What is the ROI on Time Invested?

I’ve often been asked by top executives “Where should I invest my time?” and my answer is that it should be divided between the tactical and the strategic.

In my mind, this means time spent somewhat equally between the present and the future.

While it is fun and exciting to design a grand future for the company, if the current business is ignored, there might not be a future.

Spending too much time dreaming and hoping things will be better next month or next year won’t happen unless the leader deals effectively with the here and now.

A good example of this takes place in the movie “Titanic.” The owner of the shipping line suggests to the ship’s captain that if the ship goes faster, they will arrive in New York in the late evening. If they reach the dock before the deadlines of the next day’s morning papers, Titanic will make the front page, proudly proclaiming that the ship has beaten all previous speed records crossing the Atlantic .

All the while the captain has in his pockets warning messages of ice bergs ahead.

In that case, the strategic “carrot” won out over the tactical, with disastrous results.

There are two areas that straddle the strategic and tactical and both are worthy areas to spend time and energy.

The first area of focus is on cost control. Reducing costs has an immediate impact on both profitability and cash flow. It also sends a strong message to employees that pennies add up to dollars.

But cost reductions have strategic implications as well, allowing the company to have a “war chest” for tough times but more critically, freeing up money to invest in the future of the organization.

Reducing costs is not a bad thing but often employees feel that they are somehow being punished for past mistakes make by management and that they have to pay for it by having to live with the cost cutting measures.

This belief system is perpetuated when no one take the time or effort to explain why something this is being done. Employees are essentially being given an ultimatum.

It would be far better if leadership explained the situation to the employees and asked for their input on how and where costs could be reduced.

I have heard from my clients that when this request is made, the positive response and actual savings has far exceeded what the owner thought they would save.

The shame is that employees are seldom asked for input on how to reduce costs.

The second area of focus should be on people. Employees, no matter how few or how many are on the payroll, are both the current business and the future of the business.

Think of all the resources that go into attracting prospects. The investment is far more than money; a lot of time, effort and energy goes into marketing and sales.

It is being done for one reason only: so that your company has a better future.

Every interaction an employee has today determines if the prospect or current client comes back tomorrow.

Yet, these “moments of truth” are rarely discussed with employees.

Front line employees are seldom coached on how to deal with prospects or clients. Managers aren’t empowered to make decisions that could retain a client. Back office employees are often so far removed from clients that many think of them as an interruption of their daily tasks.

As the owner, you’re likely thinking lifetime value of a client. Your employees have no concept of this. Who needs to take the responsibility to teach, coach and serve as a role model to fix this?