I recently met with a business owner who was struggling to grow their business. They had a great product and an eager customer base, but recently they had started falling short of their goals month after month. When I sat down with them to discuss their business, it became clear very quickly what the issue was.

When I asked them about their key team members, they mentioned that they had recently lost a key team member and the business was struggling because that employee played such an integral part of the business and its success. When I probed further, I found out why the employee left. She had asked for additional training, and the business owner felt that the training program in question cost too much, and denied the request.  The same employee then tried again a few months later, because she was struggling to do her job properly without outside help or training. She was again denied because of cost. At the exit interview, the employee stated that she was leaving for another position because she felt as if she wasn't valued within the company and was not given the tools necessary to do the job properly.

The cost of the training program in question was less than a thousand dollars.

Now, on the surface, the three-day course was an expense that didn't have an immediate return on investment. The employee would have learned a new skill and in turn might have been able to do her job faster down the road. Since it wasn't an immediate return, the business owner justified the denial. They thought that by cutting corners they could reach their business goals quicker. But, to date, the company had lost tens of thousands of dollars in sales trying to recover from the loss of the key team member and to replace her. 

This absolutely could have been avoided had they chosen to send their employee to a few training courses. The most successful leaders look at the full picture before making a decision. What would it cost to continue with the status quo? Would the key team member continue to meet their job requirements or would they start to fall short if additional training wasn't supplied? Or would they choose to do what this team member did and leave all together? What is the cost associated with that outcome? Cutting corners often has an opportunity cost that far exceeds that of the initial cost savings.

Hedging Your Bets

So, let's say you review an expense and decide it's worth the investment. Whether it be training, trying out a new marketing campaign or medium, or taking a chance on a new vendor, there's always the chance that the investment might not get the desired result. But what you can ensure is that you learn from the experience. Have the team member take the training and come back to the office and train other people on your team. Have her put her notes and handouts in your company knowledge database so others can benefit from the training as well. If it's a new marketing campaign, keep notes on what worked and what didn't so you can refer to it and also build on it for future tests. If you learn something from the experience, the cost of the experiment suddenly becomes a lot more affordable.