The best investment is one that returns time


Décio Emanuel


There is this belief in entrepreneurship, that you must work long hours to be successful. Successful people are often quoted that, especially in their early days, they worked over 84 hours per week with some approaching 100 hours. And personally, I’m biased towards this belief. If you work twice as much as the ordinary person, you achieve twice as much.

But, there is a huge ‘but’.

Identifying your priorities, your most important tasks, is key. To do that, you must be self-aware of where your strengths lie. You must use your strengths to guide your priorities. If you’re business savvy, you don’t want to waste one afternoon each week doing accounts. Likewise, if you’re a designer, you don’t want to bother with legalities. You just want to do what you are great at and what makes you the happiest.

The entrepreneurs that work long hours with a focus on their strengths, will be happiest. Those who are happiest will see the hours roll past, eager to stay in the ‘office’ even longer, driven by their inner enjoyment.

This focus can be achieved through outsourcing. Outsourcing can not only enable you to dedicate your time to the matters that you enjoy the most, but it can also have a huge improvement in your lifestyle. It will save you time. It will make you happier. You will feel more purposeful as your time is focused on what truly matters to you.

So, why are social entrepreneurs so afraid of investment? Is it the pressure of evidence of social impact on the outset? The taboo of making significant amounts of profit? The belief that you must go it alone? The lack of trust on individuals from outside your enterprise? The fear that it may actually make you feel more stressed and unhappy?

Let me give you a first-hand example of two dear social entrepreneur friends, whose social enterprise has matured over the past four years. They breathe doing good. And their ambitions transcend their business. But because of past unsuccessful attempts at bringing a young person to learn the trade through their training, until now they believed this is a wasted resource. (I agree with them. For a social enterprise to spend money on training one individual, when that individual may leave at any time, can be a huge dent to finance and the business model. But I digress.) However, this meant that they have decided to take all matters into their own hands. They deal with business matters, sales, technical activities, and on top of it, they give away a huge chunk of their time to do home deliveries. Caught in this trap, they forgot that time is a precious resource and is infinitely more valuable than money. Their quality of life has lowered, as they live for the business and in the business. Time, instead of being spent on the priorities that will take the business forward is now being spent on a perpetually growing To Do List. Moreover, this time taken to do home deliveries has robbed time away from the shop itself, resulting in a trade-off that significantly lower the probability of converting in-the-door visitors into customers.

The solution to this problem is simple: Invest money in hiring an individual, to do deliveries on their behalf for one shift per week. This would require some work in mapping customer addresses to improve the efficiency of the delivery. But that’s all the work required on the entrepreneurs’ part. The delivery driver would spend around eight hours one day per week doing deliveries at living wage rate, meaning an additional £70 investment per week would need to come out of the social enterprise’s budget. This means that for £280 per month, the two social entrepreneurs get a return of 32 hours. Each! From a business standpoint, they won’t need to close the shop to do deliveries, meaning that their in-store sales increase, customer loyalty improves, and the business will move forward quickly. Their personal life will improve as their mood, health and relationships improve. They will be able to focus on being impactful in their community.

Décio Emanuel is a consultant specialising in social enterprise

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