Is time your real competitive advantage?

time scale


Strategy has a lot to do with time. As is for business, so is certainly for entrepreneurship. Time is one of the most precious between all the resources needed in order to develop a product, but is most of the times neglected…is time for you a real competitive advantage or it may instead represent a risk?

In most people’s brains time is equal to time scale: something that you can compress or expand at your will. In the end, they think, time is not in our hands: IF a munificent investor will come, IF a specific market or business combination will show up, then we can make everything happen faster. This way, time is fully in your stakeholder’s hands. And if you think this way, it will certainly happen.

Now imagine to change the perspective for a while (see also “facts & figures dilemma“) and, when it comes the moment for facts & figures and for filling down the worksheets for your business plan, try to take into consideration the word “time” as a RESOURCE  and not simply as an arrow on your diagrams indicating the usual 2-3 years scale or the break even.

You will immediately realize that, associated with it, there are sometimes many neglected costs, and if you stop for while thinking in dollars/euros…well, you’ll be surprised!

Try at least to quantify:

  1. time needed in order to design your key processes
  2. time needed for founder’s training and research activities (and for keeping core competencies updated)
  3. time needed for writing down a business plan and presenting it
  4. time needed to manage the firm and for…getting things done!
  5. time needed for proper communication and lobbying
  6. time needed for establishing and keeping profitable relationship with your stakeholders

If you can therefore think (translate!) everything in time units, then try the next step: try then to value how much money a time unit is worthy for you…you’ll be probably surprised.

Not expecting off course that investors will pay directly for all this time you invested, that will instead be useful to help you having a complete understanding of the exact dimension of your personal investment into a startup, also in terms of impact on personal/private life.

Moreover, having ready an estimate of time-value, you can also think in terms of:

  • Time impacts you can try to reduce (having a scheme of the most time consuming activities/processes, and considering what you can do to improve efficiency);
  • Time impacts you can share with your partners (for instance going in parallel, reconsidering phases or processes that can more efficiently be done externally, at a reasonable cost- impact etc etc);

And you can also compare, every once in while (especially if you are a “serial startupper”!) if this sort of “time index” is getting somehow better, following a kind of learning curve: that will represent the evidence that you are becoming an increasingly efficient and effective entrepreneur.