Investing Time, Three Steps to Growth

In my last column, Stop Wasting Time and Start Making Money, we refuted the saying that “time is money” by showing that all businesses exist to do just two things (profitably):

  1. Make current customers happy, and
  2. Get new customers.

Time, properly invested, is what makes current customers happy and gets new customers by creating and refining the customer’s experience.  It is time (not money) that allows evaluation and refining of price, cost, and profits.  Time-investments lead employees and manage the systems that generate, compound, and catapult growth.  In today’s column I will expand our discussion of time: Its power to grow your business and how to tap into it.

Time, properly invested, grows business just like money compounds in a high-yield mutual fund with one key difference.  A mutual fund’s return is based on the stocks that make up the fund.  In business, growth hinges on the time-decisions made by the leader. 

Consider a typical business owned by John.  John’s business is stuck; it generates $150,000 in annual revenue but is neither growing nor shrinking.  It’s stuck because it is not using time effectively.  It just keeps doing the same things over and over and, NOT surprisingly, reaps the same results year after year. 

Now, take a look at how John’s time-decisions could grow his business if he simply makes each minute an investment in the future:

“What is a time-decision? And how does it make my business grow?”

The answer is that time is just like money in the sense that you can invest it or waste it.  Time-investments are activities that do one of two things:

  1. Make current customers happy (profitably), and
  2. Get new customers,

By maximizing time invested on these two activities, business leaders unleash the power compounding growth: doubling, even tripling business in a relatively short period of time!

“But I’m swamped! Where do I find the time to invest?” asks the overworked business owner.  The answer: Follow these three steps to turn time-wasters into time-investments.  Here’s how John did it. 

Step One: John focused on how he and his employees could better-use their limited time (1) to make current customers happy (profitably), and (2) get new customers.  He knew that time-investments were made in small increments that add up.  Five minutes per business day equals 20 hours per year.  Two hours per week is 104 hours - over 2 ½ work weeks annually!

Step Two:  John analyzed his business’s daily activities to find time-wasters.  Nearly immediately he found 52 hours per year in the twenty minutes he and his two employees spent discussing sports and their weekends each Monday morning.  This was just the beginning.  In the first month John found over 10 hours per week (over three months per year!) that were not being used to 1) make customers happy (profitably) or 2) get new customers.

Step Three:  John turned the wasted time into invested time.  Employees now used each 20-minute Monday morning “quarterback” session to remind customers of upcoming appointments. John invested his 20 minutes calling his larger customers to thank them for their business, check on their service quality, and, of course, ask for referrals. 

When a customer did miss an appointment instead of drinking coffee, the employee made courtesy calls to the previous day’s customers. 

John outsourced the three weekly hours his wife, Sue, spent on the company’s books and payroll and invested it in customer relations.  Sue developed a monthly email newsletter, and sent strategically-timed coupons and reminders.  She even tracked the dates new customers first arrived and mailed them anniversary cards.  Customers who had not returned in while were sent “miss you” cards with an extra-special coupon.

This was just the beginning for John - simple changes in way his business used time cost John nothing in terms of dollars.  But these time-investments started the process that compounds revenues – just like a high yield mutual fund.

What to grow your business?  Follow the same three steps as John.  Stop wasting time and start making money!

Brett Hersh's avatar
  • Author: Brett Hersh
  • Bio: Brett Hersh, EA, MBA, is the owner of HBS TAX & Small Business Experts. He is an Enrolled Agent (EA) with the IRS and licensed by the US Treasury Department to prepare all tax returns and represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits, collections and appeals. He is also Dave Ramsey’s ELP for Tax and Accounting, a continuing education instructor for tax professionals through Lorman Education, and a local speaker/presenter on the topics of tax and business growth. He can be reached at (304) 267-2594.