sxsw-2013-6th-street-austinI really do wish I was at South by Southwest these past few days.  I’ve been quite jealous of the parties, food, networking and other festivities coming across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more since late last week.

It would be easy to justify a few days of fun networking, just like it would be easy to justify a lot of things.  But now that it’s my money, the bar is significantly higher.

I’d like to think I’ve always thought about ROI throughout my career, but never has it been so acute as the past five plus years of running my own business.  I still attend plenty of events, and justify marketing, business development and networking expenses based on an expected return (immediate and/or long-term) for the business.

But making that decision with my own money vs. someone else’s money (as I had done throughout my career before starting Heinz Marketing) is quite different.

I remember my first start-up job after leaving Microsoft.  The founder and I didn’t always see eye to eye on how to run marketing.  Looking back, it’s easy to see why that happened in most cases.  I was making an easy call to try something exciting, something new.  He, of course, was looking at those requests as risking his money, his equity.

It’s a higher bar, and a good one.

All marketing is inherently risky & speculative.  None of it is guaranteed.  So I’m not looking for a guaranteed number of contacts or leads or qualified sales opportunities when attending an event, or trying a media buy, or hiring an agency to help.

But now by definition I’m taking an owner’s mentality towards evaluating and justifying those risks.  Which are worth it?  How will I measure value immediately thereafter as well as long-term?  How do I evaluate opportunities against each other?  Or vs. doing nothing, something less expensive, less risky, or more risky but with less cash outlay?

The variables at play of course can be significant.

The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t have to be an owner to have an owner’s mentality.  You don’t have to risk your own money to decide if a particular investment, conference, marketing strategy or other expenditure is really worthwhile.

Hindsight has a way of helping us decide that certain investments were pretty dumb.  But that’s not the point.

Your next investment decisions may be complicated.  But ask yourself a simple question up front.

If it was your money, would you still do it?  I’m guessing in many cases the answer may still be yes, but the handful of opportunities you decline can have a significant impact on keeping you focused, agile and profitable.