book.)

No, this hasn’t been my philosophy only since I became successful, it was my philosophy since I began my business with nothing but a severance check 16 years ago. You have to spend money to make money, but not on the obvious traps, such as offices, assistants, and brochures. You have to spend it on investments which can improve your business in the short term, such as FedEx, long-distance calls, education, and letterhead.

No one builds a business by conserving expenses. I tell my clients the same thing: You have to grow by increasing the top line, not by trying to protect the bottom line. If the top line grows at a significant rate, and you don’t do anything stupid (stupid means hiring people whom you wind up supporting, it does not mean taking vacations and buying things that please you), then your business will blossom. Can you imagine a university determining which books to use by their bulk or low cost? Would you really want to use a heart surgeon whose clothing was stained and out of date?

It’s amazing to me how many consultants are afraid, and that’s the word, to invest in themselves. I’ve heard all about passion and commitment, but the real test is whether you’re ready to spend money to build the business that rests on your talent and abilities.

If I hadn’t called that prospect from the plane, perhaps someone else would have called or been found to do the work before I called back the next week. Perhaps that woman worried about book length will lose a contract tomorrow that she could have closed by reading my book.

Money is a means to an end. It’s never an end in itself. But if you don’t invest it in your own future, then it becomes an end, and one that will never be of much comfort after it’s gone and the business has declined.

Next time you get the chance, make an investment in yourself.